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I used to think that small churches were just big churches that failed to grow. I couldn’t see the value of a church that wasn’t succeeding at becoming large.

Now I see small churches as beautiful in themselves. “Small churches are not miniature versions of larger congregations,” writes Loren Seibold. “They are psychologically and socially different, and those differences require their own approach to ministry.”

I praise God for large churches. I know some good large ones. Large churches come with advantages that small ones lack. Big churches come with both big problems and big advantages too. Large churches often have more resources and can offer more programs at a higher level of excellence, and allow pastors to focus on their area of giftedness. They can also resource the wider church. They also come with different expectations of leadership, more complexity, and a different set of pressures on the leaders. I praise God for big churches, even as I recognize some of their challenges.

But small churches also come with advantages. I grew up in one, and I’ve pastored a few. I often wished they would become large churches. I wish I’d spent more time enjoying the advantages that only small churches get to enjoy.

Small churches often lack resources, but also know how to survive on less. I’m often amazed at what small churches are able to do with a small budget. They may not make as big a splash as a larger church, but they often provide more ministry per dollar than a large church could.

Small churches are sometimes resistant to change, but they are also stable. They’ve weathered changes in leadership and in the community but persist. Small churches are often able to weather disruptions even better than large churches can.

Small churches lack programs, but can also offer a level of intimacy that larger churches can’t. You’re less likely to fall through the cracks of a smaller church. You can know everyone and be known. Of course, small churches don’t always live up to their potential for deep fellowship, but it’s available for those who want it.

Smaller churches offer less complexity. Smaller organisms are still complex; even smaller churches are far from simple. But the problems of a smaller church aren’t as layered as in bigger ones, and I’d argue that they’re a little easier to navigate.

Smaller churches are often less reliant on one above-average leader. Big churches require big leadership; small churches require godly leaders that are, in the best sense, interchangeable. When they are done serving, the church will continue as God provides other faithful leaders to take their place.

I praise God for both big churches and small ones. It’s easy to pick one kind and criticize the other, but both are beautiful. It’s a shame, though, that we often miss the beauty of small ones.

Small churches aren’t failures, and small church pastors aren’t second class. Praise God for the beauty of all kinds of churches, including the small ones.