Health and Growth

5 Reasons Why the World Needs Your Small Church

Karl Vaters, author of "Small Church Essentials," shares five reasons why the world needs your small church.

5 Reasons Why the World Needs Your Small Church

Several years ago at my denomination’s annual conference, I was listening to the denominational leader give his state of the denomination talk.

As part of his assessment, he cited statistics that I had heard many times before. I’ve come to learn they are surprisingly universal across denominational lines and geographical regions.

“Over 90 percent of our churches are under 200 in weekly attendance,” he told us. “And 80 percent are under 100.”

He continued to speak, but my mind drifted as I heard this question pop into my mind. What if that’s not a problem?

What if when Jesus said “I will build my church” what He had in mind wasn’t a bunch of pastors wringing their hands because their congregation isn’t as big as someone else’s congregation?

What if Jesus’ idea was for churches of all sizes to work together, with mega, big, small, and house churches each contributing something special to the whole?

Instead, in the last generation or two, we’ve made big- and megachurches the standard, one that most churches will never reach and one, I believe, many of us aren’t supposed to reach because we’re called to be small.

There’s nothing wrong with big- and megachurches; I’m grateful for them. How can we not celebrate it when 2,000-20,000 people gather in one church to worship Jesus? That’s fantastic!

But it’s also cause for celebration when 2,000-20,000 people are worshipping Jesus across 20, 200, or more different churches in groups of 500, 200, 50, and 10. Jesus has been building His church for 2,000 years using all kinds of people, all types of methods, all styles and sizes of churches.

Great churches don't happen by mistake. No matter what size they are. They take prayer, planning, hard work, cooperation, and the calling of God. But no church can be a great church if they don’t know they can be a great church.

Too many small churches and their pastors are laboring under a false impression—a lie, really—that their church can’t be great until it becomes bigger. We need to put that lie to rest, starting in the heart and ministry of every pastor of every small church.

A lot of churches are small—so what?

Since the church I pastored (and still pastor) was well under 250 when I heard the message of that denominational leader, I knew the expected response to the statistic should be “Our church is small too.Oh no!” But something inside me broke that day.

Instead I thought “So what?!” So what if our church is small? So what if we’re one of my denomination’s 90 percent? So what if half the people in our denomination are attending small congregations instead of big ones? If they’re doing good, outreaching, Jesus-honoring, kingdom work, so what if they’re small?

As I’ve come to learn since then, the percentage of small to large churches says absolutely nothing about the spiritual temperature of the churches in any denomination or geographical region. If a group of churches are in a state of growth and impact, it will include the planting of new churches that are almost all going to be small. So, when the spiritual health of a region or denomination is growing, there are more small churches popping up, keeping the percentage of small churches high.

On the other hand, if a group of churches are in an unhealthy state, the existing churches will be declining in size, so the number of small churches increases that way. Either way, whether we’re doing well or doing poorly, there will always be a lot of small churches, and that’s a good thing.

There are five reasons why the world needs your small church.

1. The pastor is a shepherd

We all have different gifts.

Not all pastors have the administrative gift-mix that is required to lead a church of 400 or 4,000. Few do, actually; I know I don't.

If I have to spend more than a couple hours a week on financial and administrative decisions, my spirit starts to shrivel a little.

If you're a shepherd, be a great one and help your small church be a great church. Please remember that shepherding the church doesn’t mean doing all the ministry yourself. That’s a recipe for a burnt out pastor and an unhealthy church. A shepherding pastor still needs to equip the saints to do the ministry, but the smaller the church, the more hands-on that equipping will be.

Related: 4 Ways You Can Develop Leaders in Your Church

2. The world needs more healthy small churches

If we didn't have healthy small churches, what would the alternative be? Obviously, no one is proposing that we close them down if they’re not hitting certain growth rates. Small churches exist, because small churches are needed.

3. Your congregation wants to be pastored by its pastor

Most healthy big churches work hard at simultaneously growing bigger and growing “smaller,” which happens through small group ministry. Pastors of larger churches need to delegate much or all of the personal pastoral care to under-shepherds, and it's appropriate that they do so. But some people thrive better in their spiritual lives when they are pastored by their pastor, not a small group leader, and they're not wrong for needing that.

4. Many people won't go to a big church

Some people prefer their church experience to be small. From the corporate executive who wants to slow down on the weekend, to the parents who prefer keeping their children in an intergenerational environment instead of another divided-by-age classroom, small simply works for them.

This includes long-time churchgoers as well as the unchurched. The idea that everyone is enamored with a bigger room, more people, and high-end production values has never been true. Just as there are people who prefer a local diner to a chain restaurant, there are people who are looking for smaller environments to discover and live out their faith.

I know, when I say not everyone prefers big churches, I’m running the risk of sounding like Yogi Berra, who famously said of a popular restaurant, “Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded.”1

It’s not that I think big churches are dying, or not meeting a need. Obviously, they’re thriving and blessing a lot of people. That’s one of the reasons most big churches got big. But they’re not for everyone.

We need to be sure there are quality options for people who prefer a smaller worship experience

5. God might have a plan

Everyone in ministry should be in agreement that God’s ways are higher than ours, and that the church is His idea. So, while we try our best to discern the smaller details of His will, we need to keep a sense of humility in our strategies. God may have a plan for our church that can only be fulfilled by being small and healthy.

Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from Karl Vaters Small Church Essentials: Field-Tested Principles for Leading a Healthy Congregation of Under 250. Used by permission.

Why Write Church Donation Letters?

In a previous blog post, I shared the different ways your church can thank donors—from automated emails to year-end giving reports. Printed donation letters also play an essential role in your church’s stewardship efforts.

Donation letters are the Swiss Army knife of your church’s gratitude arsenal. It may not be the most powerful—but it’s versatile, handy, and gets used often.

Your basic church donation letter can serve many different purposes, including:

  • Acknowledging that you received a donation
  • Thanking the giver for being generous with their finances
  • Sharing other ways the person can support your church
  • Allowing the donor to write the gift off on their taxes
  • Encouraging supporters to make recurring donations
  • Requesting future donations from church members

A single, well-crafted donation letter can pull together several of these things simultaneously. Better donation letters lead to more giving, which leads to more donation letters—thus creating a cycle of on-going church generosity.

Church Donation Letter Samples

Here’s the good news—you don’t have to write an individualized letter for every person who gives to your church. That would be tough to do for even smaller churches. And most donors don’t expect you to. They’d rather you be putting their gift to better use in the community, instead of ceaselessly writing thank you notes.

With the possible exception of some unique circumstances, your church can use template language for the majority of your church donation letters. You’ll have to add in custom details like the donor’s name and gift amount, but you can write everything else in advance.  

To make this even easier on you, here are a few basic church donation letter templates you can copy and paste. Keep in mind that not all of these have to be in print—you could just as easily turn some of these samples into email appeals.

1. Donation Acknowledgment Letter

The Donation Acknowledgement Letter is a basic way you can confirm and affirm a monetary gift to your church. Sending these is standard practice in church and nonprofit culture.

Dear [first name],
I want to personally thank you for your donation of [gift amount] to [church name]. We’re honored you would bless us with your generosity. Donations like yours make a big difference in the work our church is doing in the community.
Without givers like you, our church can’t have an impact or influence in our community. With your support, we’re partnering with local nonprofits, sending out global mission trips, and hosting small groups on topics that help real people like you. Together, we can make a difference.
Because we’re a tax-exempt nonprofit, you also get to write this donation off on your taxes. This letter serves as official proof of your donation, so keep it in your records come tax season. At the end of the year, we’ll also send you an annual recap with how much you’ve given to the church.
Thank you for supporting [church name]!
[your name]

2. Donation Request Letter

Not every church member realizes the importance of giving, or understand Bible verses about tithing and giving.  So a Donation Request Letter helps to spread that awareness and encourage a spirit of generosity.

Dear [first name],
How are the finances in your household? That was a rhetorical question, so you don’t have to answer—besides, this is a letter so we wouldn’t hear you anyway. But we still want you to think about that question.
Money is a uniquely human issue, one we all struggle with to one degree or another. Even if you’re financially blessed, you still have the burden of stewarding your money wisely. And we believe that one of the best ways to invest your money is into the local church.
Tithing (giving 10% of your income) on a regular basis not only supports the work we do at [church name]. It doesn’t just support local missions and community growth. It also shows an obedience to God by making his work a financial priority in your life.
So if you find yourself ready to put God first in both your heart and your wallet, we encourage you to make a one-time gift or sign up to make recurring donations. That way, you won’t have to ever wonder again about the financial status of your household.
[your name]

3. Monthly Giving Letter

Many church donations aren’t just one-time gifts. Plenty of givers contribute monthly—and that should be acknowledged.

Use this template to correspond with recurring givers.  

Dear [first name],
Thank you for being an active and faithful member of our church community. By giving to our church on a monthly basis, you’re showing that our church has a meaningful place in your heart. We just wanted to write this to let you know that you’re in our heart, too.
Donating to the church monthly allows us to preach the gospel, make disciples, and support others in our community who need help. Others like the local food bank and the nearby homeless shelter. We’re answering the cry of the needy, and it’s all thanks to contributors like you.
We earnestly appreciate your ongoing support and want to let you know we’re here for you. If there’s ever anything we can do for you and your family, don’t hesitate to reach out. You are a valued member of our church family. And you’re financial support is making a difference.
[your name]

4. Year-End Giving Letter

At the end of each year, it’s customary to give your church supporters a summary of their gifts. The primary reason is for tax purposes, but it’s also a way to recap everything your church has done over the past year with their support.

Dear [first name],
You’re getting this letter because you gave to [church name] at some point during the past year. That might have been a one-time gift, or recurring donations. Either way, we want to thank you for your generous support. Every contribution helps.
One of the official reasons for this letter is for tax purposes. That’s right—you get to write these donations off on your taxes. Which is why we’ve included a summary of all the contributions you’ve made to our church this year.
But the other reason for this letter is to let you know what we’ve done with the money you gave. We take stewardship very seriously, which means we value spending our time and resources wisely.
During the year, our church supported local nonprofits, sent global missions teams, and baptised quite a few people. It was a great year for us—thanks in large part to donors like you.
So thank you for your support of our church, and we hope you’ll consider continuing to contribute to our mission in the coming year.
[your name]  

5. Church Fundraising Letter

Sometimes you need to make a more significant financial push using tried and true church fundraising ideas. Some churches call this a Stewardship Campaign or a Church Capital Campaign. Either way, the goal is to raise a certain amount of money for a big project. And typically, a solid letter of appeal is an integral part of that.

Dear [first name],
God has a plan for everyone and everything. That includes you, and it includes [church name]. None of us can fully know God’s plan—the best we can do is pray and listen for clarity. Our church leadership has been doing just that and are excited to announce our latest church project.
[Detail the outline of the major church project—this could include a building campaign, or raising support for a global mission trip. Anything specific to your church that requires a fundraising letter. Be sure to include a fundraising goal so everyone knows what you’re shooting for.]
But we can’t pull this off without your support. Whether you give to the church on a regular basis, or just attend on occasion, we’re asking you to consider contributing to this massive undertaking prayerfully. It’s something we need our entire church community’s help with.
Even if you can’t make a large gift, know that every little bit helps. It’s more about coming together as a community united behind a common cause. We hope that you’ll consider making a donation towards this great step forward that we’re making together.
[your name]

Tips when writing church donation letters

It’s not enough to just copy and paste this content and send away. The key to an effective church donation letter is a touch of personalization. Follow these tips to take your donation letters to the next level:

  • Examples: Add specific examples of how your church will use the donation. Tell a story about the work your church is doing in the community and connect that with giving.
  • Personalization: For regular donors, don’t be afraid to add a short, handwritten personal note. This shows that you’ve singled them out with praise.
  • Timeliness: Sending donation letters quickly reminds people you’re thankful for them. But this also takes organization and efficiency. All the more reason to use pre-written templates.
  • Storytelling: Everything is better with stories—including donation letters. Weave in a specific narrative of how your church is making a difference and how the money will be used.

There’s no one right or wrong way to write a donation letter or request contributions. You’ve got to do what is right for your church and congregation. But if you stick to these general tips, you’ll probably start to see some traction when it comes to giving.

What’s next?

Most people don’t love talking about money in church. But it’s a necessary and vital part of your church. And maximizing your efforts when it comes to donation letters will help make those conversations more comfortable. So what do you do next to put this into effect?

  • Customize these letters: Take the samples above and make them work for your church. Personalize the content. Remove the stuff that doesn’t sound genuine and add in stuff that does. Remember that these are just a starting point.
  • Create some systems: Develop processes that make it easy for you to replicate sending donation letters. Use a letter template that allows you to drop in names and details. Then develop guidelines for when these letters will be sent out.
  • Empower a champion: Find out who is going to be responsible for making these letters happen. Rather than thinking of this as adding more work to their plate, think about how you can elevate their work. This could be a staff member, or a volunteer.
  • Start sending: All of this will be for nothing if you don’t actually send out the letters. Take the time to get it right and get them into the hands of your church donors.

And if you’re looking for ways to grow your church’s giving capacity, Tithely can help.

We provide several different ways your church members can support your church financially—from online giving, text to give solutions, and giving kiosks.

Tithely’s systems make it as easy as possible for people to give to your church. Now all you need to start doing is generating a culture of gratitude. There’s nothing standing in your way. Go unleash generosity in your church.

How does your church use donation letters to spread generosity? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Editor's Note: This is a guest post from Robert Carnes. Robert is a writer and storyteller. He's the author of The Original Storyteller: Become a Better Storyteller in 30 Days. A former church communicator and nonprofit marketer, Robert works as a managing editor for Orange in Atlanta.


5 Reasons Why the World Needs Your Small Church