Ask any group of congregational leaders what the strength of their congregation is, 95% of the time they will say “friendliness.” This holds true regardless of a church’s size. Ask about their number one fear when starting a second service, most will say: we're afraid we'll "lose that lovin' feeling." Well, if they were really cool that's what they'd say. Yet, even as they say that, it is difficult to pin down what they mean.
Sociologist tell us that a human being can only maintain a strong relationship with 40-50 people. We can recognize the faces of more people than that, but when it comes to knowing their names, kids names, pets names. 40 or 50 is about all we can handle. So, if we target our church size to the number of people we can have really close ties with, our churches would never grow above 50 people. But that's not ususally how it works.
I've been in congregations of less than 50 people that were cold as ice. And I've been in congregations with thousands of members that felt like a huge extended family. Friendliness and family feelings have little to do with size. This church was welcoming and relationally warm at 100 and we are welcoming and relationally warm at 200. Even in the midst of new faces, names we can't remember, an ever-increasing crowd, it still feels like family. Newcomers sense it immediately. It is a part of our DNA that we must never lose; whether we are 300 or 3000. It is part of who we are and what God has created us to do best.
We won't lose "it" by going to two services. We may have to be more intentinal about connecting with folks who are attending worship at a different time. Make use of the combined connecting time between the services. Look for opportunities to be together outside of Sunday morning. Serve together during the week.
The truth is the larger we grow, the more important our LIFE Groups will become. It is there we will find a large part of our 40 or 50. We grow our strongest relationships there as we "do life together."
One of the biggest questions growing families faces is "will we make room." It is true in our physical families when Mom and Dad bring home a new brother or sister. It is true in our spiritual family when God "adds to our number" (Acts 2:47). Our willingness to make room doesn't make us any less of a family - it only enlarges the number touched by "that lovin' feeling."
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