Challenges Facing The Area Parish Part 2 by Dan DeBlock

What is a Large Congregation

To help accomplish a deeper understanding of the large congregation I found two books that were helpful. First, there is Inside the Large Congregation. Through her work, Susan Beaumont identifies five basic leadership systems that need to be in alliance for the large church to work in a healthy way: (1) clergy leadership roles; (2) staff team design and function; (3) governance and board function; (4) acculturation and the role of laity; (5) forming and executing strategy.[1] She observes that problems in a large congregation are often linked to the fact that one or more of the five systems is inappropriately structured for the size of the congregation. In other words, the church is not acting its size. Beaumont is invested in helping large congregations ‘right size’ their leadership systems to better serve their ministry context.

The second book is When Moses Meets Aaron written by Gilbert Rendle and Susan Beaumont. As leaders of staff teams, senior clergy must play the dual role of both the visionary and the detail-oriented leader if the large congregations are to flourish. They need to be skilled with the tools of human resources and can set a vision that motivates both staff and congregation.

 

Five Basic Leadership Systems

How well does an area parish keep in alliance the five basic leadership systems? Not very well. The area parish often comprised of small congregations is suddenly transformed into a large congregation. This is a quantum leap and the area parish is certain to right size down to a small congregation. The attendance in the area parish starts with worshiping over 250 on a week end now after eight years is worshiping under a 120. The same drastic decline occurs with the offering plate. At one time the offering is annually around $250,000 has right sized to around $150,000. The clergy leadership was at one point a lead/senior with one or two associates is now down to one fulltime and one part-time clergy. How did this happen?

Some of the challenges for serving area churches involve the distance pastors drive to offer ministry. Monthly church council meetings and annual congregational meetings consume a lot of time and can number in the 50’s and 60’s annually. The churches at one time had a pastor for each congregation, now have fewer pastors and yet, the expected workload has not changed. Every congregation wants the pastor to visit and bring communion to all their home bound, shut-ins and nursing homes. With aging congregations, the number of funerals is normally greater than the number of weddings. The result is obvious, overworked clergy and staff.

[1] Susan Beaumont, Inside the Large Congregation (Herndon, Va.: Alban Institute, 2011, (Kindle Location 153).