ORGANIZATIONAL BEHAVIOR & A video intro to LEAD 600 assignment on leading a complex org.

Commentary by Prof. B: For 15+ years of online teaching my goal has been to make these online courses personable and engaging. Toward that end, I often record video introductions to the weekly homework, which students tell me they appreciate.  Here is a 10-min. introduction to the LEAD 600 week on “Organizational Behavior.”

©️Bob Whitesel 2017, used by permission only.

BAND MEETINGS & Think You Have Lots of Friends? Nope: Science Says We’re Lucky to Have 5 #DunbarNumber

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: English sociologist Robin Dunbar has researched small group dynamics more than anyone, finding a small group of 3 to 4 friends is crucial for a healthy social life. John Wesley 250 years earlier stressed the same thing. Welsey emphasized the importance of groups of 3 to 4 called, “band meetings.” For more on modern equivalents of the “band meeting” search these words on this wiki.

Think You Have Lots of Friends? Nope: Science Says We’re Lucky to Have 5

Research shows that while you’re close to 100% sure certain people are your friends, only 53% of the time do they agree with you.

By Jeff Haden, Inc. Magazine, 8/8/16.

…Now imagine I ask all the people you list to make a list of their friends. Think you’ll be on all those lists? Probably not.

In fact, only about half the time will the people you consider to be your friends consider you to be a friend. (And of course that also means that only about half the time do you consider someone who thinks of you as a friend to be your friend.)

…according to Robin Dunbar you don’t have the time to have dozens of friends. Because of that, Dunbar feels we have different layers or slices of friends: one or two truly best friends (like your significant other and maybe one other person), then maybe ten people with whom we have “great affinity” and interact with frequently… and then all sorts of other people we’re friendly with but who aren’t actually friends. In total, “Dunbar’s number” says you can have about 150 people in your social sphere.

…And that means, if Dunbar is correct, that you can only have a handful of true friends. That means some people you think of a close friends don’t see you that way at all.

So why — apart from making you and I wonder how people really feel about us — does this matter?

Superficial, distant, and less than meaningful relationships can lead to feelings of insecurity and loneliness… which can increase your risk of illness and death just as much as obesity, alcoholism, and smoking.

That means the key isn’t to have more friends. The key isn’t to try to have a tons of friends. The key is to have three or four really, really good friends… and then, of course, plenty of people who aren’t necessarily friends but are fun to be around, or result in a mutually beneficial relationship, or share common interests….

You don’t need to be less friendly — you just need to nurture the most important relationships in your life…

Read more about ways to do this at … http://www.inc.com/jeff-haden/think-you-have-lots-of-friends-youre-wrong-science-says-were-lucky-to-have-5.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

SUB-CONGREGATIONS & How Megachurches Are Going Small … and Why

by Aaron Earls, Facts & Trends, LifeWay, 3/29/16.

Why Megachurches Go Small

Larger churches often recognize what small churches might miss—there are advantages to being little. Through small groups, multisite campuses, and now microsites, those megachurches are attempting to continue their growth while retaining small-church benefits.

“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.’”

With this sociological and historical support, church consulting experts identify at least four areas that can be more easily developed in smaller churches…

Read more at … http://factsandtrends.net/2016/03/29/when-big-goes-small-how-large-churches-are-learning-from-those-with-less/#.Vx9NIMj3aJI

SUB-CONGREGATIONS & LifeWay Interviews Bob Whitesel on How Large Churches Can Reap Benefits of Smallness

When Big Goes Small: How Large Churches Are Learning From Those With Less

by Aaron Earls, Facts & Trends, LifeWay, 3/29/16.

…In the last five years, the typical megachurch’s main sanctuary decreased in size from 1,500 seats to a median of 1,200, according to the 2015 Megachurch Report from Leadership Network and Hartford Institute for Religion Research.

The move to smaller sanctuaries is an outgrowth of the burgeoning multisite church movement. Instead of building a large church and asking people to come to one place, megachurches are building smaller spaces in more places.

Since 2000, churches with multiple campuses have grown steadily from 23 percent to more than 60 percent of all megachurches, according to the 2015 Megachurch Report. “Megachurches have shifted their philosophy from building bigger and bigger,” says Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research, “to spreading further and further…”

Why Megachurches Go Small

Larger churches often recognize what small churches might miss—there are advantages to being little. Through small groups, multisite campuses, and now microsites, those megachurches are attempting to continue their growth while retaining small-church benefits.

“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.’”

With this sociological and historical support, church consulting experts identify at least four areas that can be more easily developed in smaller churches.

Accountability — With larger churches, anonymity is easier. Attendees can sneak in late, sit in the back of an enormous sanctuary, and leave without interacting with anyone. But this leaves individuals prone to slipping away from the church as quickly as they slipped in.

Whitesel says smaller numbers allow people to “connect with a group that brings accountability and interdependency.” If the church goes through changes, being connected to a smaller group—be it a campus or a small group—serves as glue to hold people in place.

Community — …Microsite campuses allow much larger churches to “meld together the feel of a small group with the production of a large church,” White says.

Leadership growth — As with accountability, attendees at a megachurch may be tempted to avoid leadership. They may feel intimidated by the size of the church or a lack of education and training. Going small forces new people into leadership roles…

Reproducibility — …This type of planting churches and starting new sites is not exclusive to megachurches. LifeWay Research’s analysis of more than 800 church plants found more than 1 in 5 were launched from a church with an average attendance below 100. The clear majority (60 percent) were started by churches of fewer than 500.

Read more at … http://factsandtrends.net/2016/03/29/when-big-goes-small-how-large-churches-are-learning-from-those-with-less/#.VxDLWcj3aJJ

VENUES & Are We Dividing the Church With Separate Celebrations? Maybe so, but for a mission.

by Bob Whitesel, 6/3/15.

Sometimes my students wonder if we are further dividing the church by offering separate worship celebrations based upon culture and/or aesthetics.  Let me answer this question.

Sociologists tell us that people naturally break into groups of 12-20 (the small group dynamic) and 20-150 (this latter is called the Dunbar number after the sociologist that discovered it – see this interesting article about how an analysis of Twitter even confirms this: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0022656 and you can also click here to search for Dunbar’s articles on this wiki: https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/?s=dunbar).

It may be the same in the same church. Thus, we are not breaking up people further, but managing the groups that oftentimes already exist but we ignore or don’t see.

GBA_Sm2And in addition to unity events (picnics, unity services, outreach ministry, service ministry, etc. etc.) fellowship areas in the church facility are needed. That is why in the chapter, “Missteps With Facilities” in my book Growth By Accident, Death by Planning: How NOT To Kill a Growing Congregation (2004) I talk about having large gathering spaces (community rooms) where all worship celebrations could congregate together.

A problem arises when we don’t realize that church services are not about fellowship with each other (the seats face the wrong way for this), but about fellowship with God. We should be providing separate areas (and aesthetics) for fellowship with God, and unified spaces (community rooms, unity events, etc.) for fellowship with each other. The church has for too long equated the two, that we have stifled growth … and fellowship.

I ask my students if some of them can share ideas about how you keep the worship service focused on God (and not fellowship) and how you foster fellowship at other times.

Let me give an example to start you thinking.  One pastor I know in Iowa has a large foyer, two times bigger than the auditoriums, to foster fellowship after church.  He also doesn’t allow sharing of prayer requests or questions from the floor of the sanctuary, preferring to keep it a place of worship.  Thus, he encourages the fellowship in the foyer which they call the great room or community gathering room.

So think about this.  And, if you are a student in one of my courses reading this, can you share how you keep (or wish you had kept) fellowship separate from worship environments?

References

Modeling Users’ Activity on Twitter Networks: Validation of Dunbar’s Number, Bruno Gonçalves, Nicola Perra and Alessandro Vespignani, PLOS, August 3, 2011, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0022656  Abstract:  Microblogging and mobile devices appear to augment human social capabilities, which raises the question whether they remove cognitive or biological constraints on human communication. In this paper we analyze a dataset of Twitter conversations collected across six months involving 1.7 million individuals and test the theoretical cognitive limit on the number of stable social relationships known as Dunbar’s number. We find that the data are in agreement with Dunbar’s result; users can entertain a maximum of 100–200 stable relationships. Thus, the ‘economy of attention’ is limited in the online world by cognitive and biological constraints as predicted by Dunbar’s theory. We propose a simple model for users’ behavior that includes finite priority queuing and time resources that reproduces the observed social behavior.

FACILITIES & Building a New Church Auditorium, Research Suggests Millennials Prefer This Size

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “Ever since Robin Dunbar’s research suggested that the optimum auditorium size for community events is around 150, there has been a push to establish church sanctuaries is in the 150 size range for optimum fellowship. Here is more research that suggests that Robin Dunbar is right. In this Barna survey different generations were asked which church sanctuary they preferred. The more intimate space of under 200 was preferred by the Millennials.”

Taking a friend to church? Keep this in mind …

by Michael F. Haverluck (OneNewsNow.com) Monday, December 01, 2014

Even though megachurches have been receiving all the attention over the past couple of decades, many of the preferences 18- to 29-year-olds have when conceptualizing the ideal church will come as a surprise to many pastors, current churchgoers and armchair Christians alike.

After taking a handful of Americans of various faiths from major U.S. cities on tours to suburban megachurches, urban cathedrals, coffee shops and city parks, researchers from the Barna Group and Cornerstone Knowledge Network were asked about their likes and dislikes regarding different facets of worship areas.

After showing the Millennial participants four different sanctuaries, one of the selections was the hands-down favorite, drawing more than twice as many votes of the entire group of 18- to 29-year-olds as any of the other three worship spaces.

Barna survey Sanctuary

“Sanctuary 2 was the ‘Goldilocks’ space for many respondents — not too big, not too small — just right,” Barna researches disclosed. “It’s big enough to retain some anonymity as a visitor — the marginally churched (63 percent) and those who are not practicing Christians (50 percent) preferred it more strongly than the average — but small enough to feel part of a community. Parents with children under 18 (50 percent) also preferred Sanctuary 2 more than average.”

The megachurch worship area (Sanctuary 1) received the lowest — just 18 percent of the overall vote — while Sanctuary 3, which is devoid of religious symbols or screens but smaller than the previous two, received 20 percent of the vote from the overall group (32 percent of those in the group coming from faiths other than Christianity chose this option). Sanctuary 4 is also a smaller, cozy space with religious imagery and a large screen. This setting only received 18 percent of the overall vote.

Read more at … http://www.onenewsnow.com/church/2014/12/01/taking-a-friend-to-church-keep-this-in-mind

DUNBAR NUMBER & Don’t Believe Facebook; You Only Have 150 Friends #NPR #GoodResearch

By National Public Radio, 6/5/11

According to Acording to “Dunbar’s Number,” human beings can maintain a network of only about 150 close friends.

Most of Dunbar’s research … is based on the idea that human beings can hold only about 150 meaningful relationships in their heads. Dunbar has researched the idea so deeply, the number 150 has been dubbed “Dunbar’s Number.”

Ironically, the term was coined on Facebook, where 150 friends may seem like precious few.

“There was a discussion by people saying ‘I’ve got too many friends — I don’t know who half these people are,'” Dunbar says. “Somebody apparently said, ‘Look, there’s this guy in England who says you can’t have more than 150.'”

Dunbar has found 150 to be the sweet spot for hunter-gatherer societies all over the world. From the Bushmen of Southern Africa to Native American tribes, a typical community is about 150 people. Amish and Hutterite communities — even most military companies around the world — seem to follow the same rule.

The reason 150 is the optimal number for a community comes from our primate ancestors, Dunbar says. In smaller groups, primates could work together to solve problems and evade predators. Today, 150 seems to be the number at which our brains just max out on memory…

…Dunbar says there are some neurological mechanisms in place to help us cope with the ever-growing amount of social connections life seems to require. Humans have the ability, for example, to facially recognize about 1,500 people. Now that would be an impressive number of Facebook friends.

Yet the problem with such a large number of “friends,” Dunbar says, is that “relationships involved across very big units then become very casual — and don’t have that deep meaning and sense of obligation and reciprocity that you have with your close friends.”

One solution to that problem, he adds, can be seen in the modern military. Even as they create “supergroups” — battalions, regiments, divisions — most militaries are nonetheless able to maintain the sense of community felt at the 150-person company level.

“The answer has to come out of that,” Dunbar says, “trying to create a greater sense of community.

“In a way, Americans are lucky in that respect,” he adds. “There’s this long tradition of commitment to ideals that binds Americans together. That isn’t always true elsewhere.”

While modern society does make it hard to hang on to friends who aren’t geographically close, Dunbar says, his research shows family is different.

“Friends, if you don’t see them, will gradually cease to be interested in you,” he says. “Family relationships seem to be very stable. No matter how far away you go, they love you when you come back.”

Read more at … http://www.npr.org/2011/06/04/136723316/dont-believe-facebook-you-only-have-150-friends

Speaking Hashtags:  #StLizTX

SMALL GROUPS & Should They Be Homogeneous or Heterogeneous?

by Bob Whitesel, April 7, 2009.

The following are questions tendered by a previous student and my responses.  They reflect some of innovative ways we can expand our small group systems today.

  • The student said: “You mentioned when a group gets over 15 or 16 people that it may be getting too big.  Is there a size that is too small to function well?”

Usually a group can be as small as two or three. Wesley called these “band meetings” and they usually had 4-7 people, while the class meetings had 8-16.  The smaller group is really more of an accountability group, and it was here that Wesley suggested they ask some very personal questions, such as “What known sins have you committed since our last meeting?” (see Henderson, M. [1997] John Wesley’s class meetings: A model for making disciples. Springfield, MO: Evangel Publishing House, pp. 118-119)

  • The student said, “Is there a way to decide when a new group should be birthed?  Is it based on size or other factors – Spirit leading, change of interests, etc. “

The Holy Spirit’s leading is always critical, but size can confirm this.  Usually, people will start feeling the dynamics of the group have changed due to size and they just sort of “sense” it is time to birth another group.  To me it seems the Holy Spirit is leading this.

  • Student commented further: “What about diversity in a small group – often I heard people talk of how having a bunch of different unique individuals and different levels of Christian maturity are good for a group, but seems I’ve also heard that the group should be assembled based on similar ‘culture’?”

First, let us define two terms.  A small group of several cultures would be called a “heterogeneous.”  While a small group made up of multiple cultures would be called “homogenous.”  Churches too can be either heterogeneous or homogeneous. Using these terms, let me explain how I answered the student’s question.

Small groups create more intimacy if they are comprised of people who have much in common. Therefore, small groups develop more intimacy and accountability if they are homogenous (people of the same culture who have a lot in common and thus create more intimacy).

However, since I believe strongly that the church should be multi-cultural (or in other words heterogeneous) then a church should create many opportunities to bring together dissimilar groups.  These unity activities can happen by “linking” or “partnering” groups of different cultures to do common activities together, such as service to the needy.

But, there is a caveat here.  While intimacy and accountability are created within homogenous groups, prejudice can also inadvertently arise unless all groups “purposely and regularly” fellowship with different cultural groups.  This is why I am a big advocate of having a church made up of many different cultural sub-congregations.  It forces these different cultural sub-congregations to work together in running the church, learning how to forge partnerships, compromise as well as about the different cultures.  If you push out different cultures (e.g. youth cultures, Latino/Latina cultures, etc.) to go down the street and start their own church, there is going to be very little interacting between the cultures.  But, if you stay together with both cultures remaining in the same church building and running one non-profit organization together, you foster a lot of inter-cultural sharing, compromise and learning.

I call this the “alliance model” of a church, for it is an “alliance” of multiple sub-congregations who work together to run a church and by doing so break down cultural walls.  I devote a whole chapter to this model (and other models) of multicultural churches in The Healthy Church (2013, pp. 55-79).  I have a diagram in that chapter that shows why the “alliance model” is the best way for a church to get healthy and grow.

Plus, I can’t emphasize the reconciliation power of this “alliance model” enough.  Church leaders often think they have a healthy small group network because they have an expansive and robust small group ministry. But you must ALSO (not shouting, just for emphasis) have an expansive and robust “unity strategy” between your small groups.

This is because in our increasingly divided world we need more intercultural interaction to break down cultural walls.  Remember, for all of a small group’s power to create intimacy and discipleship, if you don’t have a strong unity strategy you will just have a hodge-podge of disconnected groups.  One of my mottoes is: “no small groups without regular partnerships between dissimilar groups!”

FELLOWSHIP & Dunbar’s “Expanding Circles” of Relationships and Their Impact Upon Discipleship

Phil Brien, shares a video slide and gives a helpful overview to Dunbar’s Oxford video, stating, “Robin Dunbar is excellent in the video – makes me wish I’d had a University education. He uses simple slides to explain his theory, maintains that even with lots of maintenance those weak ties will drop away to his 150 – and is humble enough to tell us that Aristotle and Plato got these numbers right well before he did.

He continues to justify his 150 in simple form. He shows a bar chart analysis of the average number of people we send Christmas Cards to, cites military units and tells us that even Facebook recently analysed their network and the average friends per user was 120-130 (very near).

I like his style. Explaining a complex, well research subject in a fun way. He’s happy to intersperse his serious research with a bit of fun. He analysed that boys spend on average 7.3 seconds on a phone call, whereas girls spend massive amounts of time on the phone!! I like amusing academics….”

Read more at http://www.philobrien.com

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FELLOWSHIP & How Dunbar Follows Wesley in Depicting Your Ever-widening Circles of Friends #DunbarNumber

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “Robin Dunbar, the sociologist famous for depicting relationships including the “Dunbar Number,” gives us a modern version of John Wesley’s discipleship method of: band meetings (3-5 people), class meetings (12-15 close friends) and the society meeting (50+). read this interesting article in BusinessWeek magazine for more insights about the social groups that naturally form.”

Drake Bennett, writing for BusinessWeek Magazine gives an important overview of Dunbar’s “widening-rings” of social groups.  Bennet writes …

“Dunbar actually describes a scale of numbers, delimiting ever-widening circles of connection. The innermost is a group of three to five, our very closest friends. Then there is a circle of 12 to 15, those whose death would be devastating to us. (This is also, Dunbar points out, the size of a jury.) Then comes 50, “the typical overnight camp size among traditional hunter-gatherers like the Australian Aboriginals or the San Bushmen of southern Africa,” Dunbar writes in his book How Many Friends Does One Person Need? Beyond 150 there are further rings: Fifteen hundred, for example, is the average tribe size in hunter-gatherer societies, the number of people who speak the same language or dialect. These numbers, which Dunbar has teased out of surveys and ethnographies, grow by a factor of roughly three…”

Read more at … http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-01-10/the-dunbar-number-from-the-guru-of-social-networks#p4

FELLOWSHIP & Why Is Robin Dunbar Killing My Church!? #DunbarNumber

by Bob Whitesel, 4/4/14

One thing Donald McGavran emphasized is that we should not be shy about applying the sciences to our study of church health and growth. And the Dunbar Number can explain why many churches plateau in size.  Here Is how I explained the Dunbar Number at the request of a colleague of mine Dr. Gary McIntosh at Biola University:

The Dunbar number is a sociological theory (based in physiology) that people can best relate to an extended group of about 150 individuals. By keeping this in mind, factories have been created with under 150 employees where unity and self-identity are higher. This of course has ramifications for the church, and explains in my mind the cohesiveness of these church-style Dunbar groups:

> missional communities (3dm ministries and Mike Breen)

> sub-congregations, such as venues, multiple sites, campuses, Whitesel and Hunter in A House Divided (2001).

> clusters (St. Tom’s Church of Sheffield, see Whitesel “From Gathered to Scattered: St. Tom’s Church,” a chapter in Ryan K. Bolger, Gospel After Christendom, Baker Academic Books, 2010 (http://www.amazon.com/The-Gospel-after-Christendom-Expressions/dp/0801039436).  The proliferation of Dunbar-sized “clusters” seems to be an explanation for St. Tom’s rapid growth after losing their large venue, The Roxy in Sheffield, UK.

Thus, church growth may be helped by the the multiplication of Dunbar groups within a congregation.  Wikipedia has a good article on the Dunbar Number

Also, read this good overview in an article on the “Dunbar Number” by National Public Radio, titled: “Don’t Believe Facebook, You Only Have 150 Friends.”

Here are some quotes:  “MARTIN: The factories were capped at 150 people, and Bill Gore found things worked better. People knew each other. They worked better together. DUNBAR: Everybody had the same label on their jacket that said GORE-TEX Associate, and that was that. Everybody knew who was who – who was the manager, who was the accountant, who made the sandwiches for lunch. ”

A student of mine once responded:  “I can see how having multiple services to create community for groups of 150 people is necessary.  What I’m having trouble wrapping my mind around is how you avoid tensions and problems between the different community groups within the church.  In the example above the GORE-TEX associates knew who the manager was and the accountant was and so on…I wonder and I’m just guessing here, do problems arise because the multiple services leads to multiple ‘managers’ which leads to conflicting ideas and different needs that need to be met?”

Here is my response:

Hello (name); Yes, you are right, there is tension. But, by keeping people as part of the same church organizational structure you work out our differences.  The problem in most of today’s churches is when conflict arises we don’t address it, we just bless them and send them out to start a new church to their liking. This creates conflict-avoidance. Thus, churches become enclaves of unified, but uni-cultural people.  And as thus, many people can’t relate to our fractured nature.

The key is to have diversity, within one organization which then creates unity or E pluribus unum.  To obtain this, see the “Exercises for Unity” in The Healthy Church (2012)