Recently mega-church pastor Andy Stanley has been under fire for some comments he made in regards to the selfishness of parents who take their kids to a small church.
You can see the video by clicking here. Andy Stanley – If You Don’t Go to a Large Church, You’re Selfish and don’t Care About Your Kids.
I am not here to agree or disagree with what he said. Mr. Stanley deserves respect for what he has accomplished with God’s help. Besides, we have all had those experiences where we opened our mouth and inserted our foot. We have all said things that we regret.
Unfortunately for him, he had his foot in his mouth for about 3 minutes while he ranted on about the awesomeness of the mega-church and the not-so-awesomeness of the smaller church.
I just want to share our experience in a smaller church and how we were truly selfish for staying there. Following are some reasons we chose to remain in a small church…
Take your kids to a smaller church where they get to be a part of the worship team. In the smaller church there are no big name Christian performers. There are no worship team CD’s for sale in the church lobby. In our small church if a child felt like going to the front and worshiping with the group they went. We oftentimes had kids picking up tambourines and maracas to join the praise team during an upbeat song. Was the congregation entertained by a big name performer, no? Did the kids learn confidence by getting up in front of people and playing an instrument? Yes. Were all ages blessed? Yes!
Take your kids to a smaller church where they get to learn sound and media production. In the smaller church, our sound and media people are volunteers. Are they perfect? Absolutely not! Do we get frustrated when the media locks up and the computer has to be restarted? Yes! Do we get really frustrated when the pastor begins to speak and the sound person has forgotten to turn on his microphone? Yes! But when you look to the sound booth and see a teenager learning the ropes from an adult volunteer, the frustration turns to thankfulness because intergenerational ministry is happening right there in your sound booth.
Take your kids to a smaller church where they get an opportunity to speak to the entire congregation. On several occasions our youth came home from camp or other events and had outstanding stories of faith and acceptance. On these days our pastor would allow for the Holy Spirit to take over the service and we would watch these kids go forward and speak to a group of adults about the experiences they had at their event. These kids needed to be heard. They didn’t realize it at the time but they gave their first sermon. Is speaking in front of an entire congregation (even if it is only 50 people) a benefit to their future years? Yes! Speech classes and presentations are nothing compared to opening your heart to a group of people.
Take your kids to a smaller church where the pastor always has time for them. Granted these pastors are not “rock stars” and they’re not traveling the world and inspiring tens of thousands of people each week, but they are almost always there for their people. To the teenager who is struggling with sexuality issues, the pastor opens his door at any time to talk to this confused teen…without an appointment. To the child who draws a picture representing the sermon they just heard, the pastor proudly hangs the drawing on their wall.
Take your kids to a smaller church where they get to serve along adults in ministry and outreach projects. In the smaller church some of the most valuable volunteers are the older children and teenagers who love offering help. These kids are learning valuable leadership experience as they work alongside adults.
Take your kids to a smaller church where they get to experience intergenerational worship every Sunday. Mega-churches may have playgrounds in their children’s areas and enough video game systems to rival Best Buy, but they are lacking in relationship. Yes, they are forming relationships with kids of their own age that could last a lifetime. But what about the true relationship that happens when a senior-aged adult takes the hand of a 5 year old and prays with that child. Or takes communion with that child. Or shares his Bible with that child. An intergenerational relationship is a foundation to provide the younger generations with a lifelong connection to the church.
On the other hand are there downsides to being in a smaller church? Yes!
We spent eleven years at a small church of approximately 50 people. Were there kids at the church? Yes, even though 4 of them were ours. My oldest son spent his formative spiritual years at this church. Years that I would not trade for an instant but years that may have cost him an eternal life (at least according to what others may say). Our church had a youth group consisting of 3 girls. My teenage son didn’t want anything to do with this group. “Don’t make me go mom! They only talk about girl things and I’m really uncomfortable!”
So when we stayed at the small church during his impressionable years, were we as his parents being selfish? Yes we were!
We chose to stay there. We loved the people and the people loved us. We loved that every Sunday morning felt like a family reunion. We loved that our children got serving opportunities they never would have received in a larger church. We loved that the pastor almost always had time for us.
We have now moved to a larger church because I was offered a paid position in children and family ministry. It has a youth group consisting of about 25 kids and they are led by a former “graduate” of the group who has a heart for these kids and for spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Our oldest son was 17 years old when we made this transition. According to George Barna he is way past the 4-14 window that most children make their eternal spiritual decisions.
Just the other day my now 18 year old college freshman came to me and said that he wanted to start playing the bass guitar again. He said to me, “You know that praise service that you have been talking about doing on Sunday nights for families and youth? I would play bass for you if you would like.”
In a larger church or even megachurch he would not get this opportunity. He would surely have to try out to see if he was ‘good’ enough to play with the semi-professional praise team. He wouldn’t make it because he’s just a beginner.
But because he grew up in a small church, he knows that anyone willing and able will be given a place to belong.
He grew up with these opportunities because of our small church.
I pray every day that he does not regret his years we spent in the small church. My husband and I were very selfish when we stayed in the small church…we stayed because it was the best place to teach our children to be servants of Jesus Christ!