CHURCH SIZE & The average church in American is 75 attendees #Cure4TheCommonChurch

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Cure for the Common Church: God’s Plan for Church Health (Indianapolis, IN: 2012), p. 14.

CureForCommonChurch

The average church in North America is only 75 attendees,[i]

[i] Barry A. Kosmin and Ariela Keysar, The American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) 2008 (Hartford, CT: Program on Public Values, 2009) and Duke University, National Congregations Study, http://www.soc.duke.edu/natcong/index.html

LEADERSHIP STYLES & How They Change Depending Upon the Size of the Church #chart

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel:  The following comparisons of leadership style changes relevant to church size, were compiled by cohort MDIVO-24 from their research for the course LEAD 600: Church Leadership, 9/28/16.

Church Size Keep at this size by… Grow out of this size by…
40 1.     Not participating in programs and ministries offered by other churches in the community.

2.     multiply the existing fellowship into another house church so as to keep the fellowship small and intimate

3.     Pastor does the work of ministry without help from others.

4.     Function solely out of desire for attendance growth.

5.     Believing a small church is limited in in reach and ability

6.     Little leadership from anyone in the congregation.

7.     The pastor is looked at as the leader and final answer to everything.

8.     let pastor make most of the decisions and lead most programs.

9.     Suppressing thoughts and feelings because everyone just wants to get along

1.     Initiating ecumenical opportunities on the community to do programs and ministries

2.     establishes new ministries, classes or groups to accommodate the growth of the fellowship.

3.     He secures the backing and participation of one key informal leader

4.     The pastor moves from allowing ministry to happen organically to program planning

5.     Delegate the work

6.     Focus efforts on being the church within the local community.

7.     Help people see their individual call in life, focusing on that passion and call.

8.     hosting brain-storming groups in which people’s voices are heard and ideas shared.

9.     Cooperating by using thoughts or feelings, and link up through honest and direct conversation

41-100 1.     Worship focus meet the needs of the people who attend regularly

2.     The pastor holds on to the need to be connected relationally to all active members

3.     micromanaging staff, refusal to delegate the “important” work.

4.     Good board that makes decisions will help to control the leadership of the church.

5.     Focus on existing attendees to maintain the feeling of family.

6.     Having only a couple sub-congregations, keeping all the growth under the pastor’s leadership.

1.     Balance between inward and outward focuses

2.     The pastor hiring additional ministry staff.

3.     creating boundaries for leaders to operate within, empower them to do their job, and hold them accountable

4.     Develop formal organizational structure and roles within the church leadership.

5.     pastors and teachers need to be given responsibility authority

6.     Multiple pastors (at least 2)

7.     Ability to organize the church and the allowance of growth in the ministries available.

8.     Research where hope is lacking within the community and begin offering hope to those in pain.

9.     Becoming less afraid of sub-congregations; offering as many as we can

101-175 1.     Continuing to support small groups as home groups who do not reach to non-churchgoers or new church attendees.

2.     Allowing anyone who has a desire to preach or teach to do so.

1.     “missionalize small groups” with an Up-In-Out balance

2.     Establish preachers or teachers who have the knowledge and skill set to do so.

3.     Raise the quality of communication

176-225 1.     Not training lay leaders that are equipped to teach and lead small groups/other ministries in the church. 2.     pastors and teachers must be missionally motivated to reach beyond the four walls

3.     form small home fellowship groups to prepare the unchurched for corporate gatherings.

4.     Training more leaders and empowering them to lead others just as the pastor would do.

226-450 1.     Not using past experience as catalyst to moving to the next level.

2.     Not learning from others who have gone to this level prior to you.

3.     failing to cast a vision for the next phase of ministry

4.     working solely to maintain what is already achieved.

5.     Viewing small groups as a peripheral ministry.

6.     Relying on staff and administration to do all of the work.

1.     Form some initial insights into what you’ve been doing and why that works. Implement a stronger, fuller version

2.     have a complete understanding of the ministry as a whole

3.     strategically think about next steps

4.     prioritize what actions are most vital for future success.

5.     Making small groups a foundational/core ministry that provides people with the fellowship, accountability and care

6.     Multiplying lay leaders into more leaders, and pastoral staff being a leader of leaders.

451-700 1.     Pastor’s doing all the pastoral counseling, marriage counseling, hospital visit, teaching all the classes, etc…

2.     Not encouraging volunteer run ministries.

3.     Under-developing a mission and vision that filter ministries, events and activities suggested by staff and congregants

 

1.     Allowing the basic pastoral ministry to be done by lay leaders

2.     Utilizing the pastor as a vision setter

3.     Clearly defining who the church is, what the church is all about and how it believes it can most effectively reach

 

700+ 1.     Keeping churches isolated from each other in the denomination. 1.     Plant churches, no matter how small the home church is.

2.     Preach and teach that no church is too small to start another church.

SIZE & 4 Ways to Break the Church Attendance Barrier #EdStetzer

by Ed Stetzer, Outreach Magazine, 7/12/16.

When it comes to church growth, some barriers or size plateaus prove to be difficult to overcome, churches feel stuck at a certain size…

For example, a lot of churches get stuck at 35 members. These kinds of churches are typically comprised of a family or two and some of their friends. Another barrier exists at 75 members. The church consists of a pastor, who may not be full time, and a congregation in which everybody knows each other. The 125-person barrier is one of the hardest for churches to break through because progress involves restructuring and thinking differently…

There are four shifts that must take place to ensure continued growth past the traditional attendance barriers.

1. Pro-Growth Shift

First, church members and leadership must shift their mindset from anti-growth to pro-growth. I once received some pushback from an occasional attendee at our church. During an outreach emphasis, he asked why we were wasting our time emphasizing church growth. He said we were behaving like a business and that we should be happy with the people we already had…

2. Relational Shift

…In Transformational Church: Creating a New Scorecard for Congregations, Thom Rainer and I outline relational intentionality as one of seven elements … Because proximity to other people does not automatically lead to community with other people, the shift must move people from sitting in rows to sitting in circles. Having a 30-second meet and greet on Sunday mornings will not help visitors connect, but helping them to make friends through small groups will. A small group environment provides opportunities for authentic community and connection to the church at large.

3. Staff Shift

In order to break attendance barriers, a church must experience a staff shift. It’s not necessarily that churches need to hire more staff members—though that could be the case—but rather they must help their staff undergo mindset shifts regarding the functions and purposes of their ministries. They must intentionally spend time with two specific groups of people—leaders and the lost…

4. Ownership Shift

The fourth and final shift must take place in the lay leaders within the church. They must take responsibility for their respective ministries. They must own the goals, plans and strategies for implementing and improving their ministries.

This concept must spread to the church as a whole. Beyond merely those in a leadership position, every church member must see the church as his or her own. They should not think of it in terms of being the lead pastor’s church or the elders’ church. Every church member must take ownership and work toward the church’s growth and health…

Read more at … http://www.outreachmagazine.com/features/18394-break-the-attendance-barrier.html

ORGANIZATIONAL BEHAVIOR & My Guide to How Org. Size Affects Organizational Behavior, Structures & Management

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 6/29/16.

To lead an organization, you must first understand how the organization “behaves” and then begin to “manage” the “organizational behavior.”  Here are comments about church organizational size, behavior and management edited together here from my writings.

Organizational Behavior & Structure

To lead an organization you must begin by analyzing how the organization behaves.  It is like a child, you adjust your parenting as they grow and behave differently.  So, to lead a church effectively you must first step back and watch how the organization behaves.

The first step in doing so is to look at how the church is made up of many smaller groupings.  Some of these groupings are small groups (around 12 people, but they can get larger), clusters (groups of 20-75 with an extended family focus) and sub-congregations (group of 30-150, notice the overlap) that function as tribal group focusing (usually) around celebrations.

Three Organizational Structures in Most Churches

Small groups:

  • Size: around 12 people, but they can get larger
  • Focus: intimacy, accountability
  • Ministry: UP-IN-OUT (typically):
    • IN = strong
    • UP = moderate
    • OUT = weak

Cluster:

  • Size: groups of 20-75, usually a cluster of formal (or informal) small groups
  • Focus: an extended family feel of interreliance and task orientation.
  • Ministry: UP-IN-OUT (typically):
    • IN = moderate
    • UP = moderate
    • OUT = strong

Sub-congregations:

  • Size: group of 30-150, notice the overlap
  • Focus: function as a tribal group (Dunbar Group) often focusing around celebrations
  • Ministry: UP-IN-OUT (typically):
    • IN = low
    • UP = strong
    • OUT = moderate to strong

 

More Details About Small Groups, Clusters and Sub-congregations

Small Groups

See these articles on small groups: https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/?s=small+groups

Clusters:

The St. Tom’s Example:

In fact, Mike Breen (former rector of St. Tom’s Church in Sheffield England where cluster terminology developed) told me in a personal conversation that “Clusters are like the movie: My Big Fat Greek Wedding.  That is because the cluster is made up of many nuclear families, which we call small groups, and this network of nuclear families creates an extended family feel – that’s what we call a cluster” (personal conversation, Peak District, UK, May 2005).

In Mike’s mind you could think of the small groups as each a circular grape, and when you get a bunch of small groups together you got a “cluster” (often sized 30-75).  So, a cluster is a network of small groups linked by a tribal or extended family identity.

But, Mike and his colleague Bob Hopkins felt the key to healthy clusters, is to “missionalize” these clusters is by addressing three elements.

Online you can find the book by Bob Hopkins and Mike Breen titled “Clusters: creating midsized missional communities” (3DMinistries.com and Alderway Publishing).

Dunbar’s Number:

An Introduction to Dunbar’s Number (from Whitesel’s Facts & Trends interview):

“Churches are taking advantage of Dunbar’s number,” says Bob Whitesel, a professor at Indiana Wesleyan University and church growth expert. Robin Dunbar, a British anthropologist, found humans can comfortably maintain only around 150 stable relationships. Beyond that, says Whitesel, “relationships don’t seem to have much depth.”

This is why he believes many churches stall around this plateau. “Once it gets bigger than that, people stop inviting others because they no longer know everyone else at church,” he says.

It’s incumbent on large church leaders to capitalize on smaller groups that organically emerge in the church. Whitesel calls these “sub-congregations,” and they mirror other numbers Dunbar found in his research. Groups of 50 can unite around a task, such as the music ministry or preschool volunteers. Small group gatherings of 15 have the feel of an extended family, and groups of five are intimate connections.

These numbers have been seen not only in sociological research but also in church history, Whitesel says. “In the Wesleyan revivals, every leader had to be involved in what they called ‘Band Meetings’ of five individuals. Larger groups of 15 were called ‘Class Meetings.’”

Sub-congregations

Defined:

A sub-congregation is a group within the church, that functions, in Asbury Professor George Hunter’s words, as “a church within a church.” (For a definition of a sub-congregation, click HERE)

Explained:

…I have noted in some of my other wiki- postings (CLICK HERE), that sub-congregations form as a natural “organizational behavior” and that we must recognize them if we are to “manage” their behavior. Thus, I think many students have found it helpful to look at their emerging sub-congregations (which are currently of small group size) so they can manage them into growth and eventually a full-fledged (and larger) sub-congregation.

The idea of sub-congregations is found in church organizational writers such as in my books (2000:25-30; 2007:50-71) as well as:

Eddie Gibbs (I Believe in Church Growth, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1981: 276-280),

Pete Wagner (Your Church Can Grow, Oregon, Resource Pub., 2001:101-102 ),

Larry Richards (A New Face for the Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan 1970: 34-35)

George G. Hunter (The Contagious Congregation [Nashville, Tennessee: Abingdon Press] 1979:63) of which Hunter said that every congregation is a really “a congregation of congregations” (p. 63).

Many non-consultant leadership writers are largely unaware to this because they are students of leadership but not necessarily of organizational behavior.  Most management scholars believe that you must first understand an organization’s “behavior” before you try to manage it.  Thus, while working on my Ph.D. at Fuller I had Kent Miller of Michigan State as a professor (he is a Professor of Strategic Management there). Dr. Miller stressed that church leaders often fail at leadership because they don’t first analyze and understand the organizational behavior they are trying to manage.  All that is to say is that the writings on this are not massive (but they should be).

The student also wrote, “But I also notice that the sub-congregations that I do have (boomer’s and GenX) seem to be moving together well – at what point do you beginning looking at their inherent differences and start strategizing for it?’”

SUB-CONGREGATIONS & How To Use Them to Grow a Small Church in Just 6-Steps  Take a look at that posting.  Also, here is a quick synopsis:

1) Locate emerging sub-congregational cultures in the community.

2)  Mentor an indigenous leader from the culture you identified in Step 1 who will bring together a small group for Biblical discipleship of this indigenous culture.

3) Get the existing small group to plant another group like themselves. Don’t try to force them to divide. Rather, encourage them to reach more people by starting another group like themselves at another time or place. This is called “seeding” a new small group, where a couple leaders and a few people volunteer to start this new small group.

4)  Cluster or network your small groups at least once a quarter. By this I mean get your small groups from the same emerging sub-congregation together at least once every three months for unity building.

5)  Create more small groups as new ones approach 12 in attendance.  Use the small group “seeding” strategy of Step 3 above.  And, use Step 4 to keep these new small groups “clustering” once a quarter with other small groups of their cultural sub-congregation.

6)  Once you have a total of 50 people in your small group network, or cluster, create a new and regular worship encounter for them. This then becomes the new worship encounter for this emerging sub-congregation.  (Notice that like John Wesley, small groups [class meetings] are created before big worship gatherings [society meetings].)

I am usually stretching students with ostensibly non-traditional strategies, but the typical strategies (making everyone melt into an indistinct grey-green cultural goo) is not working.  And, the strategy I outlined above is working in churches that are growing amid disinterested and unfriendly cultures, such as St. Thomas’ Church in Sheffield England (http://www.sttoms.net ).

Size How it Affects Organizational Behavior/Structure

McIntosh Typology:

Gary McIntosh in “Taking Your Church to the Next Level: What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.”  In the book and conference he outlined Church levels as such:

The Relational Church: 15-200 worshippers
The Managerial Church: 200-400 worshippers
The Organizational Church: 400-800 worshippers
The Centralized Church: 800-1,500 worshippers
The Decentralized Church: 1,500-plus worshippers

Whitesel Typology = McIntosh + Dunbar

Gary McIntosh has helped by delineating different types of churches. But he knows that I disagree with him on one aspect. And that is that you don’t have to have that number of worshipers to be that type of church. In other words, some of us have seen churches that are overly organized in the 150 range. And we have seen churches that exhibit all the hallmarks of the centralized church in the 300 range.

What I think is a key is that churches can be “decentralized” much before they’re up to 1500 worshipers. What Gary is saying is that churches typically are decentralized once they get over 1,500 worshipers.

But, I have seen many churches that are over 1,500 worshipers which really are structured like an organizational church. Gary knows I disagree with him and that is because I tend to work with more different varieties and sizes of churches. But I think the personalities of these five churches are valid … but just not that these personalities are limited to these size ranges.

Now, why is this important?  It is important because the “decentralized church” is for McIntosh the goal of churches.  And, I agree.  I just think you can be “decentralized” for health and growth much earlier … even around 100 attendees.

Continue reading

SIZES of CHURCHES & Why the Decentralized Alliance Model Makes the Most of the 5 Sizes put forth by McIntosh

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 10/25/15.

Gary McIntosh is a good friend and I appreciate what he writes (and he must feel the same, for he has endorsed my books). But, that doesn’t mean we don’t at times see things differently.

Below is a dialogue with a student regarding Gary’s five sizes (typology) of churches.  I agree they are good types, but not Gary’s “types” are confined to the size limits that he suggests.  This has important ramifications for church health.

A student said:

After attending a conference with Gary McIntosh we read his book, “Taking Your Church to the Next Level: What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.”  In the book and conference he outlined Church levels as such:
The Relational Church: 15-200 worshippers
The Managerial Church: 200-400 worshippers
The Organizational Church: 400-800 worshippers
The Centralized Church: 800-1,500 worshippers
The Decentralized Church: 1,500-plus worshippers

I replied.

You’re right Gary McIntosh has helped by delineating different types of churches. But he knows that I disagree with him on one aspect. And that is that you don’t have to have that number of worshipers to be that type of church. In other words, some of us have seen churches that are overly organized in the 150 range. And we have seen churches that exhibit all the hallmarks of the centralized church in the 300 range.

What I think is a key is that churches can be “decentralized” much before they’re up to 1500 worshipers. What Gary is saying is that churches typically are decentralized once they get over 1,500 worshipers.

But, I have seen many churches that are over 1,500 worshipers which really are structured like an organizational church. Gary knows I disagree with him and that is because I tend to work with more different varieties and sizes of churches. But I think the personalities of these five churches are valid … but just not that these personalities are limited to these size ranges.

Now, why is this important?  It is important because the “decentralized church” is for McIntosh the goal of churches.  And, I agree.  I just think you can be “decentralized” for health and growth much earlier … even around 100 attendees.

The advantages of the Alliance Model.

You can have a decentralized church with even less than a hundred if you have a traditional worship service or even a blended worship service on Sunday morning and a youth meeting on Sunday night … you’re technically got (according to the Gary’s terminology) a decentralized church.

Defined:  The Alliance Model is a decentralized church where multiple cultures partner together to be stronger as one nonprofit organization.

This is the Holy Grail of church ministry. For a church to truly be healthy it needs to have as many different cultures partnering together to run one church. It creates a lot of dissonant harmony and it does mean that you have to reconcile people from different cultures. But this is part of the ministry of reconciliation. We are first and foremost supposed to assist in reconciling people to their heavenly Father. But secondly as Martin Luther King Jr. reminded us: we in the church must also be reconciling people of different cultures. For example,

  • the youth learn how to get along with the older people by being in the same church together.
  • And the older people learn about the youth by being in the same church together.
  • And both groups can learn about Spanish speaking neighbors by being in the same church together.

Also, McIntosh’s “relational church” is really the “sub-congregation” or “cluster” model we are talking about. And the relational church’s size (less than 200 according to Gary) is really defined by the Dunbar number and is usually unhealthy above 125.

McIntosh’s “managerial,” “organizational” and “centralized church” models are various ways to manage organizational behavior that are organizationally centric. These are usually unhealthy ways to try and grow an organization because the organization takes dominance over the importance of people.

Thus, I agree with Gary that the “decentralized church” is the goal.  But, I disagree with Gary’s implication that you have to grow to 1,500 to become this.

I have seen that you can do it even with a small church. Many of us know small churches that may only have 60 or 75 in the morning worship the 30 or 40 youth coming on Sunday evening. According to McIntosh’s definition that would be a “decentralized church” … but it doesn’t have 1,500 worshipers and it may not even have 150.

The Alliance Church is an effective goal, for it creates growth through culturally contextualized partnerships.

So I would say, “follow Gary’s five models,” only “don’t wait until you are near 1,500 to start becoming what George Hunter calls “a congregation of congregations” (George Hunter, 1979, p. 23).

You also might want to Google the “Dunbar number” and then “Mike Breen” and what he says about “mid-sized missional communities” or “clusters.” Also, check out my postings on the equivalent term I prefer: sub-congregations. This will throw light up upon the importance of becoming a decentralized church.