by Reverend Bob LaVallee
Welcome to Spring, everyone! Are you ready for some church nerd-ery? Because I’m bringing the church administration geekiness with this letter!
What makes a church big or small or medium? Well, the UUA has guidelines that say that Small (or Family Size) churches have less than 150 members. Midsize (or Pastoral Size) churches can range from 150 to 500 members. South Valley sits right on the cusp at around 160.
Why does size matter? Every church is different but there are some general theories. Small churches tend to take a more do-it-yourself approach to running things, and they can get away that because of their size. Everyone is likely to know everyone else, making it easy to communicate about policies and decision-making. Being small, their systems don’t need to be very complex.
Medium size churches need more structure. They need more professional staff and they need policies and procedures that fit where they are, not where they used to be. When I was chair of the board at a small church in Boston (120 members, 70 folks showing up on a good Sunday) I used to joke that “We have medium-size church issues with small-church resources!”
There’s really two parts to the size problem. The first is coming to terms with the size of our church as it really is, not as we remember it or as we’d like it to be. The second is doing an honest assessment of our systems, and acknowledging the places where our systems don’t match our needs.
It’s totally normal to have mismatches between church size and it’s systems! South Valley is very typical: it’s a young congregation that has grown a lot and some of its systems could use a little work. This year the Board and Leadership Council have done some great work to align our systems with our size. That work will continue, and to be honest, it never ends. But getting it right makes for a happier, more effective congregation.
A side note: If you haven’t already heard, I’ve been hired to serve at the Associate Minister at First Unitarian Church in Albuquerque. I don’t start there until August 6. However, I’ll be there from April 29 – May 5 for their “Meet Bob Week”. I’ll be checking my voicemail and email, so if you need anything, just let me know.