Remember the first time you were impacted with fresh revelation or knowledge? Wow, what a feeling! It’s like drinking jet fuel that launches the mind to new heights and perspectives.
I recall this happening in 2007 after reading Tim Keller’s article on church size dynamics. Dr. Keller had created a fresh lexicon and organizational model. The previously unnamed and amorphous ideas now had a name, shape, and form, and his work highly influenced our church’s senior leadership team as we dealt with decade-long exponential growth.
Fast-forward ten years and scores of churches later. Through my involvement as an executive pastor at two large churches, and as a consultant working with 80+ other churches around the country, I repeatedly observed, experienced, and dealt with the impacts and realities of church growth. Indeed, I could affirm that Keller nailed the progressions of change as churches evolved from one growth stage to the next!
The dynamics of exponential growth of a church can be staggering. These dynamics can be viewed as a modern-day portrayal of the events occurring in the early church where the leaders had favor with all the people (Acts 2:42-47). But trouble was brewing shortly thereafter, as the church expanded daily, complaints arose around allegations of discrimination for daily food allocations for the Greek widows in Jerusalem (Acts 6:1-6). The church’s response – the first selection of deacons.
Like the early church, our church leadership teams must respond to the inevitable changes and the complexities that accompany rapid growth. Even better, leaders can become proactive to anticipate the coming changes. Then they may plan and design scalable solutions to minimize or mitigate these impacts.
In my breakout during #WhyPartnerships Matter, I’m going to address Keller’s church growth sizes from House (up to 40 people), Small (40 – 200 attenders) to Medium (200 – 450). My added piece to Keller’s work highlights the needed changes in four areas:
- founding documents (Bylaws, tax-exempt status, property tax exemptions, etc);
- strategic framework (mission, outcomes, values, vision, and strategy);
- overarching organizational principles;
- and major policies, processes and procedures.
As a pastoral team prepares to cross the threshold to the next size category, fundamental shifts occur in the character, behavior, and even the organizational structure of the church.
For example, let’s say your church is on the cusp of moving from a small to medium sized church. Keller identifies 5 key changes that may need to be made:
- multiplication options (more than one service, adding groups);
- adding staff;
- shifting decision-making power away from the whole membership;
- becoming more formal and deliberate in assimilation,
- and moving the lead pastor away from shepherding everyone to being more of an organizer/administrator.
As you enact some or all of these changes, they will prompt associated changes in your polity and governance. Specifically, most churches experience the need to separate governance and management functions…that often requires revisions to your bylaws. Beyond Keller – many medium size churches face “mission creep” in the start up of multiple new ministries to attract and retain newcomers. Financial and staff resources become overly stretched trying to do more, just to keep even. Added staff often expands a leaders’ span of control of direct reports to the breaking point. Strategies need to broaden to achieve a more refined and better-defined church vision. Guiding principles become essential for polity and governance, especially in the delegations of authority and responsibility. Lastly, this growth precipitates a whole host of other overarching organizational principles and major policies, processes, and procedures.
In our time together, we will focus on the changes occurring from House to Small to Medium sized churches in these particular areas:
- What’s happening in this transition to the next stage?
- What are your expectations?
- How can you proactively plan and prepare to address the changes?
We’ll address these questions and more in our time together. If you are a church planter, lead or executive pastor, or a staff pastor, I hope you will join me as we drink some jet fuel together.