Monday, July 19, 2010

When a church changes size…

DJ Chuang recently wrote “dynamics of different church sizes,” a nicely resourced blog about how churches tend to settle into a certain number of attendees and have trouble breaking that barrier. Here are some of the interesting thoughts:


When it comes to churches, there’s a sociology to the number of people and group dynamics. There’s much more going on than a generic spiritual gathering. There are certain church sizes that seem most common, as if a certain group settles into a certain size stability equilibrium.


This is true, and unfortunately an evangelism stifler. Churches usually stop “growing” when they reach 80% building capacity. The building is comfortably full and feels full of life and the church feels successful. Maintenance, programs and activities overtake the priority of reaching the lost. Churches also tend to stop growing when the size becomes greater than the skill of its leaders. Very few pastors are prepared for and effective at leading larger and larger organizations.


So, there are three options. One, spend more money on bigger buildings and a larger staff. Two, stop growing. Three, reproduce by starting new churches. We all know a ton of churches that have chosen options one and two. Do you know of any churches that choose option three? (though it is the only option that maintains an aggressive focus on evangelism.)


“The median church in the U.S. has 75 regular participants in worship on Sunday mornings… Notice that researchers measured the median church size — the point at which half the churches are smaller and half the churches are larger — rather than the average (186 attenders…), which is larger due to the influence of very large churches.” -FAQ from HIRR


I knew there was something wrong with that old statistic that the average church is 200 members. I’ve had trouble finding churches that size. It is actually rare.  Now I understand why.


“Most churches generally face growth barriers when Sunday attendance approaches 65, 125, 250 or 500.” -Break the next growth barrier


In my church-search interview process for finding a place of service as we finish up our work here in Brazil, I found a number of churches that are hovering right around those numbers. Each one has a certain group dynamic and comfort-level at their size. Any change from there will be uncomfortable. If the focus is on growing in general it will be worse, because growth is an end in itself. If the focus in on discipling the lost, the growth pangs will only be mildly irritating.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Now What? Part Two

In my post Ok, they said “Yes.” Now what?, I proposed that the best discipleship process for new believers or near-believers is a family bible study in that person’s home with his close friends. Since this topic is being explored in other blogs (The Assembling of the Church and learning… ), I wanted to keep talking about this.


First off, let me give an example. There is a family we led to the Lord some time back. I wrote about them in my Bible Storying Blog in two postsRain, and showers of blessings” and “Who will deliver me from this body of death.” Please click on those links and read their story first.


Last night they came to our prayer meeting in the traditional church. Husband, wife, three children and their dog. Long story short, the dog fit in better than the family. Our church was very gracious with them, but it is obvious they just don’t fit. They try, but they can’t. Too many issues.


What will end up happening is that after a few weeks, they will be made to feel more and more unwelcome until they don’t come back. They have been church hopping since they’ve been saved, spending a month or two in each place before they give up and look for another. It is sad, and it is a story that repeats itself innumerous times in countless places. Life changing discipleship and spiritual reproduction never happen in those situations.


The harder, but more effective way to bring people up to being real followers of Jesus whose lives are transformed and who produce thirty, sixty and one-hundred fold increases is discipling people in their own households and with their own friends. This is especially true when the person being discipled does not naturally fit into the culture of your church.


“Now What? Part Three” is going to explore why, and “Now What? Part Four” will explore how.

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