What did he say that was so disturbing?
“This is one reason we build big churches. People say, ‘Why do you have to make them so big?’ Let me tell you why we make them so big. You probably didn’t know this. This is kind of an insider secret. We want churches to be large enough so that there are enough Middle Schoolers and High Schoolers that we don’t have one youth group with Middle School and High School together. We want there to be so many adults that there will be so many Middle School and High School kids that we can have two separate environments. So when I hear adults say, ‘Well I don’t like a big church, I like about 200, I want to be able to know everybody,’ I say, ‘You are so stinking selfish. You care nothing about the next generation. All you care about is you and your 5 friends. You don’t care about your kids…anybody else’s kids.’ You’re like, ‘What’s up?’ I’m saying if you don’t go to a church large enough where you can have enough Middle Schoolers and High Schoolers to separate them so they can have small groups and grow up the local church, you are a selfish adult. Get over it. Find yourself a big old church where your kids can connect with a bunch of people and grow up and love the local church.”A lot of the people I know have been commenting about the church size issue. At least, locally, that's because we are in a small-medium size church because we are in a town of 10,000. Realistically, we aren't going to have a mega-church here.
Does God want us to have big churches? God wants us to preach the Gospel, make disciples, feed the poor, take care of widows and orphans, and more. We can't control who converts and how big our church is. What we can control is whether or not our church is following Jesus. I truly believe that some churches that are obeying Jesus' call for our community will not be large but will have an impact.
The main thing I wanted to discuss regarding Stanley's comments was his belief about youth groups. He's telling people that they need to go to a large church so that their kids can be in a middle school or high school youth group. Actually, he wants the church to be large enough to have a separate middle school group and a separate high school group.
So, here's the thing. I'm not anti-youth group. The world will not end if kids are segregated by age at church. And there may indeed be advantages. Kids will be in groups with age-mates which means that they are likely experiencing similar issues and stresses. The middle and high school years are years of significant change and being in a group of other students who are also learning about Jesus can be a significant support.
But, families at smaller churches are not depriving their kids of the kids' inalienable right to go to youth group. Smaller churches are different, not bad. Instead of youth group, they'll be in family Bible studies. Instead of separate middle school and high school groups, they get to do stuff together. Sure, the high schoolers think middle schoolers are all dweebs (or whatever the word is today), but hanging out with them is a good way to learn to love them. Right?
In smaller churches, a lot of stuff gets done by family groups instead of youth or adult groups. When I was in a smaller church as a teenager, the whole church came out one day and laid sod on our church yard. And we all worked together, teenagers, kids, and adults. Age segregation is not inherently better.
My point here is not to say that big churches or small churches are better than the other. But, that is what Andy Stanley said and he's wrong on that count. A church that loves God, is filled with the Holy Spirit and is trying to follow Jesus is a good church, no matter the size and not matter the kind of youth group.
Addendum: The day after this was written, Andy Stanley apologized for his statement. I'm not taking down this post because it addresses the small church vs. large church issue which is still present in the Evangelical community.