Monday, February 16, 2009

Perils of the Mid-Sized Church

It seems to me that many more books and article are written about the challenges of the small church and of the large church than of the mid-sized church (100 – 300 average worship attendance.) It’s about time we recognized the unique struggles of the mid-sized church in the following areas:






  1. Mid-sized congregations are torn between the competing priorities associated with small and large congregations. In smaller congregations, relationships are the highest priority. In large congregations, performance is the key to ministry success. Members of mid-sized congregations expect both relationships and performance as priorities!
  2. Members of mid-sized congregations often want the same kind of pastoral attention typical of pastors and members in smaller congregations. The increasing demands on a pastor’s time, however, makes this an impossible expectation to meet! In larger congregations, members expect to know their pastors through large gatherings like worship services, weddings, funerals, and newsletter articles. Discomfort comes for a mid-sized congregation, when members want the best of both worlds.
  3. Mid-size congregations demand more programming and ministries than smaller congregations. As a result, leadership needs to grow.
  4. Congregations struggle with the personnel changes necessary to move from a heavy reliance on lay volunteers, typical of smaller congregations, to great numbers of paid part- and full-time staff who assist members to accomplish ministry.
  5. At mid-size, tension often builds around participation issues. People begin to pick and choose the church events and activities they want to attend, rather than participating in every event hosted by the congregation. This often causes concern among long-time members when they don’t see the faces of everyone at each congregational gathering.
  6. Procedure questions arise at mid-size! Unless a congregation’s organizational skeleton changes appropriately, competing expectations of control and involvement arise. Members of smaller congregations expect their high involvement to give them strong ownership and control of decision-making procedures. Members of larger congregations expect to delegate a great deal of authority to the senior pastor, staff and elected church council members. At mid-size, members tend to want “both a participatory democracy and a representative democracy.”
  7. Property issues create new tension at mid-size. In small congregations, members expect people to treat the church building as they would care for their own home. In large congregations, the church building is seen as a public institution where many people gather and maintenance costs are high. Mid-size congregations operate with both expectations!
Adapted from: Christian Education and Evangelism for the 21st Century, Fall 2000 (No online link)

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