The COVID lockdowns has caused some church leaders to take a second look at their church structures. Typically, most churches have meetings on Sunday morning in a larger building with one main pastor/teacher leading the service.
But the lockdowns are challenging that structure as governments are fining, and in some instances even threatening jail time, if churches continue meeting on Sunday morning.
With the lockdowns continuing into 2021, and in some instances with harsher restrictions that 2020, some churches are adapting. There is a new trend emerging called micro churches involving smaller gatherings of between 10 and 40 people. They typically meet in homes or a neutral setting such as coffee shops, and they are fully functioning churches.
Many larger congregations already utilize house churches that meet during the week in addition to the main Sunday morning service. These additional meetings are often poorly attended, because if busy, people typically cut out the house church meeting since it is not considered the “church’s main service.”
But some are wondering if these smaller groups should be transformed into the main Sunday morning service.
Last fall, Cincinnati’s Summit Church did just that with remarkable success. Prior to COVID, the mega-church had 12,000 people attending weekly services at 12 different locations around the city.
But with COVID lockdowns coming into play, the larger services were no longer an option, so Summit made its smaller house churches the main service. As a result of that decision, the number of people attending Summit services grew from 12,000 to 15,000 people during the pandemic and now involves over 2,400 house churches.
Why the growth?
Well I think there are probably several reasons. But I wonder if the change from an add-on meeting in the week to the main service revitalized the house churches as they realized they now had an important and leading role in the church itself. The people have a greater sense of purpose as their house church became the church.
Some are asking if these house or micro churches may become an option moving forward. New movements such as Salt Church, are being built around this model and are working to help set up and support networks of smaller micro churches.
The leaders of these small micro churches are typically bi-vocational, meaning like the Apostle Paul, the leaders also had side jobs to help pay the bills.
18 After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. 2 There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, 3 and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them. (Acts 18:1-3 NIV)
These smaller micro churches have some advantages.
- First it produces a greater sense of community enabling people to develop a closer relationship with other believers.
- Secondly, it results in more people becoming actively involved in the ministry that in a more traditional setting is typically reserved for a handful of people on Sunday morning. People feel called to the ministry but are frustrated by the lack of opportunity if they are not interested in being a Sunday School teacher or usher.
- Thirdly, they are a much more effective way of reaching into low population rural areas where success is not based on their ability to support a church building.
In an article entitled, There’s a New Church Emerging, Dove International addresses another area of concern about larger churches writing:
“In most churches today, approximately eighty percent of all finances are used to support the church staff, buildings, and church programs. The other twenty percent is given outside the church to missions and to support ministry to the community. We have found that in the micro church this figure is inverted. Since there is no building rental, and pastors are not paid but are bi-vocational, eighty percent of all finances are used to support missions and to support ministry to the community, and the other twenty percent is given support the micro church needs for ministry within the church.”
If those numbers are correct, most church ministry becomes administrative focussed on keeping the structure and building functioning rather than ministering people.
In the New Testament, we see that several churches met in homes including the home of Mary (Acts 12:12), Cornelius (Acts 10:23-26), Priscilla and Aquila (Romans 16:3-5), Nympha (Colossians 4:15) and Philemon (Philemon verses 1-2).
These were fully functioning churches and as believers faced persecution they were an effective way of building the Kingdom of God.