Bigger isn’t necessarily better, but oftentimes larger churches have systems and operating principles in place that allow them to lead and disciple more effectively. So let’s talk about that! What do the majority of bigger churches do that smaller churches struggle with?
Before we begin, let’s be crystal clear- we don’t think that every church has to be big. God uses different churches to minister to different individuals. When we say “smaller,” a lot of people think, “Oh, smaller isn’t good, bigger is better.” But it’s not about the size- it’s about actual spiritual growth that’s happening in the lives of the people in your church. It’s about leadin in a way that helps people work to grow in the knowledge of God and the life He’s giving them, using wisdom to make the most of every opportunity.
At the same time, however, we’ve noticed that criticism of megachurches often comes from insecurity. If you’ve been in minstry for 20 years, have you had 20 years of ministry experience or the same year of experience 20 times? If you need help growing as a leader so that you can minister more effectively, we’re here to help with lessons and principles that megachurches have figured out on an organizational level. They’ll help you make things more efficient as you move to the next season. But we’re offering these tips with a desire to be helpful, not to put you on the defensive.
If you’re in a smaller church, you might already be practicing the principles we’re about to cover, but hopefully, you find some ideas and perspectives you may not have considered. Be on the lookout for our sequel to this idea- small church secrets that megachurches need!
Megachurch Secret #1: Invest in the Public Square
Being invested in the public square can mean a lot of things. One great way is to be involved in the City Council or Chamber of Commerce. Intentionally become a resource for these places- with your building and your presence, whenever possible. If you have the facilities to do so, provide a conference room or auditorium when they need to meet. Make it your goal to become a hub for the political and business leaders of your community. You don’t have to have a church with thousands of people to get to know your mayor or your Chamber of Commerce and to be a resource for those individuals. When you’re talking about people with influence, you don’t know how those relationships might open the doors for ministry and generosity in the future!
You can also merge community events with church events- for example, Wade’s church has merged their church’s Easter egg hunt with the community-wide Easter egg hunt. The community gives them some resources and helps push people their way, and they get to bless people in the public square!
If you don’t have the facilities or resources to do what we’ve just described, get creative! Don’t underestimate the number of times people need someone to pray before a public event, too! Marathons, city council meetings, and even little league baseball games often . By making yourself available when these needs arise, you’ll develop connections that can lead to further ministry.
If your church meets in a school or other public place, take time to get to know the people who use the facility during the rest of the week. How can you thoughtfully serve the people God has literally put in your church’s path?
Bottom line: Invest in the public square. There are plenty of unique opportunities to do this, so find some!
Megachurch Secret #2: Invest in the Digital Public Square
It’s vital that people meet in person when they’re able- but we also can’t ignore the fact that people are on social media all the time! The digital public square is an amazing place for meeting people where they are. You’ll see a lot of larger churches leveraging social media- ads and videos and that kind of thing- but there’s no reason you can’t do that as a smaller church, too.
We want to challenge you to look at social media differently. When you look at bigger churches, it’s easy to be blinded by the screens and lights and razzle-dazzle in their live streams. Think beyond that. People aren’t going to watch an hour-long service or sermon that they just stumbled upon on social media. People tend consume content in on social media 30-second segments, and larger churches see these changes in how people consume content, and tailor what they put out there to match. Respect the norms of the platform on which you’re trying to post content, and don’t settle for simply posting an hour-long live stream. Take that service and edit it into smaller clips that are more digestible, and try to create clips that create interest and entice people into digging deeper into God’s Word, watch the rest of the message, or even visit in person!
Megachurch Secret #3: Invite People to Your Property During the Week
We’ve seen churches encourage people to use their property during the week using a variety of ways- installing ball fields, splash pads, using the parking lot as a staging area for events or relief efforts, rent out office space, or build something that will create cash flow for your church if you have empty property! Whatever you do, set up your church property to bring people onto it throughout the week.
This goes back to what we talked about with secret #1: Be a resource to your community. And if you can find a creative way to fund ministry while bringing people onto your property, even better.
Megachurch Secret #4: Don’t Have a “Small Organization” Mindset
When you consider yourself a “small organization,” your staff becomes overworked, and everyone is scrambling all the time. The problem with that pace is that you can’t ever sit back and see things from the big picture- you’re not planning in advance. And you need to start planning in advance so that you can be focused on where you want to go. Don’t wait for growth to get your leadership team aligned toward goals- start working on that now!
As the pastor/leader, you have to learn to quantify your time. One helpful exercise is to identify all the tasks on your to-do list and assign them a dollar value. Identify the $1,000/hr tasks- the ones that only you can do. Then, label the $100/hr tasks- the tasks that are kinda specialized, but that a few people can do. And then finish off with the $5/hr tasks- the tasks anyone, even a volunteer, could do. List out everything you do in a given week, and be honest with yourself about the areas you’ve been trying to control that you don’t need to manage.
Ask, “What am I doing that someone else on my team or a volunteer could do?” and encourage your team to do the same. That way, your leaders can focus on the most important things, not just on being busy.
In small organizations, there can also be a propensity to have everything go through the lead pastor. It doesn’t have to be that way. Create processes for approval and opportunities for people to make decisions. As the lead pastor, you will obviously help set the overall direction and communicate the vision, but give people opportunities to craft their own vision for their department and make decisions without consulting you. Bigger churches have to empower all of their leaders- they don’t have a choice if they want to get things done! But if you can do it while you’re smaller, it’s going to make your ministry and team stronger in the long run.
Megachurch Secret #5: Create Relationship-Building Opportunities for New People
People might not want to come straight from hearing about your church to a service to hear a sermon or jump into a Bible Study, especially if they don’t have a church background. Reach out using creative methods to develop relationships around shared interests, and start discipling them before trying to get them to commit to your regular programming. If you can start by finding some common ground, that will go a long way!
Again, this is where being a resource to your community comes into play- if you know the kinds of events people are likely to show up for, you can create discipleship and ministry opportunities around those, that are onramps into your church’s community.
And that’s it! Five megachurch secrets that small churches can put to good use. We’d love to hear your thoughts- leave us a comment on Youtube or tweet us using the hashtag #hellochurchpod