Space & Time

by Colin Dexter

People don’t come to a small church expecting a scaled-down version of a megachurch experience. They expect a great small church experience.

Yes, there are principles that all great churches hold in common. But a great small church is not a miniaturized version of a great megachurch.

A great small church won’t have parking lot attendants and professional signage leading families to hi-tech, age-segmented children’s ministries.

Mum and Dad aren’t going to be handed a cup of finely roasted cappuccino from a smiling barista in the church lobby, before being led into a thoroughly post-modern worship space with form-fitting seats.

The worship team won’t be playing original songs from their best-selling album to tightly choreographed lights and video. The pastor’s message won’t be backed by perfectly-timed, custom-made graphics and video clips.

There are a lot of great megachurches that have all that cool stuff. But that’s not what makes them great. And if small church pastors try to duplicate that on a small church budget, you will fail.

Yes, I said it. Fail. I know that sounds like lack of faith to some people, but it’s not. Because failing at those things isn’t even the worst of it. The saddest part is that the time and expense you’ll waste trying to be something you’re not great at will be taken from the things you can be great at.

Yes, keep the place clean and uncluttered. If you own a building, strip off the 1990’s wallpaper and slap a fresh coat of paint on the walls. Make sure everything and everyone are well prepared. But put your main efforts into people, not programs. Friendliness, not facilities. Worship, not entertainment.

Give people the space and time to meet with Jesus.

Then do something small church pastors can do that megachurch pastors can’t do – hang out in the lobby after the service. Build relationships. Pray with and for people. Tell dumb jokes. Hug, laugh and cry together. Be a church family.

That won’t lead you to greatness. That is greatness.


Karl Vaters is the author of The Grasshopper Myth: Big Churches, Small Churches and the Small Thinking That Divides Us. He’s been in pastoral ministry for over 30 years and has been the lead pastor of Cornerstone Christian Fellowship in Fountain Valley, California for over 20 years. He’s also the founder of, a blog that encourages, connects and equips innovative Small Church pastors

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