One of my son’s favorite books is Mousetronaut: Based on a (Partially) True Story by Astronaut Mark Kelly. It is the story of Meteor, a diminutive mouse chosen for a spot on the space shuttle based on his hard work and confidence. Meteor is happy to be along for the ride, but he’s not sure what his role in the mission is supposed to be. When the key to the control panel drops into a crevice unreachable by the astronauts, though, Meteor uses his size to squeeze into the space and dislodge the key. For his efforts Meteor is heralded as a mousetronaut, and he relishes this new identity and proudly proclaims the power of small.
There’s a lot of focus on size in church life. How many people are in the pews on Sunday mornings? How big is the offering? These questions come internally when corporate self-esteem is based on nickels and noses or when the membership has reason to wonder if God has left the building. They also come from outside sources, such as judicatories that ask churches to keep score of professions of faith, membership transfers, and the exact number of sweet peas donated to the food bank each year.
This numbers emphasis could mislead us to believe that there is something wrong with small churches. Yes, congregations can remain small because they are cliquish or uninterested in discipleship and mission. But sometimes churches are small because that is the size they need to be to fulfill the task God has for them. A 75-member congregation can’t offer all the life groups, children’s programming, or worship time choices that a megachurch can. But it can throw open its doors to the community with less red tape, welcome people looking for a faith community without the intimidation factor, and build lasting relationships with service organizations since lay leader turnover is less frequent.
Sometimes impact is inversely proportional to size. If your church has earnestly discerned the mission God has for it and that assignment lends itself to a smaller membership, wear your corporate identity with pride. The goal, after all, is not nickels and noses. It’s going forth to share the love of God with people who need to hear it.