Rich Church. Poor Church. Brave Church.

Rich Church - Portuguese Church YikesA particularly smart colleague pointed out to me – after yesterday’s post –  that a Big Church is not necessary a Rich Church.

The average sized church in the PCUSA these days is (!) 187 members.   Three-fourths (75 percent) have 200 or fewer members. Eight in ten (80 percent) have 250 or fewer members. More than half (53 percent) have 100 or fewer.  So what is a “big church”?  250 members?  600 hundred?  1000?  The Top Ten congregations have over 4000 members.  So can we assume they are “rich”?

They might be rich in participation and real estate, but do they have financial resources in the bank? Maybe not.

Here’s the crazy thing:  some of our largest churches don’t have the capacity to fund new endeavors.   And some of our Small Churches have quite a lot of money in their endowments.  It’s possible that our “richest” churches – by some definitions  – are indeed the “little churches.”

An important point that Shawna Bowman made yesterday, is that small and large churches need to learn from each other.  It’s true.

Capacity for ministry might involve financial capacity.  Or it could be human capacity (participation).  But we need . . . capacity  – for ministry.

Survivalist churches don’t have any capacity for growth, spiritual development, making disciples of all nations.  And many of our congregations seem to believe that we are in a zero sum game.  Nope.

We have the capacity to do amazing ministry.  How have we missed this?

Would you say your church is rich?  Why or why not?





6 responses to “Rich Church. Poor Church. Brave Church.

  1. Good discussion, Jan. Our congregation is a big church (over 4,000 members) that is also a rich church in many ways both in ministry and in financial resources. I attribute this to the 2 founding principles of the church: that every member would be prayed for every day and that for every dollar spent on expenses of maintaining the church’s buildings, staff and programming a dollar is spent on local, area, national and international mission. As a result the church does not have a large endowment to fall back on–but that is intentional. I think that is a good thing because congregations that rely on endowments usually find themselves in swift decline.

    Today our budget is over $10 million with $5 million of that going to outreach ministries. We have a deep bench of committed lay leadership which is attracted by these two principles and the ministries of the church. It is never easy to stick to dollar for dollar giving but the leadership has always found a way to do it. Every year members sign up to pray for other members daily and receive a list of 12-15 names to pray over. The dual emphasis on prayer and generosity is the heart of the congregation.

    Our previous congregation had no emphasis on prayer and spent its resources on itself. At one time it was a thriving growing suburban church but today is less than half its size and is struggling although it is located in one of the fastest growing residential areas in the country. I can see the difference these principles–which are spiritual disciplines–make.

  2. I know a large-ish church, the biggest one in its presbytery. Beautiful grounds, lovely building, fully-staffed, exciting programs, situated in a growing, affluent, vital town. A seven-figure endowment that was the envy of the presbytery. That didn’t keep the church from imploding, splintering into several factions. It’s either ‘better than ever’, or ‘hanging on by a thread’, depending on who you ask.

    Looks can be deceiving.

  3. Pingback: Jan Edmiston: Rich Church. Poor Church. Brave Church. | THINKING PRESBYTERIAN |

  4. I didn’t realize those were our demographics these days. The congregation I serve is bigger than average! (Who knew?)
    At just over 200 members (about 140-150 on a Sunday), I guess we’re becoming a “big” church. But sure doesn’t feel big in terms of budget, endowment, or other metrics.
    Thankfully, we occupy a space that fits our numbers, with just a little room to spare. 150 in a sanctuary for 200 is nice. 150 in a sanctuary built to hold 900 is empty.
    Thanks for posing these ideas and getting a new conversation started.

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