CHURCH SIZE & An Exercise That Shows How Leadership Styles Must Change as a Church Grows

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 9/18/15.

Here is an exercise I conduct with my students, which makes a good exercise for judicatory leaders and pastors’ meetings.  It helps leaders see how leadership styles must change as the organization grows.

Remember, if you don’t change your leadership style, your style will usually stunt the growth of the organization (and decline it back to the smaller size that matches your leadership style).

First, let’s look at some popular size designations for churches (CLICK TO ENLARGE the attached comparison from Whitesel, 2000, p. 29).  I like to use Lyle Schaller’s designations (1981, pp. 17-63).  But, I also appreciate Gary McIntosh’s emphasis various designations for church size (1999, pp. 17-19).

CHART Cong. Size Differences HD Fig 1.7 p.29This exercise only requires four to eight sentences.

Each person adds a few lines about effective leadership traits, abilities and/or skills (Northouse, 2009, pp. 1-3) for one or two size ranges.  For the size(s) you choose, participants will give us a couple lines about leadership characteristics that will keep the church at this size, and a few lines about leadership characteristics that can grow it out of this size.

The following are the size ranges of Sunday morning attendance.  Just cut and paste the ranges (in your postings if you are a student) and add your insights.

Fellowship size (40 or less, relational base):
> Keep at this size by ….
> Grow out of this size by ….

Small size: (41-100, one big family):
> Keep at this size by ….
> Grow out of this size by ….

Middle size (101-175, maintains adequate ministries):
> Keep at this size by ….
> Grow out of this size by ….

Awkward (176-225, doesn’t recognize it is a “congregation of congregations,” Hunter 1979, p. 63):
> Keep at this size by ….
> Grow out of this size by ….

Large (226-450, functions as a congregation of congregations):
> Keep at this size by ….
> Grow out of this size by ….

Huge (451- 700, administration consumes most time):
> Keep at this size by ….
> Grow out of this size by ….

Mini-denominational (701+, a network of congregations, each with its own identity):
> Keep at this size by ….
> Grow out of this size by ….

That’s it.  Take a couple of these sizes and add a couple lines about leadership characteristics that will keep it in this size range, and then a few lines about leadership characteristics that will grow it out of this size.

Here is an example:

Small size: (41-100, one big family):
> Keep at this size by ….  Pastor makes all major decisions her or himself, creating a bottleneck of decision making.
> Grow out of this size by …. Pastor apprentices gifted laypeople in ministry, supports publically their decision making, but may offer confidential critique.
References

Hunter, G. G. III (1979). The contagious congregation. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.
Northouse, P. G. (2009). Introduction to leadership: Concepts and practice. Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications.
McIntosh, G. L., (1999). One size doesn’t fit all: Brining out the best in any size church. Grand Rapids, MI: Fleming H. Revel.
Whitesel, B., & Hunter, K. R. (2000). A house divided: Bridging the generational gaps in your church. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.