What Changes with a Move from a Church of 50 to a Church of 150

Sam Rainer

October 7, 2018


All churches have leadership challenges, regardless of size. Small churches are not easier to lead than large churches. Large churches are not easier to grow than small churches. But they are different. When pastors move from one size church to another, they have to adapt.

One common pastoral transition is to move from a church of fifty congregants to a church of one hundred fifty. I won’t get into whether a pastor should make this move or not. Let’s assume the move is God’s will. What changes should this pastor expect? The question recently came through Church Answers Central, a forum I help administrate, and I thought it made for a good post.

Some expectations remain the same. I’ll start the list with something that doesn’t change, but I’ve added it here because it’s a surprise to many pastors who make the transition from fifty to one hundred fifty. Many people still want you at birthday parties, at ballgames, and in hospital rooms. You have to learn how to say “no” graciously to more people.

Formalities and structure increase. In a church of one hundred fifty, there are more formalities. Business meetings and Robert’s Rules of Order become more commonplace. There is also more structure, likely more committees and official groups.

Less individual attention. The larger the church, the less individual attention a pastor can give to people. Leadership approaches shift from one-on-one in small churches to groups of people in larger churches. Many pastors who make the transition become frustrated for a season because they cannot meet the needs of everyone. The key here is to equip other leaders and invest in them, training them to multiply themselves.

Fewer family-run churches. At one hundred fifty people, it’s tough for one family to run the church, but two or three families can form coalitions and wield power.

Operational tasks decrease. When I pastored a church of thirty people, I changed all the light bulbs and prepared the financials (which meant balancing the checkbook). In a church of one hundred fifty, these tasks shift to volunteers.

Directives shift. In a church of one hundred fifty, pastors give more directives to teams and committees as opposed to individuals.

Micromanagement in a church of one hundred fifty will kill you. Don’t even try.

Diplomacy and statesmanship start to enter into pastoral leadership at a church of one hundred fifty (and becomes quite important around five hundred people).

When you make the transition from fifty to one hundred fifty, a few things do stay the same: People still sin. Bullies still attack. Leaders will disappoint. Stress is still intense. But the Groom still loves His bride!


4 comments on “What Changes with a Move from a Church of 50 to a Church of 150”

  1. Bill says:

    If we manage the church like a business, shouldn’t we expect it to act like a business?

  2. Gary Taylor says:

    I am clergy in the United Methodist Church. Two months ago I became the pastor of a church worshiping 150 after spending 18 years serving churches that worshiped anywhere from 25 to 70. It wasn’t a total shock but you definitely highlight the differences I have experienced. Thank you for your thoughts.

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