What Does Walmart's "Neighborhood Market" Mean for the Neighborhood Church?

Today's Springfield Newsleader has an article about Walmart opening a "Neighborhood Market" in Springfield - the first of four in the city, and the first of its kind in Missouri.  The Neighborhood Market concept is no doubt designed to compete with smaller stores, such as Dollar General and Walgreens, that have presumably taken a healthy chunk out of Walmart's market share.  For all the buzz that surrounded the first "Supercenters" when they began opening 15-20 years ago, people now seem to prefer the "easy in, easy out" convenience of a smaller store.  I know my family often does.

This is a fascinating development to me, as we seem to have come full circle in our culture.  For awhile, the prevailing attitude was clearly "bigger is better."  "Big box" stores and warehouses started popping up in every decent sized town across the land.  But now, in this age of instant gratification, the little store is once again en vogue.  Who wants to wait in long lines, or park a quarter mile from the entrance?  We want to pull up to the door, purchase our 2-3 items, and get home.  If we shop there often enough, we might even become friends with the cashier.

If Walmart is a microcosm of the larger culture, then what can other organizations learn from the Neighborhood Market concept?  What can the Church learn?

Paralleling the rise of Supercenters was the rise of what is now known as the "mega church."  Of course, there have always been large churches.  But we have never seen them to the degree we see them in modern America.  Today, there are over 1,300 mega churches in our country with an average attendance of 2,000+.  (In Springfield alone, there are 4-6 churches that fit this description.)  And while that is still a tiny fraction of the total number of churches, it is now said that 50% of churchgoers in America attend the largest 10% of churches.

As you know if you've read my blog, I am not a mega church hater.  But I do wonder if we will now begin to see a trend away from the regional mega church to the equivalent of the "Neighborhood Market" - the local church on the corner.  In recent weeks I have had two different (young) families tell me they attended the local mega church for a time.  But at the end of the day, they preferred certain aspects of our medium sized church, including the convenience, proximity to their children during services, and greater "family feel."

And so to all those small to medium sized churches out there who have wondered, "How can a neighborhood church survive in a mega church world?"...  I would say just keep being faithful.  Keep preaching the gospel.  Keep loving on people.  Keep being the hands and feet of Jesus.  God has a plan for your church too.

At the end of the day - whether your church is mega, large, medium, or small - we're all on the same team.  And we're all in the business of building the Kingdom, not building our church.  We need healthy churches of all shapes and sizes.  But it's still good to know that brighter days may be ahead for the neighborhood church.