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The Middle-sized Church: Problems amd Prescriptions [Secure eReader]
eBook by Lyle E. Schaller

eBook Category: Spiritual/Religion
eBook Description: Middle-sized churches (100-200 worshipers) have always been unwieldy and difficult to grapple with. They are not close-knit families, like small churches. They are not staff-centered and as highly structured as large churches.

The middle-sized church is usually too small for the leaders to agree the congregation needs a full-scale systematic new member enlistment effort, but too large for enough new members to come in on their own initiative to offset the inevitable attrition.

Typically the middle-sized congregation is too large to be shock-free from a change of ministers and/or a long vacancy in the pulpit, but too small to expect the typical pastorate to be at least ten years in length or to bring in an intentional interim pastor on a full-time basis during the vacancy period.

While this will vary greatly according to denominational polity, and especially by race, the typical middle-sized congregation is too small for the lay leaders to concede that "the minister is in charge around here," but too large for lay volunteers to be able to allocate the necessary time every week for it to be lay-controlled (as is the pattern in most small churches).

A substantial majority of all middle-sized congregations are located in communities in which at least one-third of the residents do not have any active church affiliation. The typical middle-sized church is large enough to offer a ministry to meet the needs of many of the unchurched, but most of the members are convinced that their congregation is too small to have sufficient resources to launch a major effort to reach the unchurched.

eBook Publisher: United Methodist Publishing House
Fictionwise Release Date: March 2002




Chapter I
What Is the Middle-Sized Church?

To a substantial degree the middle-sized church can be described by how it differs from both large and small congregations. Usually it is seen as too large to share a minister with another congregation, but too small to have two ministers. It is too large for the members to be satisfied with the limited scale program typical of the small church, but too small to offer the broad range of programming, especially for youth, that some of the newer members expect. It often is too large to expect the minister to function without the assistance of at least a part-time secretary, but rarely provides the pastor with the help of a full-time secretary. It usually is too small for the leaders to agree the congregation needs a full-scale systematic new member enlistment effort, but too large for enough new members to come in on their own initiative to offset the inevitable attrition.

Frequently the leaders of the middle-sized congregation are convinced it is too large to do without an organized choir, but the members often see it as too small to afford the help of a paid choir director. It is too large to function simply as "one big family," but too small for the leaders to see an obvious need for regularly expanding the group life. Most middle-sized churches are too large for the governing board to serve as "the committee of the whole" and to be responsible for all facets of congregational life from finances to Christian education to evangelism to real estate to missions, but too small for everyone to be comfortable with an elaborate organizational structure that includes a variety of standing committees and short-term task forces that meet ten to fifteen times annually. It is large enough to include a strong and well-organized women's organization, but usually too small for a men's fellowship to survive.

Many of the middle-sized churches are too large to include both seventh-graders and twelfth-graders in the same youth group, but frequently their leaders believe they are too small to have one youth group for senior high youth and a separate organization for junior high students.

Typically the middle-sized congregation is too large to be shock-free from a change of ministers and/or a long vacancy in the pulpit, but too small to expect the typical pastorate to be at least ten years in length or to bring in an intentional interim pastor on a full-time basis during the vacancy period.

Frequently the middle-sized congregation sees itself as too small to afford even part-time paid staff specialists in music, youth ministries, bookkeeping, or children's work, but too large to expect competent volunteers to always be available and willing to carry those responsibilities. It is large enough to benefit from electronic data processing of membership and financial records but too small for the leaders to agree they need a computer.

Most of the members of the middle-sized congregation know it is small enough so everyone should know everyone else by name, but frequently it is really too large to realistically expect everyone to call everyone else by name, and it is too small for most members to affirm the advantages of everyone wearing a name tag.

While this will vary greatly according to denominational polity, and especially by race, the typical middle-sized congregation is too small for the lay leaders to concede that "the minister is in charge around here," but too large for lay volunteers to be able to allocate the necessary time every week for it to be lay-controlled (as is the pattern in most small churches).

A substantial majority of all middle-sized congregations are located in communities in which at least one-third of the residents do not have any active church affiliation. The typical middle-sized church is large enough to offer a ministry to meet the needs of many of the unchurched, but most of the members are convinced that their congregation is too small to have sufficient resources to launch a major effort to reach the unchurched.

Many middle-sized congregations, including most of those in urban communities, are too large for the grapevine to be a reliable communication channel between the church and the members, but frequently they do not believe the time, energy, and money required for a weekly newsletter can be justified.

Copyright © 1985 by Abingdon Press


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