Karl Vaters on Overcoming Confirmation Bias About Church Size, Health, and Effectiveness

Image: Mikoto Tateisi | Unsplash

Why do we equate size with health and effectiveness in the church?

One reason is our tendency toward confirmation bias.

When we want to know what church health is, we look at what’s happening in the biggest and fastest-growing churches.

On the other hand, when we look at a small church, we don’t look for signs of health, we look for what’s wrong.

And we always find what we’re looking for, don’t we?

We See What We’re Looking For

The reality is that big, fast-growing churches are making mistakes along the way, just like small churches are. Ask any of their pastors and they’ll readily admit that. No one does it perfectly.

On the other side, there are a lot of small churches that are doing great, kingdom-impacting ministry. But we seldom look to them for that because we start with the assumption that if a church is small, they must be making more mistakes than the bigger churches.

So we assess them based on their weaknesses (which all churches have), not on the their strengths (which they also have).

Confirmation bias causes us to see the successes of the big, fast-growing churches but only the problems of the small, steady church. Even though each one has both successes and failures.

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Source: Christianity Today