Hope for the Neighborhood Church

Aerial view of historic church steeple and sunset in Beaufort, SC neighborhood

This article was written by state missionary Rob Jackson with Sam Rainer.

Ken Allen and I have invited pastor and author Sam Rainer to the SBOM to lead a conference on Monday, September 25, 2023. As a teaser, Sam permitted me to share some of his research on the rise in neighborhood churches. Sam stated, “Baby boomers birthed the mega-church model, and it will die with them.” Although we haven’t made this statement in such blunt terms, we have noted the decline in the mega-church model over the past several years.

Here are eight signs of hope for the small church:

1. The reality of real estate.

God has granted you buildings in your neighborhood that can grow to be a focal point in the community. 

2. The feel of the room. 

An increasing number of millennials and the Z-Generation are attracted to smaller, more intimate settings.

3. Financial sustainability.

Sam is working with one mega-church expecting $1 billion in maintenance over the next ten years. Their 8,000-seat auditorium and facilities that take up several blocks have become an albatross. Smaller neighborhood churches have manageable maintenance needs.

4. Growing bivocational and co-vocational ministry. 

Smaller churches provide a perfect venue for the growing number of ministers who feel called to bivocational or co-vocational service.

5. Diminishing stigma of small.

Big is no longer seen as best. There is no correlation between a church’s size, strength and effectiveness.

6. A return to local preferences. 

These younger generations are attracted to local activities, venues and churches that seek to influence and be involved in their local community.

7. More targeted ministry.

Sam says, “You serve your neighbors because you believe in the Servant Jesus. Your church address is not an accident. Your home address is not an accident. God placed you here strategically.” In other words, God has planted you in your community to begin your targeted ministry in your “Jerusalem.”

8. The drive isn’t worth it anymore. 

Several years ago, I remembered billboards all over a metropolitan area from a church that stated, “It is worth the drive…” And people did drive from all over. This generation doesn’t want to drive to work, much less church. We are witnessing a decrease in regional churches.