Church Size Dynamics

The Episcopal Church Center has published a paper as part of their Congregational Vitality Series titled, "Sizing Up a Congregation." The document addresses the dynamics at work in congregations of various sizes. The paper groups churches into four size categories:

  • Family Church - Small, up to 50 active members
  • Pastoral Church - Medium, from 50-150 active members
  • Program Church - Large, from 150-350 active members
  • Corporation Church - Extra Large, 350+ active members

The document does not assign more value to a church of a particular size, but tries to help leaders understand what influences are at play and what processes will or will not work in a particular size church.

For each church, the following five questions are answered:

  • What is the basic structure of each type of church?
  • How does each category typically attract new members?
  • What are the predominant characteristics of entry for the new member?
  • What are the basic needs of the new member in each size congregation?
  • How might a church most effectively meet those basic needs of a new member?

This information can be a huge help when hiring a worship staff member. A candidate who is currently ministering in a Family Church will have a massive learning curve when moving to a Corporation Church of 1,000 members. The rate at which a musical style change can be processed in a large church is much different than in a small church. And success in one size church does not automatically translate to success in a church of another size. Both the staff member and the congregation will have to be willing to adapt to new realities.

"Sizing Up a Congregation" is a good place to start when considering church size dynamics.

For further reading, see:

Tim Keller's excellent paper, "Leadership and Church Size Dynamics: How Strategy Changes with Growth"

Roy Oswald's helpful article, "How To Minister Effectively in Family, Pastoral, Program and Corporate-Sized Churches"