Church size has leadership implications

By Mike Selleck, Director of Connectional Ministries, NGUMC
When Lyle Schaller gives names to the different church-size categories, he deliberately chooses completely different “orders of being.” He calls a church of less than 35 members a “cat” and a church of 100-175 a “garden,” and a church of 225-450 a “mansion” because a larger church is not simply a larger version of a smaller church.”
Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York writes, “Leaders who go from a church of 100 to a church of 800 are making a far greater change than if they moved entirely from one denomination to another.”
Both authors go on to say the differences in small group formation, decision making, and communication styles are so great that the leadership skills required in each are almost of a completely different order.  The room for misunderstanding and frustration abound!
For example, if members of a church of 800 feel the senior pastor should answer the phone whenever they call, they are insisting on getting the kind of pastoral care an under 200-size culture provides and if provided will soon overwhelm the pastor.
Another example is that of a new senior pastor of a 1,000-member church insisting that virtually all decisions be made by consensus of the core leadership. In no time the leaders are meeting for 8 hours each week planning ministry rather than actually getting ministry done.
To impose small size-culture practices on a large church wreaks havoc and eventually forces the church back into the size with which the practices are compatible.  Expecting large church practices in a small church is a sure way to burn out and frustrate leadership and foul key relationships that drive small church life.
The larger the church, the more important are the minister’s leadership abilities.  Preaching and pastoring are sufficient skills for pastors in smaller churches, but as a church grows, the minister’s leadership skills become critical, especially those of vision casting and strategic planning.  Implications for specific leadership skills are huge and the additional abilities are not something that always comes naturally.   There is no “best sized” church, but there are best practices for churches of all sizes.

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