Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: There are more factors than just these two keeping churches under 200 attendees. A primary factor not mentioned in this article is the Dunbar number. But this article does point out something that I have said in my previous books: that pastors often go into the ministry because they want to be a “shepherd,” not an “administrator/manager.” And to grow above 200 you have to be an administrator/manager. See this article regarding how one small, but growing church pastor identified this. Then check out this questionnaire to see you personal mixture of strategic, tactical and operational leadership skills.
Reasons Growing Churches May Stall
by Karl Vaters, Facts & Trends, LifeWay, 5/12/16.
Our church grew and grew and we hit about 150 to 160, while we were in a tiny little building. So we moved into a local school, and within about a year we grew to almost 400. Then we started dropping like a rock…
What happened here? I made a couple of strategic errors.
1. Workers can’t be welcomers.
We were setting up and tearing down everything every week, and the regulars who were hauling chairs would normally have been the social glue to greet the new people. So we weren’t able to retain our visitors.
2. Being a pastor is different than being an administrator.
But the primary thing was this: I made the switch from pastor to administrator. I made that switch willingly, but I was miserable.
The numbers hid the misery from me—how can a pastor be miserable when his church has almost doubled in a year? By spending 95 percent of my ministry doing things I hate.
Below 200, a church can function under one pastor with a handful of volunteers. Over 200, it cannot be done by a single pastor anymore, and the lead pastor has to take on an entirely different role.
I think most pastors are like me. Very few go into ministry thinking, I want to spend my time working with city hall, fundraising, sorting out finances and dealing with staff conflicts.
They enter ministry because they want to feed the sheep. But you’ve got to pastor with a different set of skills above 200…