“Even your smallest and humblest family will become as great as a powerful nation. When the right time comes, I will make this happen quickly. I am the Lord!” — Isaiah 60:22
For decades, mega-churches seemed to be the “thing,” driving a mentality of “the bigger, the better.” Now, COVID has transformed the way we do church along with the size of our gatherings.
Today about 380,000 churches dot America’s landscape. Of that number, roughly 1,500 are considered megachurches that average 2,000 or more people each weekend. According to a 2020 Faith Communities Today study, however, half of U.S. congregations have 65 people or fewer.
“So that lets you know that God’s people prefer by and large smaller settings,” Pastor Hardaway of the Blackwater Baptist Church said. “Now, the megachurches have a part. They have an important place to play for people that want those kind of ministries, but the small church provides an advantage to people that want intimacy and closeness.”
“Pastors are struggling emotionally with having lost so many members and not sure how to get them back, and some of the members that they loved have died from COVID or suffered through it. And there’s no way we can please people right now. There’s too many different ideas – mask or no mask, vaccination or no vaccination, and so it has affected the pastor. Some of them are retiring, some of them are just getting out of ministry,” Hardaway said.
And according to church growth expert Thom Rainer, 90% of those watching live-streamed services at the beginning of the pandemic have dropped off. “So now they’re not attending church and they’re not watching Facebook now. They may be catching one of the global TV pastors, but we don’t know,” Hardaway added.
He worries that those who choose not to attend in person may be in danger of losing other even more important Christian disciplines. “Like prayer and reading the scriptures and fasting or whatever disciplines you’re doing, so I would say it’s important to be around other Christians who are facing the same things that you’re facing.”*
Let me encourage you saints, if you fall in any of those categories, get back in church. They need you and you need them. Plus, God’s word is very clear: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25). See you Sunday. Maranatha!
*Edited from Wendy Griffith, “Small Is The New Big When It Comes To Churches” (CBN News, 2/10/22)