May 31, 2014
By Fred Koenig
What’s the difference in terms of the way a church functions based on its size?
What issues come up when hovering between 200 – 300 in that area in between?
Pastors serving churches ranging in size from 100 to 250 in attendance came together at the Missouri Conference Center recently to talk about what it’s like to be a Medium.
“My experience is that a mid-sized church is the hardest church to serve,” Anderson said. “It’s easier to serve a small or a large church.”
Anderson is from Indiana, and has been under appointment for 44 years, serving churches of all size, as well as serving as a district superintendent. He’s developed an understanding of how churches are different based on size.
Anderson’s Take on How Churches Differ By Size
- Understanding the role of the pastor – In small church, you give care, build relationships, nurture folks… if you preach well but don’t build relationships, it won’t take you far in a small church. Building relationships is critical. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. When you’re in 100 – 125 in worship, there’s a lot of pull and tug. In a large church, the primary role of the pastor is to be the leader – what issues does the church address, what persons are at the table, etc. Leadership is identifying right issues and facilitating process to help get to the place the church needs to be. You still provide care, but vast majority of time and emphasis is on providing leadership. In a mid-sized church, you’ve got to do both.
- Build a system of care, involving more people in a ministry of care to free up your time to be a leader.
- Lay Leadership – In a small church, it is informal, home-grown, relational. Lay leadership at a large church is recruited, it’s intentional, and the focus of leadership is to accomplish a specific ministry. Meetings in small churches are often a good part therapy, talking about personal lives, having a sense of care. People love their small church, because it’s just like a family. In a large church, it’s a community, not a family. A large church is a place of choices and options. Worship, Sunday school, mission projects, we’re looking for a place to offer choices and options. Small churches don’t want options, they want to all be together in the same service. How do we help get additional people connected and involved in serving God? With choices and options. In a mid-sized church you have both cultures – smaller are more relational, larger are less. You can’t keep meeting to talk for 10 years about what we wished we could do, you must be continually thinking what’s next in the larger church.
- Programs – In a small church they are few in number, involve the entire church, and are in-house. A program in a small church expects everyone to be there, and to get new folks in. Large church programs are primarily to connect with people in the community. Anderson was starting at a church that averaged 340 in attendance, and had 220 there for their Wonderful Wednesday mid-week program. How many were from community? None. “How could you have none? he asked a member. We didn’t invite anyone, was the reply. They were a large church functioning as a small church, thinking their programs were “Just for us.” When launching new ministry in a mid-sized church, think monthly first. People tend to think weekly, but that’s problematic. You might look at a program in a large church that you want to replicate, and not take into account that they have 15 people they have working on it. You spend four months getting ready for the first one, and have six days to get ready for the second one. The creativity starts to decline, enthusiasm and energy takes a drop, and the program dwindles.
- Decision making – there are three different kind of decisions you can make – they are very different, some are more often in small churches and some are more often in large. Decisions looking for permission, approval or support. In a small church, most of votes are votes of support: if they decide to do VBS, they need everyone to be there. In a large church, if we have VBS we don’t expect every member of church council to be hands-on support for VBS – it would bottle neck. They should be involved in some area of ministry, but not every area of ministry. Small church, votes are votes of support. Large church, vote of approval may not be vote of support.
- Connecting new comers – In a small church the process is a form of adoption, in a large church it is a process of assimilation or connection. My small church is like a family, if someone new is coming, we’re adopting them into the church family. Have someone share why they want to be a part of the church. If they are just connected to the pastor, they will leave when the pastor leaves. Connect a new member to matriarch of the church – it’s not just joining the church, it’s being adopted into the family. In a large church you need to belong to a ministry, to a small group and to a worship service. It’s about connecting with the church, not adopting into the family.