This site uses cookies to provide you with more responsive and personalized service and to collect certain information about your use of the site.  You can change your cookie settings through your browser.  If you continue without changing your settings, you agree to our use of cookies.  See our Privacy Policy for more information.

  • De-sizing the Church: How Church Growth Became a Science, Then an Obsession, and What's Next

De-sizing the Church: How Church Growth Became a Science, Then an Obsession, and What's Next

Available Formats

Format: Paperback
List Price: $15.99
Your Price: $9.59
You save: $6.40 (40%)

Product Description

Big churches didn't create the problems facing today's congregations. But our obsession with size has come at a great cost.

We're obsessed with bigness. Supersized meals and TV screens. Square footage. And big churches. "What's the size of your church?" That question has stirred insecurities or stroked the ego of too many pastors.

For a long time, we thought bigger was better. "Church growth" and "numbers" dominated our thoughts and conversations. But more than ever, people are feeling disconnected. Trust in the church is dwindling.

In De-sizing the Church, pastor Karl Vaters takes us on a multi-faceted journey through our centuries-long obsession with size, both in and outside the church, and how it has negatively affected those who serve and worship in big and small congregations alike.  He also dispels some prevailing myths and affirms what was good and true about the Church Growth Movement. And he invites us to consider how removing church size from the equation can be an essential element in rebuilding trust, restoring relationships, and renewing our spiritual lives. 

This book reframes the way we see the size of our churches and helps us see health and fruitfulness through de-sized lenses. The result? Renewed congregations that reach surrounding communities and faithfully engage culture. 


About the Author

Karl Vaters
KARL VATERS has served in small-church ministry for over 40 years, so he speaks and writes from decades of hands-on pastoral experience. He is author of The Church Recovery Guide, 100 Days to a Healthier Church, Small Church Essentials, and The Grasshopper Myth. Karl also hosts a biweekly podcast, The Church Lobby: Conversations on Faith & Ministry. You can learn more about Karl at He and his wife, Shelley, have three children and two grandkids.


"What a read! At the end of the day, church leadership is about being fruitful and making sure that no matter what our congregation size is, we engage with the culture and community around us. Thank you, Karl, for the reminder. I'll be recommending this book to pastors everywhere."
—GREG ATKINSON, author, speaker, founder & CEO of the First Impressions Conference and EntreChurch

"In De-sizing the Church, author Karl Vaters alerts us to the dangers of a 'bigger is better' mentality in life and ministry. Without 'throwing the baby out with the bathwater,' he analyzes the historical development of popular church growth thinking in the United States, offering insightful analysis and helpful critique. He argues for a balanced appreciation of all sizes of churches, while calling church leaders to use integrity as their core measurement of success rather than numerical growth. Whatever your viewpoint regarding the health and growth of churches, De-sizing the Church is worth the read!"
—GARY L. MCINTOSH, Distinguished Professor of Christian Ministry & Leadership, Talbot School of Theology, Biola University

"Karl Vaters single-handedly changed the conversation on church size in America. Tracing the trends and trenches the church growth movement fell into, Vaters now hands us a shovel to dig our way out. A timely book that will rescue you from the fads, and lead you back to the facts—timeless facts that are principled from the pages of Scripture."
—PEYTON JONES, cofounder and CEO NewBreed Training; author of Church Plantology

"De-sizing the Church is a ministry-changer—refreshing, liberating, and transforming! For over forty years of pastoral ministry, I felt an unrelenting pressure to produce numerical growth. My emotions and sense of worth cycled up and down with the weekend attendance. Chasing the wind is exhausting. Rediscover what matters most in ministry in De-sizing the Church."
—DAVE BECKWITH, Standing Stone Ministry, and author of God Meetings

"De-sizing the Church is the right book at the right time! As always Karl Vaters puts into words what many of us are feeling but struggle to express. His ability to confront the problem without becoming just another a church critic is both refreshing and enlightening. Whether you pastor a church that runs 50, 25, 500, or 1000+ on a Sunday morning this is a must-read. Thank you, Karl, for your consistent kingdom impact!"
—MICHAEL J. RUBINO, founder of the Church Revitalize Center

"The expectation that every church will grow is a major factor in clergy burnout. In De-sizing the Church, Karl Vaters has provided an antidote to that poisonous belief. He demonstrates how the obsession with bigness has compromised our faithfulness and what we must do to recover healthy ministry."
—SEAN NEMECEK, Regional Director for PIR Ministries and author of The Weary Leaders Guide to Burnout

"In De-sizing the Church, Karl Vaters challenges the American belief that 'bigger is better,' especially regarding church size. In my spiritually formative years, small was better for me, as I was raised, saved, and called to the ministry in a small rural Virginia church with ninety attendees. I encourage you to read and heed this book's message to value the church and its pastors through heaven's eyes. Let us cherish every church and its pastor(s), regardless of size, who faithfully and effectively carry out biblical Great Commission ministry."
—TOM HARRIS, President, Interim Pastor Ministries

"For far too long church leaders have been operating under age-old paradigms about church growth without even thinking about where they originated. In De-sizing the Church, Karl Vaters pulls back the curtain on these almost universally accepted practices, and then challenges and empowers church leaders to realign their thinking with true biblical models."
—CRAIG T. OWENS, author of Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter

"I am convinced that Karl Vaters is the voice that the American church needs at this moment. A lover of the local church, he is calling us to do healthy, sustainable ministry, regardless of size. De-sizing the Church is a practical call to set aside our obsession with bigness and instead focus on creating disciples of Jesus who faithfully and healthily engage the world around us."
—MATT STEEN, cofounder, Chemistry Staffing

"De-sizing the Church is a cautionary tale of what goes wrong in ministry when we confuse numbers with calling. Vaters has written an autopsy of the Church Growth Movement, helping us to see where it got sick, and why we need to get better at telling the difference between our culture and the gospel. If the question 'How big is your church?' makes you wince, you'll find comfort here along with encouragement to bear down on discipleship and to put the yardstick away."
—RICK HIEMSTRA, Director of The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada's Centre for Research on Church and Faith

"Karl Vaters delves into the church growth movement with a pastoral heart and a consultant's eye and challenges us to rethink our obsession with metrics. He urges pastors to elevate stories over stats and refocus on ancient yet new priorities as we seek to grow healthy churches."
—JOHN FINKELDE, founder of Grow a Healthy Church

Product Details

ISBN: 978-0-8024-2425-9
Publish Date: April 2024
Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.5
Format: Paperback