One of the most interesting things to study as a leader in a growing church is how we are impacted by the changing size of the church. A helpful resource along these lines has been Tim Keller’s paper, “Leadership and Church Size Dynamics: How Strategy Changes with Growth.”
Keller makes a few important observations:
- Every church has a culture that goes with its size and which must be accepted. Most people tend to prefer a certain size culture, and unfortunately, many give their favorite size culture a moral status and treat other size categories as spiritually and morally inferior.
- There is no “best size” for a church. Each size presents great difficulties and also many opportunities for ministry that churches of other sizes cannot undertake (at least not as well). Only together can churches of all sizes be all that Christ wants the church to be.
- One of the most common reasons for pastoral leadership mistakes is blindness to the significance of church size. Size has an enormous impact on how a church functions. There is a “size culture” that profoundly affects how decisions are made, how relationships flow, how effectiveness is evaluated, and what ministers, staff, and lay leaders do… We tend to think of the chief differences between churches mainly in denominational or theological terms, but that underestimates the impact of size on how a church operates…A large church is not simply a bigger version of a small church. The difference in communication, community formation, and decision-making processes are so great that the leadership skills required in each are of almost completely different orders.
The rest of the article explains some of the realities of different sized churches as well as the transitions that have to be made as churches grow. It’s a fascinating read, especially if (like me) you are interested in organizational dynamics.
What’s your experience? What changes have you experienced in growing churches? Were the results good or bad?