Monday, October 18, 2010
The appeal of a small church
Ward and I have been to MANY churches in the 9 years we've been together. We've attended services at Methodist, Presbyterian, Luthern, Episcopal, and Catholic churches. We've had good experiences and bad ones, but we finally found a church home about 2.5 years ago and we're so happy. Our church isn't that big (we regularly have about 200 in attendance each Sunday), but it's big enough that it has plenty of "extra" activities. We participate in a Wednesday night fellowship, attend Sunday School, and go to "Big Church" each week and we're happy. We have made friends with several other couples who have young children and we enjoy getting our boys involved with the youth. We love this church and feel so warm and welcomed every Sunday and Wednesday.
There aren't many kids in the youth program at our church (I would say there are about 20 active kids between the ages of 4 and 12) but our church is really trying to ramp up these programs and attract younger families, without changing the Sunday service and overall "traditional" theme of our church. And I'll admit, they're struggling. It seems most young families today are choosing their churches based on the "extras" and so many of those "extras" seem to be more and more secular. We have a few Mega Churches in our town that offer literally 50-100 different types of activities or groups for you and your children to be a part of. They range from age-defined, to hobby-defined, to gender-defined. And while these social opportunities are great, it would never make or break our decision to join a church. But I'm finding out we aren't like most people.
We had just started making friends with a group of 30ish parents with kids under the age of 8...there were about 5-6 couples in our group. We'd sit together at Wednesday night fellowship and and our kids played together at other church functions and I was really starting to get to know them. We recently found out that 2 of the couples and their children have left the church for a mega church, and our closest friends at church have been secretly attending services at a Mega Church and will likely leave at the beginning of the year. Another couple in the group that have no children may not stay because they are related to one of the families leaving. It's down to just us and another family (from the original 6 families that hung out together) and they aren't attending church regularly anymore...maybe once every three weeks.
I'm so disappointed. I know there are other families we will get close to and hopefully other families will start joining the church, but I wish they would have stayed to give things a chance. It's so hard for the small church to compete with the Mega Church these days. I worry that small churches will end up folding because they can't stay afloat, and people will end missing the wonderful experience of belonging to a small church. I love that the older people in the church know who my kids are, know what activities they're involved in, and know what's going on in their lives. I feel we wouldn't have as much of that in a Mega Church, and it's very possible we'd only get to know a tiny percentage of the congregation.
Ward and I feel called to be a part of the development team for the Children's Ministries at our church, so it looks like that's another project I'm going to be working on this fall and winter. I hope we can help in some way.
Lord, give me guidance! :)