The High Value Of The Neighborhood Church
In my last blog post, I outlined five different models of church based on overall size. I am using this term ‘Neighborhood Church’ to describe a church that averages between 120 and 500 people, and is present in a community that is in some way self-contained.
it might be in an Urban space that has some topographical, geographical, or cultural limitations. There are many such entities in rural and mid-size towns. Some exist in communities that are feeling the pain of economic downturn and various struggles.
Again, our culture tends to almost automatically value the bigger, faster, and more visually appealing organizations. There is so much to learn from the Mega Church world when it comes to process, systems, service planning, communication, management, goal setting, structure, etc.
Please let me say it - I AM PRO-MEGA CHURCH. I am not in any way against size or speed of growth. I love it. I study it. I want to imitate so much of the amazing things that I see.
But I also need to say that I AM PRO-NEIGHBORHOOD CHURCH. And here is the often overlooked value of a church like this.
Probably the most important factor in the value added by the Neighborhood Church is the nearness to a community of need. I have seen this, especially true in Urban areas. The lost or hurting people who live in the city are not going to drive 30 minutes to the nearest Mega Church. They need to be reached where they are if we are going to see a Kingdom impact.
When we think missionally, we understand that the local church is the hope of the world but only if it is an ‘incarnation’ of Jesus in a particular place. We have to live with, love with, and do life with people to truly represent the body of Jesus in an area.
The Neighborhood Church is a lot like the local hardware store versus the big box Home Depot down the road. The only problem is that many will drive to the Home Depot for supplies, but few consider driving to the local big box church for their souls.
Some souls have to be reached by going to where they are, not asking them to come to where we have set up shop in a better and more efficient location.
The second advantage of the Neighborhood Church is the chance it provides to ‘underdog’ leaders to step into some type of leadership. Some leaders are not easily visible as such. The larger the organization, the more that ‘underdogs’ can hide or be hidden by other more talented options.
Over the years, I have discovered some incredibly gifted and capable leaders in this smaller environments. When the crowds are smaller the risks of trying someone out in a role, is much less impacting.
Plus, there are only a few leaders who can lead churches or campuses of 3000. There is slightly more leaders who can lead a church/campus of 500-1500. These leaders are also still very rare. The leader who is capable of leading a church/campus of 120-500 is much more common and easier to find and deploy. That’s not to say that anyone can do it!!! Leading a church of that size is challenging and difficult. But it stands to reason, there are a lot of people who could lead a group of ten people well. Fewer who can lead a group of a 100 people well, and so on. The larger the number the more limited the pool of those with that readily available capacity and skill set.
The third advantage stems from that last thought. Because there are more leaders who are able to lead a Neighborhood Church, there is more potential to plant or produce more of them. Back in 2011, we set out to plant 100 new churches in 10 years. The only way that vision could even be remotely possible is when we imagined those churches to be Neighborhood size, at least at the start.
Finally, the smaller the size the more affordable the space. If you want a building that will seat 800 people, you have a certain price-tag to expect along with that. But when you are shooting for that 120-500 range, you only need facilities to seat 180 or so. With multiple services, it is possible to hit that target of 500 in a facility that feels very cozy.
The other reality that we discovered in the Northeastern USA, is that there are a lot of older church buildings that are available because of how many mainline churches have closed. Most of those older church buildings are built to fit a Neighborhood Church size.
There are some disadvantages that we find in this model as well. In my next post, I want to talk about some of those issues as well And then, I want to propose a way to solve those and get the best of both worlds.