As a conference kid, I moved from the large Adventist mecca of Andrews University’s Pioneer Memorial Church to the tiny rural town of Pierre, South Dakota, where we attended a church that rarely had an attendance above 40.
In my experience, one of the most stressful aspects of being a conference and missionary kid was moving around to different churches. I've experienced a wide range of churches: sprawling sanctuaries with thousands in attendance, house churches, congregations with no more than 20 or 30 regular members and some kind of in the middle.
Every church has given me different perspectives and experiences.
Let's face it. Large churches are great. For some, especially socialites like me, the draw is the number of people. I love being able to talk with my friends after church and see people that I don't usually get to see during the week. (Also, have you ever just stopped and listened to the music during praise time at large churches? It gives me chills.)
With many members, large churches offer a seemingly limitless number of ministries. There are so many people who want to be involved. Whether it be a family or singles group, a children's or youth group, the social opportunities and community within a large church are abundant.
With all the options, though, comes over-stimulation. Sometimes, the thought of having to face that many people after a rough week can be an unfavorable prospect. In addition, with so much going on, it’s easy for someone to feel left out, especially if they don’t feel confident in their faith. They may worry about receiving judgemental glances if they express their doubts and questions.
Because I’m a social butterfly, smaller churches have never been as enticing to me as large churches, but I love love LOVE the family feel created by this type of environment. In smaller churches, the smaller congregation leads to a tight knit community. This kind of a gathering is larger than immediate family, but small enough to know everybody by name regardless of age.
However, small churches are prone to more tension. If there’s a disagreement or misunderstanding among the members, they can’t disappear into the crowd and avoid each other. Church politics can get stickier because a higher percentage of the members are involved in decision-making compared to a lower percentage of the congregation making decisions in a larger church.
There are days when I like the small church feel: days where I just want to sing Hymn #249, where I like to discuss what is on my heart and turn over in my head what the pastor is saying; days where I shake the pastor’s hand at the end of the service as I’m walking out to my car to get my potluck dish.
There are also days when I want to worship a bit more unconventionally: days where I want to sing the latest praise song along with the accompanying drums and the six guitars with every other member of packed sanctuary; days where it takes longer than 30 seconds to find where my friends or family are sitting.
I’m not trying to stereotype small and large churches; I’m describing the most common characteristics I’ve seen in churches of different sizes. To me, church is a wonderful place to fellowship with others who have the same priorities, and it’s personal, just like any part of a walk with God. Everybody feels a different connection to God in different places. If you’re feeling bored with your normal Sabbath routine, switch it up and check out new opportunities around you.
Kasondra Reel is a senior studying nursing.