Why More Churches Don't Become Large Churches

Some of my friends may disagree (feel free to comment; in fact, please do, whether you agree or disagree), but I think the estimable Tim Keller hits the nail on the head (quoting Lyle Schaller) in answering the question why there aren't more large churches than there are:
Schaller shows that the very large church is more accessible and capable of reaching young people, single people, the unchurched, and seekers than smaller churches are. He then poses a question: If the need for very large churches is so great, why are there so few? Why don’t more churches (a) allow the senior pastor to become less accessible, (b) allow the staff to have more power than the board, (c) allow a small body of executive staff to have more decision-making power than the larger staff or congregation, or (d) allow directors more power to hire competent workers and release generalists? His main answer is that the key to the very large church culture is trust. In smaller churches, suspicious people are much happier…The larger the church gets, however, the more and more the congregation has to trust the staff, and especially the senior pastor…ultimately a very large church runs on trust.
I've seen this firsthand, and I've watched, saddened, as churches with huge potential for growth (and for reaching young people, single people, the unchurched, and seekers) are crippled by suspicious and untrusting people IN the church.

You can read the whole article, "Leadership and Church Size Dynamics," here.


  1. I minister in a community where there is a culture of complete mistrust (white, inner city Columbus). The folks here are majority white, Appalachian descendants. They truly do not trust anyone other than family (and even that is a struggle at times). Ministering to them is a constant struggle to build that trust. I don't necessarily know that that is the reason for the lack of large churches here, though, but just an observation. I think in this community "church growth" looks slightly different than in other communities.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Josh. Yeah, that's big, and I think I get it. It's harder to minister--and to grow--in an atmosphere of mistrust.

    And WHAT A GREAT POINT you make that, 'in this community "church growth" looks slightly different than in other communities.'