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.

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