CNLP 030: Small Church, Mid-sized Church or Megachurch, Which is Better? An interview with Karl Vaters

Is there a ‘best’ size for church?

Why do so many people distrust mega-churches?

Why do others look down on small churches?

Karl Vaters of and Carey Nieuwhof engage that debate on this week’s episode and try to settle once and for all whether a small church, mid-sized church or megachurch is best.

Welcome to Episode 30 of the Podcast.




Guest Links

Karl Vaters on Twitter

New Small Church on Facebook

Cornerstone Christian Fellowship

The Grasshopper Myth

Links Mentioned

8 Reasons Most Churches Never Break The 200 Attendance Mark

Josh Gagnon; Episode 17

Purpose Driven Church: Growth Without  Compromising Your Message and Mission

How to Break Church Barriers: Capturing Overlooked Opportunities for Church Growth

Rick Warren

Andy Stanley

Bill Hybels

Perry Noble

The Top 5 Ministry Excuses You Absolutely Need to Stop Making

3 Things You Can Do Right Away

In the end, Karl and I agree every size church plays an indispensable role in the life of the wider Church.

The best thing you can be is the most effective church you can be, and let size take care of itself.

1. Be intentional about what you define as ‘success”. Karl got so caught up into a numbers game, and he lost sight of the purpose of his ministry. He went from “shepherd to rancher” having to focus on administrative tasks while maintaining the church. He took a 40-day sabbatical from preaching and sought counseling, where he learned to redefine what it meant to be successful. Success isn’t just about a number. It doesn’t mean you have to lower the bar. Success in the kingdom of God is not about numbers; it’s something you have to figure out for yourself.

2. Become awesome at what you do. Karl said he had to get out of the mindset that he had to be a big church in order to be successful. He just had to figure out how to “do awesome” on a smaller level, and that was ok. Size has nothing to do with how capable your ministry is. If it leads to growth, it will happen organically, but it’s better to grow when your church and pastor are healthy.

3. Stop making excuses. You can use the post-Christian culture as an excuse for why your church is small, or you can embrace what you have and do phenomenal things in your ministry. There’s a myth that you have to be big to be great, and that’s not necessarily true. Success doesn’t meet a one-size-fits-all formula. When you stop making excuses, you’ll start making progress.

Want Incredible Training from Today’s Top Leaders?

Then don’t miss the Orange Conference 2015 on April 29-May 1st in Atlanta.

Learn from leaders like Perry Noble, Jeff Henderson, Jud Wilhite, Jon Acuff, Josh Gagnon and more. I’ll be teaching at the conference as well and have put together a senior leader track designed exclusively for senior pastors, executive pastors and campus pastors.

Register here today.

Quotes from Karl

A New Episode Every Week…Just Subscribe

The podcast releases every Tuesday morning.

Subscribe for free and never miss out on wisdom from great leaders such as Derwin Gray, Ron Edmondson, Jon Acuff, William Vanderbloemen, Tony Morgan, Frank Bealer, Jeff Henderson, Kara Powell, Casey Graham, Perry Noble, and Andy Stanley.

Subscribe via



TuneIn Radio

Appreciate This? Rate the Podcast.

Hopefully this episode has helped you lead like never before. That’s my goal. If you appreciated it, could you share the love?

The best way to do that is to rate the podcast in iTunes and leave us a brief review! You can do the same on Stitcher and on TuneIn Radio as well.

Your rating and review helps gets the podcast in front of new leaders and listeners. Your feedback also lets me know how I can better serve you.

Thank you for being so awesome.

Next Episode: Joseph Barkley

The culture in Hollywood California is as resistant to Christianity as almost any. Church planter Joseph Barkley shares strategies around community, how to do church and innovation that are making an impact in otherwise resistant city.

Subscribe for free now, and you won’t miss Episode 31.

In the meantime, got a question?

Scroll down and leave a comment! I’d love to hear from you!

CNLP 030: Small Church, Mid-sized Church or Megachurch, Which is Better? An interview with Karl Vaters


  1. Bob on April 17, 2015 at 4:57 pm

    Great post. Just came across the podcast will reviewing resources for our church visioning retreat. Some great insights and especially being healthy verses size.

  2. Joe Thompson on April 16, 2015 at 7:50 am

    I really want to thank you guys for this episode. This might be the first leadership podcast episode that as soon as it finished, I restarted it. I recently took the step from youth ministry (after 12 years) to pastoring a small church (under 100) and I was finding myself frustrated that there were so many resources out there for medium to large and mega-churches but not really anything for small churches. I get why, but it was just frustrating that I would hear people say that the majority of churches in America are small but there is little to no resources for us out there. But this episode hit the nail on the head for me. So much good stuff in it. I’m looking to take a lot of the lessons to my leaders and help them understand the ministry opportunities we have right now and not when we get bigger.

    I hope you’ll continue this and have some more small church pastors and leaders on your show and continue to help guys like me. Thanks again to both of you!

  3. Chris Shumate on April 14, 2015 at 10:14 am

    @disqus_Aihy9ajHOg:disqus NewSpring gives away their children resources for free. Although it may not be what you meant, I thought I would share that with you. Elevation Church does too.

    Where I attend we use the Orange Curriculum for our birth through 5th grade. Orange is an excellent, top notch program. But it does cost (I have no idea how much), but NewSpring and Elevation could be a free place to start if you’re looking for children’s materials.

    • Chris Rivera on April 16, 2015 at 8:43 am

      Thanks Chris! I love what NewSpring does! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Gary Davis on April 10, 2015 at 8:37 pm

    “That’s a short book by the way, She’ll never be happy.” Lol

  5. Ryan Fields on April 9, 2015 at 2:49 am

    Carey, you mentioned that you keep your database lean….Could you expand on that? What metrics do you use to include or remove someone? How do you take attendance or determine if people are actually plugged in.

    This was a great discussion btw. Thanks.


    • Carey Nieuwhof on April 9, 2015 at 6:09 am

      Ryan…I wish I had a better understanding of the details of our data base but I don’t. Our team handles that. All I know is we are not interested in an ‘inflated’ list and if someone doesn’t give, serve or bring their kids for somewhere between 6-12 months they get listed as ‘inactive’ automatically in our data base. Those are the only metrics we can measure to track individual attendance. So activity keeps you active. Inactivity moves you to a dormant status.

      • Ryan on April 10, 2015 at 4:03 pm

        Totally follow you on not wanting an “inflated” database. Knowing where my church is at and where we are trying to go though I think I great idea for a Podcast in the future is to get some folks from a couple of different size churches that actually manage either the ChMS the church uses or has their hand in the logistical/administration side of church and hear what/how they do things; such as attendance, follow-up, flow-charts, etc.

        Thanks again for the great discussions.


  6. […] As an example, I used to hate my Small Church building. I blamed our church’s lack of numerical growth on a lack of vision by the founders. They built too small a building on too small a plot of land. (As it turns out, the lack of growth had several other factors, including my own mistakes, as I reference in this podcast I did with Carey Nieuwhof.) […]

  7. Carlo on April 7, 2015 at 3:13 pm

    Thank you for this much needed discussion! Karl has been a God-send to me and our strategically small church. Carey, I use your “Leading Change” book as one of the reading assignments for a course I teach on strategic leadership at Grace College of Divinity. Thank you BOTH for your leadership!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on April 7, 2015 at 7:00 pm

      Carlo…really appreciate this. Thanks for the specific, encouraging words. And thanks for having the courage to lead! Love it.

  8. Chris Rivera on April 7, 2015 at 12:59 pm

    GREAT discussion. I loved it.

  9. […] Click here to hear the podcast. Then take a moment to use his comment section to thank him for being open to have this conversation. […]

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.