Thursday, March 4, 2010

Size Matters

Ok, I'm not a renowned sociologist, psychologist or church strategist, but since this is my blog and since blogs often host unsupported opinions, I thought: "I'm just gonna post my opinion here!" 

So reflecting on personal experience, personal preference and some personal observations, I've decided that size matters when it comes to communities. This is especially true with church communities. Now as a big city kind of guy, I enjoy the variety -- the frenetic bustle -- of large communities, but I also find the need to find meaningful relationships. Now as the father of five kids, I noticed something in me that felt stretched when the size of my family grew; I became aware that greater numbers of relationships required greater effort. I can only split myself up so many ways, and each additional relationship brings me closer to a relational saturation point.

I've come to the conclusion that I can only have a small number of close relationships, a few more friends and a larger number of acquaintances. You see, somewhere in a growing community, I hit a saturation point when I no longer know the people in my immediate environment, and little sub-communities start to form. As I intermingle with the different sub-communities where I'm semi-connected, it's very easy to lose site of individuals. So when So-And-So stops coming to church, I don't even realize it. I can be oblivious to this absence and therefore fail to check and see if  they're okay. In a smaller community, the person's absence is more readily apparent, prompting a sincere and loving inquiry to see how they are doing.

Sadly, I've spoken with several people in the past year who have left church  feeling that no one notices and therefore no one cares. Size matters when communities become so large that they cease to be communities of inter-connected people. Size matters when church communities morph into self-edifying entities, where the people are resources that feed the entity's purposes. Size matters when the entity becomes more important then the person.

This is where I could pull out stats, reference books on the subject and all that stuff that someone trying to prove a point would do... and anyone that knows me well is probably a little astonished that I'm not doing that right now. But fact is fact and opinion is opinion. I'm willing to admit that my personal preference may be simply that... an opinion... a preference.

So I don't have a hard and fast number that I'm going to place in this blog, but I'm still thinking there should be limits to the size of a church. If God is all about relationships, if He desires for us to be known for our love for each other, then the idea of a large, impersonal mega-church is an oxymoron. Really, if church is a place where community is supposed to happen, then size matters. 

So I'll refrain from the stats, metrics and primary sources, stating my opinion bluntly: churches need to put a cap on size. We need to get away from the glamor of accomplishments, and get back to the basics of loving God and loving others. The church needs to get away from the pressures of "doing" and re-learn the importance of just "being". We are made in the image of God for the purpose of loving Him and loving others. If the structure doesn't support this goal,  then a new structure needs to be identified. I don't care how many "converts" an entity can boast if it fails to truly shepherd the flock; we were never called to make converts... we are called to make disciples.

That's my opinion.