Why Church "Size" Matters

August 13, 2012

Why Church "Size" Matters

Around a year ago I stumbled on Timothy Keller's article "Leadership & Church Size Dynamics." To say it was eye opening was an understatement. Keller spelled out many things I have thought over my 10 years in local church ministry and presented plenty of new ideas. I probably read this article at least once a week and still find things I can apply to my ministry.

The basic premise is church size presents a leadership and ministry structure appropriate to the actual size of any local church (I would use average worship attendance to arrive at the figure). Good functioning congregations are acting appropriate in both size and structure. Churches needing a push in ministry could probably stand to look at how they might be behaving unlike a church of their size. Keller best lays it out:

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.

I would encourage everyone to take the time to read this article. Right Now.

What I want to present to you are the three sizes every local church is at...simultaneously.

1. The size of the worshipping congregation.
Far to often we measure church size with an inflated number and hog tie ourselves for ministry with this figure. If we start and function from our actual worship attendance we will begin to realize a base level of both execution and vision.

2. The size of your church you think you are.
Many churches project a different size than they actually are. A large church is not just a bigger version of a small church. If a church is acting primarily like a different size church (either larger or smaller), it would be easy to find problems that might be impeding ministry.

3. The size of the church you "behave at."
My church, St. Paul's United Methodist, functions at two different sizes. Our amount of Monday-Friday ministry is larger than our Sunday church size. I would say by around 100-150 people more. For any church with a larger ministry base than most would assume from Sunday worship this means making decisions regarding structure.

Other churches might function at a size smaller than their actual number. Keller points out the main characteristic of "house" (0-40) and "small" (41-200) churches are the high value of the relational dynamic and pastoral care. For people who find these two things to be very important...these smaller congregations might serve their needs best. Small churches also have a different organizational structure.

I would propose a local church would operate at its worship and missional peak when these three numbers are in close proximity. It means being able to best design worship services, provide care ministries and order the life of the church in a way most appropriate (remember, that is my favorite word) to each local congregation.

How has "size" affected your local church?