Life on the edge

A small church redefines its mission
What is a great church? For many Americans, great is synonymous with large, volume equals vitality, quantity means quality. But a countertradition is quietly emerging. As more churches grow to stadium proportions, small congregations are coming to see their diminutive size as an asset for mission.

I had to learn this from experience in serving as part-time pastor of St. Andrew Lutheran Church on Chicago’s southwest side. With 167 members and 98 in worship on a typical Sunday, St. Andrew is a small congregation. But then so are the majority of Protestant churches. Of the approximately 400,000 congregations in the U.S., between 51 and 60 percent average 75 in weekly attendance, a percentage that holds true across racial and class boundaries. Small churches are often defined as those with fewer than 100 in worship on any given Sunday.


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