How Church Size Influences Christian Education

How Church Size Influences Christian Education

By Israel Galindo, Associate Dean for Lifelong Learning

There are many factors that influence Christian education programming in congregations. Two of those factors are staff leadership and congregational size. While we may desire otherwise the fact is that congregations are highly dependent on program staff for leadership, development, and the effectiveness of educational programs. And often, educational program leaders are the last staff hired (the typical order of staff hires are: pastor, musician, part-time youth/children staff, full-time youth/children staff, then, educator). Which means that any educator who is the first full-time program staff person in a congregation likely has to deal with years of neglect in the area of church-wide educational programming.

The second factor that influences congregational education is the size of a congregation. Below are general characteristics related to how the size of a congregation affects educational programming:

The Family Size Church (20 to 75 members)

The Pastoral Size Church (50 – 150 members)

The Program Size Church (150 – 350 members)

The Corporate Size Church (300 – 500 members)

For more on how congregational size affects education, leadership, and other factors, see Israel Galindo, The Hidden Lives of Congregations.

Israel Galindo is Associate Dean for Lifelong Learning at the Columbia Theological Seminary. Formerly, he was Dean at the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. He is the author of the bestseller, The Hidden Lives of Congregations (Alban), Perspectives on Congregational Leadership (Educational Consultants), and A Family Genogram Workbook (Educational Consultants), with Elaine Boomer and Don Reagan.
His books on Christian education include The Craft of Christian Teaching (Judson), How to be the Best Christian Study Group Leader (Judson), Planning for Christian Education Formation (Chalice), and A Christian Educator’s Book of Lists (S&H).
Galindo contributes to the Wabash Center’s blog for theological school deans

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2 thoughts on “How Church Size Influences Christian Education”

  1. mdkiehl says:

    Our church has a larger staff-to-congregation ratio because they have other revenue streams received by also being an arts center. It is a very small congregation (less than 40 I would say, often only about 20-25 on any given Sunday). But they have about 5 staff members plus some part time staff. While the congregation isn’t big the activity throughout the week on site is hectic: concerts, youth art workshops, exhibitions, open mic, and other classes. The number of feet on site during the week is far more than the congregation. They are a resource to other churches and to the local arts community.

    In many ways our church fits the “mold” of a church 10 times its size. Much of this is possible by partnerships with other churches and arts organizations (like Port City Playhouse). The leadership can often step aside in “teaching” because of the maturity of all the human resources they have beyond their staff: professional christian artists, who bring unique insights into the community, in terms of teaching, ministry, and discipleship. Education is also implemented into their monthly cycle. Sunday worship is substituted twice a month with bible study and once with a fellowship meal. This is very different from the “trends” outlined here.

    1. CTS Staff says:

      Thank you, mdkiehl. Yes, context matters very much. And in many cases the particular context and TYPE of organization-institution, even as a self-described “church” makes these general “rules” related to congregational size moot or nuanced. There are congregational types, one of which seems to be your own context, where the “numbers” are not as relevant to the dynamics of the organization—or, to its mission.

      Thanks for your comments!

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