Monday, June 11, 2007

Size matters

Back in 1776, the United States of America consisted of 13 colonies, and there were roughly 2.5 million people living here. Today there are 50 states, and an estimated 301,139,947 people. This may not seem like an overly insightful observation, but we're a whole lot bigger than we were when those "founding fathers" established the forms of government which by and large are still in place today.

I was thinking about this recently during a presentation about a proposed new governance structure that was being given to the congregation I serve. One of the things noted is that all of the experts agree that when a church with an average attendance of, say, 50 grows into a church of 500 it needs to organize and govern itself differently. The two churches are not just different sizes, they are effectively different animals. (In fact, the church growth expert Lyle Schaller describes different sized churches not as "family," "pastoral," "program," and "corporate," as they're often called in the literature but "cat," "collie," "garden," etc. as a way of accentuating the essential differences of different sized churches.) In short, church experts agree that when it comes to organizational structure, size matters.

Now the growth of a 5o member church into a 500 member church is a ten-fold increase. The growth of a 2.5 million "member" country into an over 300 million "member" country is more than a one hundred-fold increase. Yet we are operating under essentially the same governance structure now that we're a "nation" as when were when we were a "cat" (to use Schaller's terms). Could this be at least part of the reason for why our "body politic" seems so unwell?

Just a thought.

In Gassho,

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