Periodical Reviews -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 146:583 (Jul 1989)
Article: Periodical Reviews
Author: Anonymous

Periodical Reviews

“Alternative Scenarios for the Small Church,” Lyle E. Schaller, The Christian Ministry 19 (September-October 1989): 8-10.

Schaller, an expert on small-church ministries, is a parish consultant with the Yokefellow Institute and author of 29 books. He has gathered the following facts: (a) Almost 1,000 United Methodist congregations average fewer than ten worshipers. Another 440 have exactly ten. Seven hundred more report approximately 11 or 12 attending weekly services. (b) One-fourth of all congregations in the Presbyterian Church (USA) have fewer than 70 members. (c) The Southern Baptist Convention reports that nearly 2,200 congregations number fewer than 50 people. (d) American Protestantism has approximately 30,000 congregations with less than 50 members. At least 150,000 Protestant congregations average below 75 at worship.

Schaller then focuses on societal shifts that have had a profound impact on the church. Neighborhoods are no longer the center of social life, even in rural areas. People who drive long distances to work or shopping will drive to a larger church in a nearby city, attracted by its high-quality programming. In inner cities the future of oldline neighborhood churches is threatened by “white flight.” The world is becoming oriented to large institutions—corporations, universities, shopping malls.

If these trends continue, Schaller asks, what is the future for small churches? He responds with several choices: (a) Build on strengths and assets exclusive to small groups rather than being scaled-down versions of mega-churches. (b) Become high-expectation congregations that strongly emphasize adult Bible study, missions, and a commitment to disciplined Christian living. (c) Relax and watch church members grow older and the attendance numbers fall. (d) Undertake an aggressive new-member effort through evangelism and outreach. (e) Have one minister with three congregations, sharing the expenses and the benefits of a vocational minister. (f) Staff a small church with a dual-career or bi-vocational minister, as some 40,000 congregations presently are doing.

Schaller concludes, “With such a variety of alternatives from which to choose, small churches can face the future with greater confidence and hope.” This well-written and documented article is recommended to all pastors of small and medium-size churches. Schaller’s two other books on the small church are also recommended: The Small Church Is Different (Abingdon Press, 1982), and Looking in the Mirror: Self-Appraisal in the Local Church (Abingdon Press, 1984).

Robert J. Choun

“God’s Miracle of Life: The Church in ...

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