Andy Stanley created quite a stir last week when he said in a sermon that people who prefer attending smaller churches are selfish. He later acknowledged that such a blanket statement was inappropriate saying, “Heck, even I was offended by what I said! I apologize.”
His point, however, was that larger churches are more likely to offer solid children and youth programs, allowing the young people to connect with others their ages. Thus, they’re less likely than young people attending smaller churches to turn their backs on church participation in the future.
Can it be, however, that smaller churches actually have advantages over larger churches when it comes to discipling young people? Could it be that, although few in number, young people in smaller churches receive more attention and individual “loving on” by their church members? When they’re absent, folk notice. When they have a special accomplishment at school, church members celebrate. When they sense a call to ministry, the whole church rises up to encourage and support them.
Certainly not all smaller churches treat their young people this way. Nor do all larger churches fail to treat their young people in this way. But there may truly be some significant advantages for a young person to grow up in a smaller church too.
What’s your experience been?
— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director for Church Development