It’s no secret that I live in a rural area. Our entire county has less than 14,000 people living in it. My daughter’s senior class has less than 100. To say we’re small is an understatement, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Small can be a good thing. Let’s take sports as an example. Yes, there will be small town politics when it comes to kids making sports teams, and it is often more about who the parents are connected to than how good the child is (unless the child is exceptionally talented). But, there is a good side. Growing up in a small area, many youth have more of an opportunity to be noticed, to be worked with individually, and to develop their talents than they would in a much larger community. I know for a fact that if we lived in a large city where my daughter went to a high school with a student body in the thousands, her chances of making a sports team, even J-V, her freshman year would have been nil. She would have been overlooked, forgotten and cut. Four years of daily practices would never have happened. Valuable game-time experience would never be gained, and quite possibly, the passion that she developed to help her rec league team win districts and come runner-up in the state may never have been ignited.
In other words, she’s a good ball player now because we live in a small town. She got noticed. She was worked with individually. She was given room and time to grow. And what is true for her in sports is undoubtedly true for other kids in other areas.
Small churches can serve the same purpose. I’ve been to big churches. I’ve enjoyed their cantatas, worship services and praise bands. Everything is well-rehearsed, smooth and of great quality. And everybody on stage is talented. The musicians are talented. The choirs are talented (they even have auditions to “try out”). The speakers are talented. Everything is done with excellence.
The small church does not have those deep wells of talent to dip into. Our choirs might not be as on-key, and our worship leaders may struggle with nerves on occasion. But, like a small town high school, we’re more likely to notice the “diamond-in-the-rough” level talent than a bigger church. Our choirs don’t have auditions, we welcome anyone who wants to make a joyful noise. Our musicians might not be as polished, and our worship leaders will make the occasional mistake. But usually these are laughed off with knowing smiles and grins. Like a favorite mom and pop restaurant, there are little quirks and imperfections that make the small church a little more homey and comfortable.
This is not to say we don’t have our problems. Stories abound of small churches crippled by small thinking. But that’s not the case in every, or even most, small churches. And if you’re looking for a church to blend into, become a fly on the wall, and stay anonymous for a while, then a small church is not the place to be. Like I said, you will be noticed. You will be loved on. But you will also be given time and opportunity to grow, maybe in ways you never dreamed of, and if that’s what you want, then find a healthy small church near you to plug into and become part of their family.