CHURCH SIZE AND CHRISTIAN EDUCATION
There are many factors that influence Christian education programming in congregations.
Two of those factors are staff leadership and church 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, an educator).
This 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)
- Primarily pastor-initiated, but often resisted
- Small scale, shoestring budget
- Tend to be family affairs
- Basic content, non-transformative
- Rarely partner with larger resource churches
- Centered around affirming core beliefs/values
The Pastoral Size Church (50 – 150 members)
- Pastor-initiated, mainly pastor-led
- Basic Bible studies and traditional church programs (S.S.; VBS, etc.)
- Dependent on published program resources (e.g., denominational curriculum material)
- Some leadership development
- Occasional attempts at “outreach”
- Occasional partnerships with resource churches
The Program Size Church (150 – 350 members)
- Strong leadership development programs
- Full offering of programs underpaid or competent lay staff
- Multiple ministries and a variety of educational approaches
- Small groups ministries become critical
- Can be a resource to other churches
- Worship as an educational endeavor becomes prominent
The Corporate Size Church (300 – 500 members)
- Strong leadership development programs for multiple ministries
- Full offering of programs and ministries underpaid or competent lay staff
- Needs one full-time staff member for every 100 active members
- Multiple ministries and a variety of educational approaches reaching identified groups
- Serves as a resource to other churches
- Can maintain the status quo for a long time due to critical mass, comfort level, and resources.
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. He directs the Pastoral Excellence Program at Columbia seminary. 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 & Don Reagan, and Leadership in Ministry: Bowen Theory in the Congregational Context.
His books on education include Mastering the Art of Instruction,The Craft of Christian Teaching (Judson), How to be the Best Christian Study Group Leader (Judson), and Planning for Christian Education Formation (Chalice Press).