Does Congregational Size Matter?

I have heard a lot of discussion in my 20 years of full time ministry around the preferences we have for the size church that we attend. Some like the feel of the smaller church with the ability to know most peoples names and to have deep meaningful relationships. Other prefer the larger setting where there is a buzz and vibrancy that only a large gathering can bring. For me, I like both, but can you really do that? I think you can and then some.

Our experiences in groups of people would suggest that we act and have different experiences in different size groups. Just as Jesus had Peter, James and John, so to we have a few close friends that we are able to really be ourselves, or at least we should have. We tend to invest heavily in these peoples lives. We call this intimate space.

Then, just as Jesus had the twelve, so to we have slightly larger groups we identify with. This is a great size group to grow, learn and be held accountable in. If you have experienced a great home-group then this was the size that allowed you to be real with people that really cared about you. I have been experimenting with Mike Breen’s Discipleship model (building a discipling culture) over the last 18 months and would have to say this size group allows the space, invitation and challenge for people to grow in their relationship with God. This is personal space.

Then we go to the size that most of us have experienced in a small church, about 20 to 70 people. Jesus had the 72, and this size is called Social Space. I have fond memories of extended family parties at my uncles place where we would all come together and just enjoy each others company, get introduced to the new boyfriend or girlfriend, and remember those who were not with us any more. Social space has a way of creating an environment where people can drop their guard with another person and talk about issues that are important to them. This size space is the best size to see people come to know Jesus, to pray for healing, to be made aware of needs as has been our experience with Youth Group and Wanderers. If we are to be strategic in seeing people come to Christ we need to create Organised Social Space where this social environment can happen.

The last is Public Space, this is what Jesus experienced in the crowds, the 4000 and 5000, its the response after Peter preaches in Acts 3 and 4. Public space is great to celebrate the great things that God is doing with other believers. It also encourages us and helps us to understand that we are not alone, and that God is at work in other peoples lives as well. There is something special in a place where there are lots of believers worshiping God.

I think a healthy Church has all four of these spaces. I also think it is strategic to look at the size groups we have and know what they can and cannot achieve in the light of our Vision and way ahead. One of the areas we a lacking in is social space, and this space is the best space to see people come into the kingdom. We will be starting up some new initiatives in this area in coming months so can I encourage you to explore what part God may have for you in this space.

Bless ya heaps,


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