My church is made up of about 75 people on any given Sunday. We're 6 years old and we are located in the heart of the city of Atlanta. I often hear people at our church describe it by it's strength....NUMBERS. It's the inevitable first question when talking to someone new or catching up with an old friend about their place of worship..."How many people go there?"
According to people who care...we're a small church. Because we're small, people find our church to be more like a family. They are encouraged way more by the relationships and gathering that takes place on Monday through Saturday, than they are by the hour we worship together on Sunday. Although both are an important part of church life...there is something to be said for hanging out at your pastor's house on a consistent basis. Or always knowing that someone will be available to babysit or pick you up from the airport. Which leads me to my question...What's the Magic Number? How big can a church get before it goes from Family to Fancy? How big should it get before it sends some people to a new area of the city and starts a new church?
Atlanta just so happens to be one of the places where the mega, non-denominational, juggernaut church was born and has thrived over the past 2 decades. My friend is helping start one of those juggernauts that has been gathering thousands of people since it's first service around a year ago and there is no telling how big it could get. For the record...they seem like they are a seriously healthy church. That being said...nobody but the inner circle is going over to their pastor's house. You might live next door to another church member and never even know it. Not to mention you might live three hours away from another church member who drives in from out of state. Do you see the difference?
Dunbar, a brilliant European anthropologist, just put out a study that states our cognitive ambition is for 150 people. If you're a pastor, church member, or leader...what do you do with that? If 150 people is as big as our sphere of influence can get, how should we strategically structure the way we make disciples and teach people the way of Jesus in our churches? My "small" church just sent 4 of our 75 people to start a new church on the west side of town. I suspect if the Lord ever allows us to double in size we'll send 10 or 20 or 50 more. What's the magic number? What's your answer?