About a week ago both Mark Stevens (see here) and Robert Jimenez (see here) wrote post on this blog discussing the danger of a church congregations growing too large. As I read these posts, and the various comments, I couldn’t help but ask myself what the next step would be for a church that has grown “too big”. What does a church do?
Does it go to multiple services? If so, how does that avoid becoming mega-church-esque? Do they go to multiple services while assigning different pastors to each service? Do they plant an independent satellite?
What do you think a church should do to make sure that people are pastored? What should a church do that thinks it has grown too large? How does this impact evangelistic efforts?
Brian, something that I didn’t mention in my previous post, is that we are a church planting fellowship, have been for the last 30 years so that does help us from growing to large. We also have two services on Sunday as well. We have considers doing a satellite church and/or a Saturday night church we grew to large. So one of the assistance pastors would be the responsible for of those services and it’s members.
I don’t think we are at the place yet to make any of those decisions, but we will see how this year progresses.
@Robert: I like the idea of “a church planting fellowship”. It seems like the natural progression. I know there are other factors (like real estate cost, leaders prepared to take more responsibility, etc).
I usually don’t say much on these American Church issues, but at what point do you think perhaps the CHURCH needs or should have some kind of Bishop/Bishops? I have noted the history and even problems of the California begun Calvary Chapels. Note, the Methodist Churches have some kind of Bishops.
@Fr. Robert: There are forms of American Christianity that have bishops: Roman Catholics, Orthodox Church of American, Episcopalians, some Methodist groups, etc. How do you see Bishops helping this situation?
It really can’t help, unless there is a theological agreement on the nature of the Church, authority (somewhat) and the People of God. I was just thinking out loud. Remember I am an Anglican and Churchman! 🙂 Sorry lol
Fr. Robert, our whole fellowship has accountability. The sending church becomes the “mother church”, and the sending pastor is the overseer of the churches sent out. For instance my pastor is the overseer of ten churches so in many ways he serves as the bishop of those churches. We don’t use those titles and we are trying to move aways from putting to much emphasis on titles as well. We also have a group of elders that are pastors that serve the whole fellowship and is led by the president of the fellowship, he would be the led bishop. My pastor is part of the group. That helps to keep us all accountable and does give a greater sense of belonging as well. Once year we have a week service where all of churches gather together for a week of celebration and encouragement, it is in those services that we launch out new churches. Most of our new church plants start off as home bible studies.
We also have a pastors breakfast every other month where we get together pray and the lead pastor will share from the scripture a message to us. Last meeting was great our pastor shared from 1 Kings 3:9 NLT
“Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people of yours?”. Strong emphasis was placed on a relationship with Christ, and the value of friendships.
Interesting! But, I am one that believes in those “titles”, not so much for themselves, but for the “order” of God and His Church. But again, I am an Anglican, and even Anglo-Orthodox. 🙂 Also, the mystery of God seems to function better in this idea and belief in the continued “incarnation” of Christ within the Church itself. But again, this is more classic Catholic/Anglo-Catholic and Orthodox theology and ecclesiology.
@ Fr. Robert: It is complicated here. We have been a very individualistic, democratized society. Any ecclesiology with a hierarchy will struggle to maintain acceptance. I think the American Episcopalian church has made it even worse. For those of us who are evangelicals who don’t feel drawn to Roman Catholicism or Orthodoxy it would seem Anglican-Episcopalian churches may be another option, but the Anglican church has been weakened by the absurdity of the Episcopalian church here.
Yeah I have been here long enough to see that the only Anglican option would be the Continuing Anglican Churches, or out to Rome or Orthodoxy. I say this if one is drawn this way of course. In reality I myself have been able to move between many other churches, at least for a bit of preaching. It seems some Americans like the old brogue! lol But, I am drawn to Orthodoxy for myself! But as an Anglican they too have been so friendly to me. But American Episcopalian is a mess! And Anglicanism is weak just about everywhere sadly. Save a few Continuing Anglican groups. We have a few in the UK too.
I went to a larger church in Indianapolis that had a system using what are called Care Pastors. The entire congregation was divided up between several leaders who were responsible for the individual care of the people. If there were emergencies or spiritual problems, congregants were cared for by whomever they had been assigned to. Geography, what ministry the individual was involved in, and such, determined whose care they were placed in.
It’s a pretty good system, and helpful in keeping people from falling through the cracks.
In the 1960s and 1970s my local Catholic parish had six Masses on Saturday night and Sunday. Today the same parish has four Masses. Having multiple services never seems to have been a problem for large Catholic parishes, and they don’t get criticised for having numerous Masses, nor should they. Having all Masses close to full on the weekend is surely better than near to empty.
Why are other Churches criticised for having a full house, and multiple locations? Yes, I’ve read the posts. And get the point.
I think what many large churches do is what all churches should be doing and that is instituting small groups/cell groups/care groups (whatever you want to call them) with the “leaders” of the small groups functioning as “pastors” who are in turn trained to lead small groups and provide basic spiritual care and direction to the group (who meet weekly/bi-weekly or at least once a month) – what happens if the group gets to big? Split it up. Set a person as a new leader and start a new group and so on – for obvious reasons (and biblical I think) these leaders will be folk whose spiritual gifting is leading or pastoring, etc.
I think this is the only real way to survive in a large/mega-church setting if not most church settings. This is where the real discipleship is going take place as well as allowing for more expression of the spiritual gifts and practicing “one anothering” and “truthing in love,” etc. The small group level is really the only place where there is going to be more one-to-one interaction. The larger group meeting in Sundays is more for the benefits of congregational worship and proclamation of the word and casting vision, etc.
This is how it is done in Chi-Alpha groups (AoG University Campus outreach ministry) – they have “core groups” with “core facilitators” who received weekly training in small group leadership and one-on-one discipleship and each “corefa” discipled folks in the group one-on-one weekly. This was how we did it at my home church and how they still do it (it is Foursquare) – we had “mini-churches” which “mini-church pastors” and mini-church coaches” and so on.
Then of course I think instead of pushing to build bigger buildings mega churches should push church planting modeling the approach with small groups, before the building gets too full, push for a new church plant(s), etc. Like Scott Lencke says lets grow outward not upward.
That’s how I see it.
@Brittany: If care pastoring works it can be a good method. Thus far my experience in larger churches with a set of these types of pastors has been less than impressive. It is a good hearted attempt at the Moses and his layers of under leaders model, but it is rare to see it be successful. I am glad to hear you’ve found a place where it is.
Gerard: If you’ve read the post, and you get the point, but do not see any problem, then maybe it isn’t a problem for you. For many of us it is.
@Brian F.: I like the idea of outward growth v. upward growth. I have gone to two large churches in my life (i.e. 1K +) and there is no pastoral care, at all. Even small groups pastors aren’t able to handle it because it is hard to know who you are responsible to pastor and it is hard to get people to want to go to this or that group meeting this or that night around this or that common denominator. Small groups are important, as long as they aren’t an excuse for continual “upward” growth because I think they lose their effect as well in such a setting.
The care pastors were expected to have individual contact with the people on their list every week. Every Sunday, they met as a group with the church Pastor to discuss any major crisis or trends. They also talked about things they felt they were falling short on as leaders, and brainstorm on how to be more effective.
They did put together a resource, like a curriculum, for other churches who wanted to establish similar systems. They called it Total Church Care.
It seemed to work, for the most part. I didn’t really like the idea that I could be the subject matter of one of their meetings, though. Thankfully, Dad was one of them 😉
I don’t know that multiple services will help. When Ron and I left the very large church (5 Sunday morning services) after 16 years, almost no one knew we’d left – AND except for the staff we worked directly with, none of the staff even knew. People just assumed we were going to a service at a different time. We were not in small group Bible fellowship as he taught one and I was in the media center. We told the people we felt obliged to tell and gave them the reasons and then left. I just think a church is way too big when the absence of people who were as active as Ron and I were is not noticed. It didn’t matter to us, but imagine what happens to the occasional attender. For someone inclined not to go to church, this is the perfect excuse to completely stop.
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