Smaller church identity issues
1. Small churches (churches that have below 80 people in attendance) have a strong sense of belonging.

They are held together by family ties, family traditions, and often by blood ties or old friendships. People like them because there is the sense of belonging, however, visitors walk in and immediately feel, "Everybody else belongs here but I don't belong here."

Pete Wagner says churches can get: koinitis - the fellowship is too strong and the bonds are so strong nobody can break into that church. A visitor comes in, he sees what's going on and hears what's going on and he likes it, and everybody's friendly initially, but he soon realizes (if his name doesn't end in a certain letter if it's an ethnic church -- German, Scandinavian, etc.) there's a strong bonding there.

2. Small churches are "familiar strangers" with no structure for intimacy.

They have a lot of information about each other, but nobody is really intimate. It's against the rules to be intimate. You know a lot of detail and data about the other people in a church of 60, 70, 80 people but there's no self disclosure in a small church, no real openness. It's very rare for someone to stand up and say, "I'm having a problem with such and such temptation" or "We're having marriage problems". You just don't talk about those kinds of things in a small church. It's OK to know a lot of information, a lot of facts, but they are "familiar strangers" and cannot really open up to each other or it upsets the balance. You chat and share the weather but you don't really get close to each other.

3. They base their identity on the past.

Sociological primary groups in congregations of 60-80 people they are usually 20-30 years behind the times. They are not early adapters. They are late adapters when it comes to consumer things. They are interested in one thing: maintaining the status quo. That's a high value, a very important value. Often they are the very last to accept change in a community. Maintaining the status quo, the sense of belonging is very important.

4. The small churches are an end in themselves.

They don't need or want a cause, a purpose, or a reason for people to come - they exist for themselves. "I'm coming - I'm here. You're coming - you're here. We exist for us." Whether anybody else ever comes to the church or not, we have a church because we're here.

5. Churches under 80 tend to be facility based.

Their identity comes from a building not from the people. In a small church where there is facility based identity there is a strong sense of ownership over the buildings and the rooms in those buildings. (Just try to change a classroom and see what happens!) In an urban world there are very few things you can control and we all need to have something we can control. So if we're in a small primary group we can control the building, what we do with certain rooms, etc. That's an important value in a small church.

6. They are very strong and resilient.

It is almost impossible to kill a small church. They'll put up with immoral pastors that run off, they'll have splits, they'll have financial crisis, the building can burn down - that's one of their powers. That's why there's so many small churches because they are incredibly strong and resilient. They just can't be blown away. Their existence is a matter of ego and self-preservation (sometimes for good, sometimes not).

7. They are resistant to change.

By their very nature they are nearly impossible to grow. If you go into an existing church with 60 or so people, keep in mind how long they've been that way. They're going to have to fight you on some of the things you preach. For the church to grow, life (as they know it) will have to cease and the church (as they know it) will have to change. So they intuitively know, in their self-preservationist nature, that growth will kill what they have. They are gonna resist.
   June 2019   
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