4 Ways Churches Start

When we look at what is going on in our congregations, I believe it is helpful to look at a congregation’s story. What were its beginnings? What happened since then? What’s been going on around the congregation: in the culture, community, etc.?

Congregations generally begin in one of four ways: out of anger/rebellion, out of convenience, out of evangelistic motivation, or out of confession. Often, the reasons a congregation starts can be a mix of these as well. Each presents some unique factors that may present some strengths and difficulties.

  1. Congregations started out of anger / rebellion. These congregations are a splinter from another church. Something happened to set off a number of people to the extent that they wished to start a new congregation. There may be good or bad reasons for having to take such action. The mindset can be one of “We can’t take it any more, we’re leaving.” Often their name reflects the hope of the congregation: “Peace Lutheran” is a prime, and ironic, example. Those that start the congregation are often highly motivated, “they have a fire in their belly” as it were and have something to prove. This can be both a strength and a challenge in a congregation, it all depends how this is directed. Obviously there’s also some healing that needs to take place. Confession and absolution are necessary for healing with the church at large.
  2. Congregations started out of confession. This is similar to the first, though for these congregations they may have seen their older congregation drift… or they themselves were the group that drifted to the point of not being able to maintain congregational unity.
  3. Congregations started out of convenience. This is probably where the vast majority of congregations have their origins. A group of people that attend a congregation wish to have something closer to their home (possibly in a neighboring town). Eventually a daughter church is formed. The mindset here is also different, than above, “we like what we have… but we’d like it a bit closer/more often.” The big challenge for these congregations is to not let apathy sink in or to be so insular that there is no proclamation of the Gospel to those outside the congregation. At the same time, since bridges weren’t burned from the mother church, there can be a great amount of working together, maybe even sharing a pastor or other resources.
  4. Congregations started as an evangelistic mission. These churches start because there’s a mindset of “we love what we have in our congregation and know others would love something similar.” Hopefully, that thing that people love is the Gospel and there is a desire to share that Gospel with people that do not believe. While this may seem to be the ideal way a church would start, and certainly the motivation and the focus can be spot on, challenges also arise as a congregation made up of many who are new to the faith can lack some of the stability and maturity that more established congregations may have. Sometimes, if a group from a “mother church” helped get things started, they may miss the relationships or other things in their old congregation. It takes real commitment for individuals to leave a congregation in good standing to stick with some of the growing pains of a new church.

I realize I have painted in broad strokes, however, when we start to look at the stories of our congregations, we can get a better idea of how we have arrived at the place where we are at. Think about your congregation. What is its history? What is your history with it? How does your congregation leverage its strengths and address its challenges?

#001 – Introduction – Interview with Pastor Matt Harrison

Welcome to the very first Small Church Podcast Episode. This week, to introduce a bit of what we will be talking about is an interview I taped with Rev. Matt Harrison, president of the LCMS, at the South Wisconsin District Pastors’ Conference.

Bumper Music Poll

Which music do you like best for the bumper/intro music

  • Fun (26%, 6 Votes)
  • New Beginning (17%, 4 Votes)
  • Happy (17%, 4 Votes)
  • Acoustic (17%, 4 Votes)
  • Higher (13%, 3 Votes)
  • Epic (4%, 1 Votes)
  • I don't like any (4%, 1 Votes)
  • Tenderness (0%, 0 Votes)
  • I have a better suggestion (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 23

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New Beginning



Coming November 3

Do you find yourself sitting in the pew of a small congregation? Do you serve as a pastor of a small congregation. Take heart! Where the Gospel is purely proclaimed and the Sacraments administered according to the Christ’s institution, the Lord’s work is being done. Every congregation faces challenges and has its strengths. This collaborative effort seeks to have a dialog about these challenges and strengths.

Starting November 3, you can expect to see articles that will inform, challenge, and encourage you. Hopefully a podcast will be a part of this effort as well. Right now we are planning and getting things organized. Stay tuned!