Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Does Size Matter?

I've been very busy lately...not much time for any "meaningful" posting (or even meaningful comments on other blogs). Busy can be good...my hope is that I don't overwhelm myself with a busy-ness that isn't fruitful (which I've done in the past).

At any rate, one of the blogs I try to read at least weekly (and don't always succeed) is Out of Ur by the Leadership Journal and Christianity Today.

A recent post called "Good Things Come in Small Congregations" made me really think. In terms of stereotypical suburban ministry, JUMC is a "small congregation", especially when compared to neighboring communities such as Baldwin: Community UMC, Bethel Park: Christ UMC, and Pleasant Hills Community Presbyterian Church. We are significantly larger than the stereotypical small rural congregation, of course, but much of this is relative.

As we continue to grow, we will soon transition to another phase of ministry. In doing so, we run the risk of losing some of the good qualities of a smaller congregation. Certainly, the challenges I face as pastor will evolve into new challenges, which is healthy and wonderful. But I wonder if there's a way to straddle the fence, keeping the best of both worlds?

At any rate, I'm off to the hospital, with questions to ponder and an exciting but uncertain future about which to pray.

10 comments:

Greg Cox said...

Don't let the size of a building fool you into believing that there is significant lifechanging ministry happening.

Brett Probert said...

yeah...what he said! are lives being changed? is the kingdom come...His will be done in your corner of the earth the way that it is in heaven? then keep it up dude.

Eric said...

Does size matter?

Probably not.

But if it does...

...then I've certainly been guilty of steeple-envy!

Keith McIlwain said...

I'm not talking about building size as much as congregational size.

I know that many wonderful things happen in smaller congregations that can ONLY happen in smaller congregations...but as JUMC grows, we'll no longer fit that mold. That's my issue.

Roda Zone said...

I have sinned...I too have been captivated by journal numbers. They are usually a poor window into the soul of a church. Greg is right! Sometimes we think that ministry is more effective when there are more heads to count. But ministry can only be done one heart at a time. I know you will continue to change lives for Christ, no matter what the numbers are.

Brendan said...

Hey! I really like your blog, and thought I'd throw down my two (more like ten) cents.

I go to a small church at college (maybe 100-150 on a Sunday?) where everyone knows everyone and you can go up front and talk for five or ten minutes and that's okay. The "shake hands with someone near you" lasts longer than any other church I've been to because it's just a tight-knit community. At home, I go to a much larger church (700 over 4 services, I think?). The greater resources are helpful and a bigger community means more diversity, more ways to serve.

I don't really see a weakness in a small church if it's done right. But if it's done right then it'll grow. So it's just important to be aware of weaknesses and try to minimize them. I think the potential weaknesses of a big church are 1) possible lack of accountability, 2) possibly impersonal, and 3) possibly inflexible. In what I've seen, 1 and 2 can be addressed with small groups and out-of-church events, and 3 I think doesn't have to be a big deal.

My home church is a big fan of small groups though..."in order to get bigger you have to get smaller." I think that quote is key. I'm in with a small group of college-aged students, and it was such a blessing last summer.

Fellowship is so critical, and all costs someone new can't get lost in the crowd.

Keith McIlwain said...

Thanks for all the thoughts...

Don't misunderstand my post...

I know that a small congregation has certain charms, and can be a vital place of ministry in its context. My concern is that as JUMC grows, we may lose some of that "charm" and relational grace that a "middle sized congregation" sometimes lacks.

Brendan, I agree with your suggestion. In many cases, smaller congregations already have these small groups (or "cells", as Steve Cordle, I think, prefers to call them), though they are largely informal. The issue, I guess, is how to incorporate new folks into the system without losing the "charm" and familiarity.

Greg Cox said...

I think I hear and know what you were driving at in the original post. I think that if I were to respond in a different way, the answer is yes, Size matters. It matters how the church sees itself, it matters how church is "done", it matters how it is administrated, etc, etc. I think that the greatest hurdles that churches face are the ones that take them to the next level. Churches moving from one size to the next often face those identity crisis - and in some instances the crisis is so large that they are unable to get to that next place.

Yes, size matters. But I go back to my original statement - we need to be about life changing significant ministry regardless of what size.

Keith McIlwain said...

I agree, and I also agree that the transition from one size to another is a tough thing. That's where we're living.

Matt said...

Our church is living in the place where we're not small anymore, but we still want to act like it. When a medium/big church wants to act like a small church, people get hurt because people get excluded and decisions are made that don't impact the whole body. Does size matter for church administration? Yes. Does it matter for Kingdom Impact? Absolutely not!