more normal than I thought

We always hear about the great stuff big churches are doing. But what about the rest of us? Mel Walker addressed that question in the May/June issue of YouthWorker Journal.

Here's part of what he said:

We seem to glorify today's megachurches, with their impressive facilities, attendance records, growing budgets and programming abilities. Even many youth workers tend to be attracted to the trappings of what large churches have to offer.

Yet most of us youth workers serve in small churches. According to a 2003 report from The Barna Group, fewer than 2 percent of churches in the United States have 1,000 or more adult attendees. In fact, the typical Protestant church has fewer than 90 adults in attendance on an average weekend, according to Barna, a prominent research organization.

Statistics from my fellowship of churches, the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches, substantiate Barna's numbers. A few years ago our denominational publishing office commissioned a survey of its customer base, which included more than 10,000 churches from several different denominations. Among the results was this note: The average church size was around 80 people, with approximately four teenagers.

Sure, the big churches get all the attention and may be able to attract more students through their programs and facilities. It's understandable for adult youth workers in smaller churches to feel frustrated at times about the lack of money, facilities, volunteers and even the overall lack of kids, but the truth is the vast majority of churches do not have impressive buildings, budgets or numbers to garner a interest from anyone other than the regular members or attendees.

Yet, a friend of mine has observed, "Every large church is doing its best to get smaller and every small church is trying to get larger."

Maybe he's on to something there. The current trend toward small groups in student ministry certainly is reflective of youth workers' observations that there are incredible strengths in small groups. Large church youth workers understand the value of dividing the larger group into smaller units to facilitate relationship-building, adult-to-student mentoring and the development of more effective lines of communication.

Perhaps it's time to rehearse the positive characteristics of what student ministry in smaller churches has to offer.

For more about this topic, see the May/June issue of YouthWorker Journal.

For me this is encouraging, as I lead a group of typically less than 10 students, sometimes more.