How Church Size Influences Christian Education
By Israel Galindo, Associate Dean for Lifelong Learning and Director of Online Education.
September 15, 2014—There are many factors that influence Christian education programming in church 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)
- 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 under paid or competent lay staff
- Multiple ministries and variety of educational approaches
- Small groups ministries become critical
- Can be resource to other churches
- Worship as educational endeavor becomes prominent
The Corporate Size Church (300 – 500 members)
- Strong leadership development programs for multiple ministries
- Full offering of programs and ministries under paid or competent lay staff
- Needs one full time staff member for every 100 active members
- Multiple ministries and variety of educational approaches reaching identified groups
- Serves as a resource to other churches
- Can maintain 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.