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

SMALL GROUPS & What’s the secret to happiness? Scientists may have found the answer: involvement in a group.

by Mark Molloy, London Telegraph Newspaper, 5/20/16.

The pursuit of happiness can be a lifelong search for some – but researchers believe they may have found a key factor in feeling a greater overall sense of wellbeing.Individuals who feel a strong sense of belonging to social groups are much happier people, according to new research by psychologists.

Nottingham Trent University researchers found that the more an individual identified with a particular group, such as family, in their local community or through a hobby, the happier they were with their life. “Our findings suggest that thinking more about one’s group life could have significant benefits for an overall sense of wellbeing,” said Dr Juliet Wakefield, a psychologist at Nottingham Trent University. “We tend to identify with groups that share our values, interests and life priorities, as well as those that support us in times of crisis, and we can see how this would link to happiness. Our work taps into knowledge that is deep within all of us, but which we often forget due to the fast-paced and achievement-focused nature of modern life – that to be your best self, you tend to require the support of others.”

They studied how 4,000 participants felt connected to certain groups, and then measured the impact this had upon their levels of happiness. She added: “It’s important to note that identifying with a group isn’t the same as membership, though. You can be a member of a group with which you feel no connection at all. It’s that subjective sense of belonging that’s crucial for happiness.

“Healthcare professionals should encourage people to join groups that they are interested in, or which promote their values and ideals, as well as advising people to maintain association with groups they already belong to. Simple social interventions such as this could in turn help to reduce NHS expenditure and prevent future ill health.”

Read more at … http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/05/20/whats-the-secret-to-happiness-scientists-may-have-found-the-answ/

In His Grace;
Bob W. <><

www.Wesley.Indwes.edu
www.ChurchHealth.net
www.ChurchHealth.wiki w/ weekly additions to a library of 1,500+ leadership articles curated by Bob Whitesel PhD

(Typ@s by Siri.)

CHURCH PLANTING & Thoughts from Alfredo Barreno at #WesleyanChurch “Ignite” Pre-conference #Exponential

by Bob Whitesel D.Min. Ph.D., 4/25/16.

In partnership with the Exponential East conference, The Wesleyan Church holds an “Ignite” pre-conference sponsored by their Department of Church Multiplication and Discipleship.

alfredo-pi_focus.jpgAlfredo Barreno is a Hispanic American church planter. He discussed how he was thrust into church planting (selected by his pastor) and found “intentional discipleship” the most challenging. “I selected a group of 10, with core principles such as investigate the scriptures, pray together, sermon discussion, fellowship and reach out. Soon were were only five left. With those five I continued a small group with the goal that each would start their own group eventually. Several months later we opened five more small groups started by those five group leaders.”

SMALL GROUPS & Why A Growing Church Stays as Small As Possible #Video

QUOTE: “Small groups are one of the most important structures in the church for discipleship.” Bob Whitesel.

VIDEO of Bob Whitesel Ph.D., Oct. 2012 at the Turnaround2020.com Conference, Nashville, TN. Published by ChurchCentral.com. For more info see Cure for the Common Church: God’s Plan to Restore Church Health (Wesleyan Publishing House).

http://www.churchcentral.com/videos/PZwsvnDJ/A-growing-church-stays-as-small-as-possible

Speaking hashtags: #PowellChurch

SMALL GROUPS & A Leadership Exercise To Discover Why People Dislike Them

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 10/29/15.

Most people intuitive understand that accountability and discipleship take place in small, intimate groups (e.g. Jesus’ twelve disciples or Wesley’s band meetings).  And, I have some to believe that small groups are probably the most important of the three tiers in a church (congregation – sub-congregation – small groups).  But, my students and clients often say people in their church resist the idea of small groups?

If you have encountered this situation, let me explain a dynamic that is sometimes the source of this variance in viewpoints regarding the suitability and validity of small groups.  Then I will follow with a short leadership exercise to help you (and your leaders) identify where their reticence comes from,

Where does small group reticence come from?

Often times rejection occurs because people in the church have a preconceived notion of what constitutes a small group, such as a weeknight home fellowship group.  They may have had a bad experience with what they perceive as small groups in the past, if they had been encouraged (they may even feel coerced) into joining one.  You see, they will resist joining a weeknight small group because their small group needs are already being met in the Sunday School “style” of small group. Thus, they have a restricted impression of a small group, as some sort of extra weeknight meeting.  Why would they want this when their small group need are already being met in Sunday School class or elsewhere.

But, as you will notice from my books, a home fellowship group is only one type of small group.  There are hundreds of types of small groups: committees, teams, worship bands, tech crews, leadership teams, etc. etc. etc..  And, most of our churches already have them in Sunday School classes.

A leadership exercise.

  • First, if you encounter initial reticence to the idea of small groups, educate yourself on the history of small groups in the congregation.  See if there isn’t limited view of what constitutes a small group. Take a piece of paper and divide it down the middle.  On the left side, write out the history of small groups in your congregation in bulleted points (no more that a half dozen).
  • Next, in the right column describe how people in the church felt about small groups at each bulleted point. Use a Likert Scale (1 – 5):
    1. = “highly disfavorable,”
    2. = “disfavorable,”
    3. = “no opinion,”
    4. = “favorable” and
    5. = “highly favorable”).

Put at the top:  How were small groups viewed as a result of this stage?

  • Finally, create a plan of four (4) stages to educate the reticent ones (slowly and tactfully) that small groups are (per the definition above) informal conclaves or many, many different varieties.  Also address the times when small groups were increasingly disfavorable.

When congregants realize they are already in a small group and you are not asking them to join another … then they will usually not dismiss them, nor be wary of them.

SMALL GROUPS & Why They Are the Requisite Follow-up to Big Attractional Events

by Bob Whitesel Ph.D., 7/17.15.

A student once fell into the typical misstep of concentrating on events as the primary avenue to grow a church.  Let me quote his query and my answer to explain the importance of “discipleship” rather than “event” turnout.

Student A said:  “I truly believe as I am writing my paper that God is revealing Himself to me in great and marvelous ways. My prayer is that we can be more innovative in reaching the lost. We are already planning on an outdoors Sunday service next month. We are going to have hamburgers, hotdogs, games, etc. and most importantly we are going to share Christ. Does anyone have an idea about how we might make it more relevant to the community? Something that we might be able to do that would draw in some of those who do not go to church on Sunday morning! Let me know!!”

Dear Student A;

The key to an outdoor service is the follow-up small groups event.  Notice I said small groups (plural). Events are often only marginally useful if they don’t lead the unchurched attendees to small group involvement (where they can share their heart with others and be discipled).

Thus for any suggestions students might tender, they will be primarily ineffective if they are not directed toward connection of unchurched people with discipleship groups.

Speaking hashtags: #StLiz