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November 16th, 2009

by Craig Groeschel

30 comments (+ Add)

Does Size Matter? (Part 1)

(This week, I’m reposting a series from 2007.)

Why do some people go to small churches? Why do others go to large churches?

This is certainly an oversimplification, but track with me.

People tend to stay at small churches because they are:

1) Needed

Each week, someone is counting on them to pass out the red attendance folders, vacuum the floor, fill the communion cups, or help organize the choir robes. They are needed.

2) Known

People love small churches because they are known. If they have a toenail operation, someone knows. If they miss church, someone calls. If their pet cat gets hit by a car, someone cares. They love being known.

All things equal, why do people go to large churches? The answers vary widely:

  • The church has a good Mother’s Day Out.
  • The videos are cool.
  • The church has great music.
  • The junior high pastor pays attention to my kid.
  • They have a class for widows.
  • They have a class for addicts.
  • They have a class for everything including annoying people.

People have tons of reasons to go to large churches.

But why do they leave? Typically because they don’t feel:

1) Needed

The paid staff does most everything. The professional band is too good for most. The yard is mowed by a company. The daycare workers are paid. If there is no place for me to use my gifts, I just might leave.

2) Known

If a person misses church and no one calls, it hurts. If someone is in pain and no one knows, again, not good. One can be in a crowded church building and still feel all alone.

What can we do to help people become needed and known no matter what the size of the church?

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  1. Jan 29, 2007 at 9:13 am

    Very good way of boiling down what seems to be a complex set of reasons into the two that matter. A lot of times I draw a circle to represent the number of people who attend and then inside it a box to represent the smaller number who are actually connected in the way you described. I’m going to add in the characteristics, needed and known.


  2. Jan 29, 2007 at 9:45 am

    Awesome truth! I have been looking at lots of growing churches as I prepare to plant a church Paris, France. In that process, I think the biggest difference between big churches and amazing big churches is the ability to maintian the connectedness where individuals are needed and know in small groups. Some do it better than others and the difference is obvious.

  3. 3Michael McLemore
    Jan 29, 2007 at 11:13 am

    I agree; ultimately people go where there is the “Cheers” factor…”Norm!”

    The only way for LC or any church to improve the “Cheers” factor is for the people (we the body) to care enough to engage others outside of their normal zone. We have to give that person next to us that we do not know, a level of interface that compels them to want to be there and to be more than a moonlighter.

    In business, every new EE has a role; well, the familiarity someone gets through being engaged develops their role in the body, and it is usually nothing more than dialogue in its infancy.

    Everyone in a LG should be constantly recruiting…replacing themselves by bringing in others. I think we at South have a passion for this mission.

  4. 4Josh
    Jan 29, 2007 at 11:48 am

    I think LC does a fantastic job of trying to know people and make people feel needed. At first I was disappointed at LC because I knew I couldn’t have a one on one connection to you Craig. In fact it was one of my major hurdles with LC. I knew everyone wanted to know you more intimately, be in your lifegroup, send you emails for no reason, but what I figured out was that I needed to connect with other people more. I don;t need to know the pastor or be known by him as much as I need to know the rest of the body of Christ.

    As far as being needed, Craig tells everyone almost everyweek that we are needed at the church to serve. When I started serving at the OKC campus and now at the Tulsa campus I was amazed at the sense of being needed . When you finally connect with the church you become known to fellow Christ followers as well as feel needed for your gifts.

  5. Jan 29, 2007 at 2:26 pm

    I would agree with much of what’s been said and say that I think 2 elements have to be in place.

    1. Service- this gives people a common purpose to rally around that is tangible, and
    2. Community- Small groups, life groups, whatever you want to call them. The truth is, I think it is really hard the larger the church, to remain connected. You then have to start making decisions as to who you’ll be connected with. The Small Group should reflect the values and mission of the large group. In this way, it can still feel small, even if the corporate body is huge.

    The struggle is that it is a pretty huge step in general to go from 15000 people to less than 15. I think a good idea is to have a middle step (or two) that helps people move towards that connected-ness that group life offers. Perhaps service or a service project is a good mid-size gathering, or a target event for married couples, etc.

    Either way, I think the senior leadership have to champion the value of getting connected on a regular basis. If the main guy on stage never talks about that next step towards community, then, even if the church has a Connections Pastor, it won’t move much that direction. BUt if the main guy on stage makes it a priority to say “You need deeper connection than what you get in here, so here is our plan x to help you get connected with smaller bodies of people…” on a regular basis, and empowers a team to help make that happen, I think you could have a very connected “small church” feeling in a large setting.
    Just some thoughts

  6. Jan 29, 2007 at 6:38 pm

    Excellent point! As a part of a larger church it is our struggle. We are finding that the more people get involved in cause (mission) they more they are needed and known.

    Such great stuff here. Thanks so much!

  7. 7Scott Bell
    Jan 29, 2007 at 7:19 pm

    From a practical standpoint, you have to ensure that you have systems - both formal and informal - in place to address these potential deficiencies. Formal systems include staff, website, greeters, Lifegroups, etc… Mike (just had to mention the Southside), Josh and Larry all have good points about the informal systems. Many times these informal systems have a greater impact on the organizational culture than the formal systems.

    A few years ago we visited a large church in Phoenix, which had about 10,000 members spread out over four services. They subdivided each section of the auditorium and assigned greeters for each service to each section. These greeters were responsible for connecting with each person who sat in their section. They connected old-style – grassroots.

    In business, the best opportunity to capture additional business from a new customer is within the first 90 days. Apply that here. Regardless of the size of the church, we must engage people to become involved during the on-boarding process. Let’s give them an opportunity to serve based on their specific talents and needs. If we don’t have something to match their talents, create something.

    What do most people really want? To feel like they are part of something big. Everyone wants to be an “insider.? The challenge is not making just a chosen few feel this way, but everyone.

    Thanks for the outlet to both learn and share.

  8. Jan 29, 2007 at 7:32 pm

    Scott, You make a good point about engaging newcomers… or new believers. Over time, unfortunately many Christians stop building relationships with nonbelievers.

  9. 9Michael McLemore
    Jan 29, 2007 at 8:01 pm

    Craig…I think you and your team do a great job of keeping us mindful that we are to be a hospital for the sick and not a fitness center for the healthy.

    Growing closer to God means your heart is expanding for God and man (Chazown)…if we keep that vision then we will always be in the world building relationships as was Christ’s example.

  10. Jan 29, 2007 at 8:09 pm

    I agree with Scott on the point of engaging newcomers. Studies show that the most effective time to follow up with new people is in the first 24 hours. The likelihood of them becoming a regular attender goes dramatically down after the 24-hour period. Perhaps we should write a greeter/followup team training series called 24. :)
    I think we need adequate systems in place here, and I think most churches (mine included) don’t do a good enough job catching those people right away. It’s not enough to just be friendly and greet them Sunday morning, the followup is so critical. We’ve integrated a new database/ministry management software to help with this, and we’re building teams right now.

    I will pushback a bit, Scott Bell, on your quote “What do most people really want? To feel like they are part of something big. Everyone wants to be an “insider.? The challenge is not making just a chosen few feel this way, but everyone.” I don’t think it’s that people want to be a part of something big. I think at the end of the day, it’s not being an “insider” that drives most people (I do think there are those that focus on that), I think it’s the desire to be part of something that’s effective. I could be an insider at something that’s really not cutting it, but I’d rather be a part of something bigger than myself that is effective. Just my thoughts, but overall some awesome points.
    Systems, strategic plan (we’re doing this for a specific reason), intentionality about what you’re doing is key.

  11. 11Tom French
    Jan 29, 2007 at 9:55 pm

    Craig, I think people do feel needed in large churches . Life Church does a excellent job in trying to make people feel needed by asksing them to serve.I think almost every week Sprd. ask people to sign up to serve. I don’t remember this happening in the churches that I grew up in. At Life, anyone can serve if they really want to, and that is a way to get involved and feel needed. Remember the old saying 10 percent of the people in any orginazation volunteer to do 90 percent of the work.

  12. Jan 29, 2007 at 11:02 pm

    As a Life Group leader for many many years I have found that the best way to “get on the inside” or get people connected is to have an outward focus.

    We all have a built in network of friends and relationships that already exist, many of those people being outside the walls of our church. If we invite those people to church, or more importantly into our lives, they will have an instant connection to the body. It is easier for me to invite a person I already know and have a relationship with to join my Life Group than it is a complete stranger. That is one thing, in my opinion, why LifeChurch has experienced massive growth. Our leadership has always encouraged us to “bring a friend”.

    I personally think to much responsibilty is put on the “church” to get people in and connected. Instead we as The Church, need to look to build authentic relationships with those outside the walls of the building.

  13. Jan 30, 2007 at 7:48 am

    Tom and Michael, It is great to hear from you. Thanks for the encouraging words.

    Ryan, great insight. I love the phrase, “the best way to get on the inside is to have an outward focus!” Great stuff!

  14. Jan 30, 2007 at 9:09 am


    I agree with Craig, great thoughts! I think the statement “It is easier for me to invite a person I already know and have a relationship with to join my Life Group than it is a complete stranger…” is a great one! Building relationships as a lifestyle is key.

    Great thoughts by all, may God bless your ministries!

  15. Jan 30, 2007 at 11:14 am

    Does Size Matter?

    Craig Groeschel is asking great questions on his blog about church size issues. Take a look and let know what you think. I was particularly struck by th eimportanc of making sure people feel”know: and “needed” no matter what size…

  16. 16Carmen
    Oct 13, 2008 at 10:03 pm

    Is size important ? what if the church is not growing ? Should we be worried? Isnt God supposed to add to the church daily ?

  17. Nov 16, 2009 at 6:21 am

    We need to have both types of churches in the community: large for impact and small for specialization. However, both can be connecting… I am from the Czech Republic and I can only wish we have some large churches here. With church of typical size of 40 people is my church of 130 considered mega! Any wonder church at large has no influence in our nation?

  18. Nov 16, 2009 at 6:22 am

    A small addition: the discussion about if the large churches are good comes usually from countries with many large churches. If you have a country with only small churches, you wish somebody wuld break it large! At least somebody.

  19. Nov 16, 2009 at 6:41 am

    I don’t think it matters what size church you’re a part of. I was part of a small church. I was “needed”. I was “known” because I could do something for them. But when I needed “help” I was cast aside and pushed out. I needed help in a way that was unacceptable to church people. Had I been an addict I may have been help-able, but because I was asking questions about the reality of my faith and its manifestation, I was not acceptable. I think the stuff you are talking about comes down to the culture of the church, not the size of the church.

  20. 20Jim
    Nov 16, 2009 at 8:42 am

    I have served in a meduim sized church and now in a small church. It is like anything in life there are positives and negatives to both. Right now I am having a ball being in a smaller church and seeing it begin to burn with passion for Christ and if it never grew any larger but people began growing closer and closer to Christ it would be awesome. Truth is though that as they get closer to Christ and burn with passion for him that they will attract people who want what they have. Anyways - for me know - they small church is a blessing but I hope to see us grow to a larger church and seeing Christ making a difference inp people’s lives.

  21. 21Chelsea Hughes
    Nov 16, 2009 at 8:59 am

    I think that the small group ministry in any large church is very important to the “needed and known” factors. I have been involved in both small and large churches and during my season in a larger body my small group is what really kept me accountable and kept me from getting lost in the crowd.

  22. Nov 16, 2009 at 11:44 am

    I don’t know if there is one answer to Craig’s post and question, however, I believe small groups fill the void in larger churches….if a small group (in your case life group) is effective, it may become a small church within the larger church. The “Cheers” factor is there. People are needed, and can go deeper in relationships and spiritual growth. I guess the key would be to get people in the small groups asap.

  23. Nov 16, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    Size doesn’t matter
    But relationships…they do
    Community calls

  24. 24Will
    Nov 16, 2009 at 5:02 pm

    I have been in both of these positions. I went to small community church and now attend LC. One thing that kept me going to LC was small groups(LifeGroups), but for folks that getting into a small group is a bigger step than they are ready for, events at church(big or small churches)get people mingling and allows them to get to know each other. Great thing is that we are needed no matter what size church we go to. We are His hands and feet so whatever the cost(anything short of sin, my pastor likes to say)we have to get out of the comfort zone and reach out

  25. 25Bill Hooks
    Nov 16, 2009 at 6:32 pm

    Lyle Schaller in his book The Very Large Church, shares a point from Robert L. Randall people come to church with a four-point agenda.

    1. Yearning to feel understood
    2. Yearning to understand.
    3. Yearning for hope.

    As you review all four yearning notice they all reflect relationships, not functions or tasks. This is where size does matter as small congregations have an advantage in the relationship area. Even with small groups becoming the new thing to help the large church to keep growing larger and at the same time grow smaller. People want to be known and feel that they are loved and that someone cares. The bottom line let’s just love people and show them we care what is going on in there life’s. This is were the small group can make this happen. I agree with Larry ” The challenge is not making just a chosen few feel this way, but everyone”.

  26. Nov 17, 2009 at 1:10 am

    Size does matter, but I think it depends on the mission. If the mission is to reach the community through cell groups and to win the lost in a particular city, then LC is doing its job. People are won to Christ. Awareness is brought about the needs of other communities around the world, a model is created for churches to follow, finances are raised for missions, etc. But if the mission is to equip church planting leaders on a global scale or to help others who are harvested in the community to Go and make disciples of all nations, well it may be better in a smaller setting for more intimate training from a senior pastor or missionary.
    Just a thought. Great post Craig.

  27. 27Christian Disidi M.
    Nov 17, 2009 at 5:39 am

    Even cedars of Lebanon start as little seeds. So, though little at the beginning, every living church is destined to grow. So, such problems of social carelessness will inevitably be noticed. But in my opinion, I think this would be solved if people were involved in church departments.

    We have been saved to serve God. The Lord said to Pharaoh to let His people go so that they SERVE Him in the desert. He commanded to Israel in Ex 23,25: “And ye shall SERVE the LORD your God, and he shall bless thy bread, and thy water; and I will take sickness away from the midst of thee.” So, serving God is a must before enjoying His blessings.

    Close relationships between members of the same group develops affective links. And, if someone misses, he/she should receive at least a phone call of the other members of the team he belongs.

    In my church, Winners’ Chapel (Kinshasa, Dem. Rep. of Congo in Africa) where I serve in the choir, we reach about 7.000 persons in a service. And even you were a very kind person, you can’t know everybody. Due to this number, people are encouraged to serve in departments. And, where people are in need, their team leaders can easily report to the hierarchy for a quick intervention.

    God bless You.

  28. Nov 17, 2009 at 9:49 am

    Hey Craig,
    This isn’t about the post, but regarding yesterday at Catalyst One Day. It was AWESOME. Our staff team talked about the day all the way back to church. We have a bunch of discussion points now for our staff meetings in the future.
    Thank you so much for your contribution to the day.

  29. Nov 17, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    Perhaps your best post, yet, Craig. And I’m glad that it is you making this point. Megachurches aren’t inherently bad, they just have different weaknesses.

    Unfortunately, I am not sure I’m qualified to give insight as to how megachurches can accomplish that (as a house church leader and all). I am convinced that small groups alone can’t accomplish it. The church (both small and large) needs to figure out how to create the knowing and needing with everyone, not just those who have the courage/time to meet with others mid-week.

  30. Nov 29, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    The challenges of size you list are certainly my experience. Thanks.