Churches are still reporting a significant drop in attendance in 2022, following the lockdowns in 2021 that saw church services curtailed in many countries.
According to reports, in 2019, 34% of Americans attended a service at least once a month, and recent surveys indicate this has dropped to 27% in 2022.
The same thing is happening in Canada, where the government’s StatsCanada reported that the number of people who attended a religious service at least once a month has dropped from 23% to 19% in 2022.
These are interesting days for the churches that still haven’t recovered from the pandemic and related lockdowns.
But these difficult times, may also provide an opportunity to rethink church.
An Assemblies of God church in Gainesville, Florida may provide a pattern for such a transformation, micro churches, AG News reports.
In 2004, when Mike A. Patz became the lead pastor of the 3,500 member Greenhouse Church in Gainesville, Florida, God gave him a vision of having the church return to the pattern found in the Book of Acts of meeting in homes.
Patz described them as micro churches, and they differed from small groups found in many churches because they were considered to be churches in their own right, with micro church leaders being referred to as pastors.
While small groups common in many churches are looked upon as optional secondary services that people can attend, Greenhouse’s micro-church meetings are the main emphasis.
Matt Ulrich, who pastors one micro church, said if a person only has two hours a week for a church service, the church recommends they attend a micro church instead of the main service.
The goal of the micro church is not to increase attendance at the main Sunday service, but rather to take the church into the community.
As was common in the early church, micro churches focus on people using their spiritual gifts and having people fulfill their individual callings.
Many of these micro-churches include a meal as part of their service, which was a common occurrence in the early church’s house meetings. In fact, some suggest that eating a meal together was a normal part of a church service in the Book of Acts:
46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:46-47 NIV)
Greenhouse’s 145 micro churches range in size from five to 40 people, and many have a unique emphasis that focuses on specific interests, which often draw in nonbelievers.
Micro church pastor Beatriz Farquhar built her group around a passion for scrapbook design, for which she has gained international fame. When she holds a weekly meeting in her home, that includes a session on scrapbooking, she also delivers a Bible study.
Farquhar who is 64 years old told AG News, that many who attend “have no clue about the Word of God or have Him as Savior yet.”
She also holds an additional Zoom micro church meeting during the week allowing people from around the world to participate.
Because of her scrapbook theme, many nonbelievers are drawn to her meetings and at least 15 people have become Christians. It has also resulted in the formation of three daughter micro churches in other US cities and one in Milan Italy.
For too long we have defined the church as a building with four walls. It is not. The church is God’s people, and they can meet anywhere.
READ: Micro-Churches, Big Story AND Covid Lockdowns responsible for sharp drop in church attendance AND 5 Current Church Attendance Trends You Need to Know AND Church attendance stagnates amid return to in-person services: Pew