TWO COMMON PATTERNS IN NORTH AMERICAN CHURCHES
A. Church size depends on the linking relationship between the “crowd” and a leadership core and upon the span of control in the leadership core. (Craig Kennet Miller, NextChurch.Now: Creating New Faith Communities (Nashville: Discipleship Resources, 2000), 79-100.) Churches can be described by the way the Discipleship System links people together with their leaders. These linkages identify the network which controls all activities of the church outside of worship.
B. In a small church, each person in the crowd is directly linked by a relationship to someone in the leadership core. This limits the growth of the small church as only two layers are allowed: core and crowd. When the span of control is six, there can be one pastor, up to six leaders and thirty-six followers for a total of forty-three. When the span of control is twelve, as Jesus chose, there can be one pastor, up to twelve core leaders and 144 followers for a maximum total of 157. A systemic competency limit is often reached beyond this total. (For information on competency limit of the Rule of 150, see Kevin Martin, The Myth of the 200 Barrier: How to Lead through Transitional Growth (Nashville: Cokesbury, 2005), 39-42.)
C. Some form of organization in a larger church must link the crowd to the leadership core; the resulting form of organization can be used to identify five basic paradigms or “base designs” of churches.
Temple Base Design TBD (worship priority)
Chaplain Base Design CBD (nurture priority)
Academic Base Design ABD (learning priority)
Network Base Design NBD (connectional priority)
Program Base Design PBD (activity/program priority)
Cell Churches represent a Network Base Design. Chaplain Base Design churches usually have less than 100 in worship; Program Base Design churches usually have more than 300 in worship. Mid-size churches blend CBD and PBD traits in tension. Research reported by Herb Miller in 1994 indicates that mid-size churches in the United States are rapidly disappearing. My district superintendent indicated in 2002 that research by the Cabinet shows that the loss of average worship attendance in the Illinois Great Rivers Conference comes primarily from the mid-size church tier.
Illinois Great Rivers Conference Churches: 899 reporting attendance >0 in 2006.
Large churches >300 = 39 churches/4.3% w/20,161 in worship 611 baptisms (1/33).
Mid-size tier 100-200 = 171 churches/19% w/27,229 in worship 941 baptisms (1/29).
Small church tier <100 = 708 churches/77% w/27,041 in worship 810 baptisms (1/33).
Sources: #1-9: Former Net Results publisher Herb Miller. These two descriptions of churches are used here for illustrative purposes; patterns from 1994 are still present in many churches that I encounter. This research is from Herb Miller’s 1994 seminar, “Midsize Church Leadership: Moving Toward God’s Vision When Worship Attendance is Between 100 and 300” (Net Results Resource Center, Kansas City, MO, April 20, 1994), 4. Since 1994 Herb Miller has continually updated this research and it is available from behavior descriptions of the twelve sizes of congregations in Herb Miller, Church Personality Matters! (St. Louis, Chalice Press, 1999) and from four volumes in the Herb Miller’s Nuggets Series: Volume #14, 25 Turnaround Strategies for Small Churches (2004); Volume #26, Moving toward God’s Vision in Large Churches (2006); Volume #27, Coaching Small Congregations toward Positive Change (2005); and Volume #28, Coaching Midsize Congregations toward Positive Change (2005). (All 29 volumes of this series are available from Herb Miller; e-mail HrbMiller@aol.com for free contents-descriptions of each volume and an order form.)
– Source: #10-13: Lyle Schaller, The Middle Sized Church: Problems & Prescriptions
– Recent research on large church growth supports the role of lay excitement as a cause of growth as in the Center for Parish Development Church Growth Principle. Scott Thumma, Dave Travis, and Warren Bird, Megachurches Today 2005: Summary of Research Findings, http://www.hartfordinstitute.org/megachurch/megastoday2005_summaryreport.html (accessed June 15, 2007)
– The Program Base Design is from Ralph W. Neighbour, Jr., Where Do We Go From Here? A Guidebook for the Cell Group Church, 10th Anniversary ed. (Houston: Touch Publications, 1990), 57-76. Neighbour’s paradigm label inspired the others.
NOTE (my response)
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