How big is too big?

Discussion in '2004 Archive' started by untangled, Sep 26, 2004.

  1. untangled

    untangled
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    Hello Brothers and Sisters,

    I was wondering if some of you could share your thoughts on congregational size. Does anyone here believe a congregation can become too large? If so, at what point should a congregation think about birthing a new congregation? The reason I ask is because the church I used to attend has grown to be fairly large in a short period of time. 1996 it had around 250 members and now it is at 1500 give or take. The spiritual hunger within the congregation has seemed to faded away. I am aware that this is just one church but I have had many people comment on this and I wanted to see what anyone else thought. [​IMG]
     
  2. Ps104_33

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    I think it depends on how far people are traveling to get there. One of the purposes of a local church is to serve its community. How can someone serve in a local church when they drive an hour or more to get there. Some times people will drive 100 miles to church just because they like the "charismatic, dynamic" preaching and that is not right. If someone is going that far to get to church, and they are not satisfied with the local churches in their community, then they should start one.
     
  3. Dr. Bob

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    Some folks thrive on "big" and feel a part of something large and exciting. I was at Saddleback (Southern Baptist) last Sunday. Probably 22k. They are voting with their feet that they LOVE a "big" church.

    Week before I preached in Bill, Wyoming, to 30 dear ranch folks. They love a "small" church where each person can contribute in a discussion on every issue.

    While I personally love the excitement and activity and world-changing scope of Saddleback, I'm very content where God has placed me in small, new-church work.
     
  4. untangled

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    Thanks for replying Ps104 and Dr. Bob.

    Well, my main concern about my old church getting so large is because it is so nonrelational. I must admit as far as some of the ministries go it takes the cake. Its a very progressive church, but at the same time I think a different approach needs to be taken in order for it to stay effective. Their small group ministries need alot of work. (Not that I have any expertise or anything.)

    The main reason I asked is because of the type of comments I hear on a regular basis i.e., small is better than large, large churches loose focus, etc... I did my senior research project on church growth but never thought to face this question. Maybe I should have..... God Bless!
     
  5. Artimaeus

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    I don't think it is a set number like 1,534 and no more. It is more of rules-of-thumb. If the sheer size prohibits a personal relationship with the pastor. If you introduce yourself to a "visitor" and it turns out that you each have been in regular attendance for the last three years. If you get lost trying to find one of the bathrooms. If your youth group is basically an independent organization.

    I just realized that this is beginning to sound like Jeff Foxworthy and his redneck jokes. I was serious but how about a couple of less serious ones.

    If your church has its own zip code...It might be too big.

    If your pulpit committee can't recommend a candidate because he only has ONE Ph.D...It might be too big.

    If your potluck dinners are catered...It might be too big.
     
  6. Dr. Bob

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    At our home church, all of our church dinners are catered (we have a caterer in the church who does it at cost) and we have less than 100.
     
  7. R. Charles Blair

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    John R. Rice used to say, "I love a small church - for the first three weeks!"

    But the fact is that only one NT church grew to large numbers - Jerusalem - and God allowed that to be broken up by persecution to extend the mission "to the regions beyond" as He had already commanded (Acts 1:8). No other congregation desribed in the NT seems to have had large numbers, though there quickly came to be large numbers of congregations!

    What must happen for "large" congregations to be really effective (as "Untangled" is seeing) is to use a class structure for Bible study, a "cell group" approach, etc., which forms many "small churches," under one umbrella. Relationships are an essential part of "ecclesia," which demands the ability to assemble.

    Best to all - Charles Blair - Rom. 8:28
     
  8. superdave

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    Small group ministry focus is the only way to keep a huge church healthy. Otherwise it breaks down as you describe, the ability to relate to the church gets tough, especially for visitors.

    My church is about 500 give or take a few, and we have Adult Bible Fellowships, mostly about 20 couples in each one, and we have even smaller care groups in those classes, (3-4 couples)

    The organization is not the only factor, you also have to have people who will reach out to visitors and attempt to get them into a small group, and assimilated into various aspects of the larger ministry. As well as maintain the "family" atmosphere that is common to smaller churches. Our church feels like a family, even though there are still people I don't know, and we have been here just under 2 years.

    It is important to maintain a balance, you do not want your small groups to become mini-churches within your church, but that is the level where you can develop relationships that will both demonstrate love to visitors, and also develop a level of accountability and encouragement between the believers.

    I have been in small churches that weren't able to develop these types of relationships.

    As Master Yoda would say

    "Size Matters Not"
     
  9. SaggyWoman

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    I don't think size matters. It is what you do with your church that matters. If it is doing what it is supposed to do...run with it.
     
  10. AVL1984

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    Well, Saggy, personally, I think that some churches can grow too big. I know that my wife and I attended the well known Franklin Road Baptist Church here in Murfreesboro for a while. For us, it was too big. For many who left, it was too big. But, it continues to grow. They really do need new facilities. We never joined just because of the size of the congregation. We ended up joining a Southern Baptist Church, but they have gone from somewhere around 550 to over 1,200 in just a few short years and had to build a new auditorium and wing on the church. For us, at 550, the church was warm, friendly and caring. At over 1,200 people, it has become, in our opinion, cold, unfriendly and divisive with decisions being made arbitrarily to fit one group of people (those who are more wealthy), over those who aren't. So, we've embarked on finding a smaller church. We were very comfortable,involved and loved being church of between 45 and 100 people. Sometimes when churches get too big, I believe they do need to divide and make new congregations. But, that's just one man's opinion.

    AVL1984
     
  11. Artimaeus

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    Dr. Bob,I'm good with ANY kind of church dinner but how can you have a catered potluck dinner? Bit of an oxymoron, dontcha think. Besides, I would really, really miss all of those "my specialty" dishes from various people. [​IMG]
     
  12. superdave

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    I would appreciate it if you would kindly refrain from the term potluck, for those of us on the board who believe in the sovereignty of God, it would be less offensive to use the term Pot-providence

    We also have certain things catered, a mixture of both. But our ABF/small groups use pretty much the good old fashioned dish to pass method.
     
  13. Dr. Bob

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    Pot-Faith dinners? No. At our church we have socials (pie, cakes, cookies, sandwiches) in the evenings once a month. But 6 times a year we have dinners (I did not call them potluck, if you notice) that are catered.

    Church has them budgeted in the annual budget.
     
  14. SaggyWoman

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    AVL--small churches can be divisive and impersonal.
     
  15. rufus

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    I believe God determines the sizes of churches for various localities.
     
  16. untangled

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    Well, I guess it all depends on the individual church and its leadership.
     
  17. Johnv

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    This is really subjective. Typically, most will think that any church much larger than their own is too big. Part of that, unfortunately, may also be a matter of closet envy. There is no right or wrong answer. It all depends on a number of circumstances. For example, my brother lives in a town where the typical church size is 500 or so. By comparison, I live in the OC, where a typical church may have a congregation of 1200 or more. An average church for us may be a megachurch elsewhere.

    The same would go for what constitutes a "small" church.
     
  18. AVL1984

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    I don't deny that in the least, Saggy. I served as an assistant pastor in two of them that were just like that. That was one reason we felt led to leave them and go to bigger churches. Larger churches can be much more divisive and impersonal. I know from going to several large IFB churches here in Murfreesboro. These are very well known churches with very well known pastors. It can go either way, but depends on many variables. :cool:

    AVL1984
     
  19. untangled

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    Well, I guess this was just too much of an open ended question. It is good that I asked though. I like to hear other people's take and experiences with it. God can use people no matter what size church they attend.
     
  20. Lori

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    Well I pretty much think any church the size of Lakewood Church here in Houston is too big.

    Yes I will list a Foxworthy-ish list here:

    Your church is too big if... you hold regular services in a building that used to house your local NBA sports team

    Your church is to big if... your annual income is equal to that of a small country

    Sorry to make light of this folkes as I know that there are probably some of you out there that may be comfortable in this size church, it's just that today our local NBC affiliate did a news story highliting(sp?) the size that Lakewood has become. I guess I am just more comfortable with the smaller churches. The one good thing I will say of a church that size is that it can sometimes be the stepping stone for many many people who have never heard the gospel and feel too intimidated by the smaller churches directness.

    azwyld
    &lt;*}}}&gt;&lt;
     

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