Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Keller on Church size - further issues with larger churches

These issues are - complexity, change and formality. Largeness brings:

      • Complexity in place of simplicity
      • Change in place of predictability
      • Need for formal rather than informal communication and decision-making

Where simplicity, predictability and informality are valued more highly than the benefits of growth, people will leave.

Another major issue is succession. The bigger the church, the more the church is identified with the senior pastor because

a) he is identifiable among a large team of staff/leader

b) churches don’t grow without a visionary leader – and one who can articulate that vision. This is the key to the whole church. Such a gift is distinctive and is irreplaceable – even more than good preaching.

So how does such a leader retire without people feeling the church has died? One plan is to divide the church and give each new site its own senior pastor. Lyle Schaller believes that such successors need to be people who have been on staff for a good while - not outsiders.

A very large church continues to grow only if the advantages given are exploited and the disadvantages above are resisted and minimised.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Keller on Church size - disadvantages of the very large church

There can be issues that the increasing size of a church can bring:

- Commuting longer distances can undermine mission. Very large churches can become famous, attracting Christians from further afield who cannot easily encourage non-Christian friends and neighbours to come along. The result is that the congregation ceases to be representative of the immediate neighbourhood. This can be offset by church planting and being relentless in a mission orientation.

- Commuting longer distances undermines community/fellowship and discipleship. Those who travel longer distances are not likely to plug into real Christian community and receive discipleship benefits. The person you meet on a Sunday is unlikely to live near you, inhibiting natural friendships and connection. This can be offset by an effective small group system.

- Diminished communication and involvement. A very large church can outgrow its internal communication system and so plateau. People begin to feel the loss of a sense of belonging and numerical decline can set in. In such a church people become unsure who to talk to about an issue – staff members may not know about systems outside their own ministry and the long list of staff and ministries is overwhelming. No-one feels they can get info quickly; no-one feels they know how to get involved. This can be offset by upgrading the communication system – extraordinarily important in a very large congregation.

- Displacement. Those who joined when the church was smaller feel a sense of loss and may have difficulty with the new size culture. They may no longer be connected to events, decision-making and the senior leader. ‘Old-timers’ who leave will be sad - and so will those long-term members who remain. This can be offset by giving recognition for the changes they have made over the years and not making them feel guilty for missing the old ways and the smaller church! Eventually this issue lessens – those who join a church of 1500 will not notice much of a difference when that church reaches 4000.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Keller on Church size - the very large church - 800 plus

Keller describes the character of such a church:

- Missional focus – now the needs and interests of outsiders are prioritised above those of the members/insiders. Staff and executive leaders gain a louder voice. The more staff-driven a church is, the more likely it will concentrate on ministries that reach non-members that will not directly benefit its own constituents, e.g. – church planting, mercy and justice ministries.

- Things that attract seekers and particularly young adults:

     • Excellence – quality of arts, teaching, children’s work are important to those who have no obligation to
        go to church because of kinship, tradition, ethnicity etc.
     • Choices – people are now used to having choices as to time of services, type of worship, ways of
        learning, support services etc.
     • Openness to change – newcomers and young people are generally more tolerant to constant change
       and the fluidity found in a large church. Older people and long-term members and families often place a
       high value on stability.
     • Low pressure – seekers often appreciate being able to come into a large gathering where they can 
       initially remain anonymous and no pressure is placed on them to join anything!

The very large church has the potential to develop certain qualities and ministries:

- Being multicultural. A larger staff can more easily be multi-ethnic; a larger church with multiple services/congregations can embrace a greater range of approaches.

- Creating a full family support system. Families will be attracted by a full range of groups for children of differing ages, recreational opportunities, etc.

- Church planting. Large churches are generally better at this than denominational agencies and smaller churches.

- Faith-based whole-person ministries. Because of their larger pool of volunteers, finances and expertise it is easier for the very large church to provide these.

- ‘R&D’ for the broader church. New curriculum and ministry structures are often formulated and tested in such churches rather than in denominations, smaller churches and parachurch organisations.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Keller on Church size - breaking through the 800 barrier

The same five changes mentioned previously in the context of transitioning through the 200 barrier need to be taken to the next level:

- Multiplication options. A mediocre or poor small group system may have sufficed previously as people receive shepherding via programmes, classes and groups run by staffers. At this point the small group system needs to be well run and cover pastoral care as well as the Bible study for which it is generally valued. Small group life is the key to successful navigation of this barrier.

- Multiplying staff. Up to this point a small staff of generalists may have been sufficient but now staff members must be gifted in particular specialisms – not just workers or even able to lead workers but able to lead leaders. Qualities of maturity, independence and the ability to attract and supervise others are of increasing importance.

- Shifting decision-making power. After a stage where decision-making power was increasingly centralised - from the whole church through the lay leaders, to the staff and then to the senior staff – it now becomes increasingly decentralised again to individual staff and their leadership teams. As well as an increase in competency they must have an increasing authority to make certain executive decisions.

- Increasing formality and deliberateness in assimilation. Well organised, highly detailed and supervised incorporation of newcomers becomes essential.

- Adapting the role of the senior pastor. The pastor must concentrate on preaching, large group teaching, vision casting and strategising and is less accessible for individual shepherding.