An article on church dynamics--particularly those of Carolina Beach Presbyterian Church--revised and updated from the January 2004 issue of News of the Pews:
There are technical terms for church dynamics which are directly and inevitably related to the number of people who attend worship on a typical Sunday. We have been, in technical terms, a "pastoral" size church. That means we've had up to 150 worshipers on a typical Sunday. In a pastoral size church, worship tends to be formal, but with a personal touch; members tend to know just about everyone in the congregation, or at least know their names; and members can expect to have a pastoral relationship with the minister.
Between January 1st and June 1st of 2003, we had 140 or more in worship on nine Sundays (including 150, 161, and 250 on Easter Sunday). During the same period there were eight Sundays when we were fewer than 129.
This year, by April 4 we had had nine Sundays with 140 or more in worship, including five times at 150 or higher, and only once under 129, followed by Easter Sunday which was attended by 333. Attendance figures are nothing to crow about; they are simply important to observe.
Comparing this data against the same months over the three previous years, two truths emerge: a) we are slowly and steadily growing; and b) if present trends continue, within a few years we will regularly see more than 150 worshipers on a typical Sunday.
Between the pastoral size and the next larger size (the program size church, with 200 or more in worship on a typical Sunday) is what experts call a "plateau zone" (150-200 in worship). Churches don't tend to hover there; they either increase or decline. A church will continue its natural growth if--but only if--adequate space, staff, and facilities are provided. The next level is called a program size church because it is able to provide needed programs for all age groups and demographics--programs that depend on sufficient classrooms, offices for staff, adequate parking and storage, and a worship environment that nurtures all those who come to receive and be renewed for ministry.
Regardless of whether or not we aspire to become a program church, slow, steady growth can happen when a church carries out its mission with faithful integrity, if the basic logistical means are provided. If not, the church will decline, as visiting families find that the church cannot provide what they need. We are moving steadily in the right direction to keep up with our natural growth, most recently by carefully negotiating the purchase of the 1.48-acre property adjacent to the existing church lot.
Evangelism does not mean adding numbers for numbers' sake, and the ministerial staff do not emphasize simple numerical increase as a goal. But it is important to try to discern what God is inviting us to do. As we grow--slowly and steadily as we are--we can provide for the best, most efficient and effective ministry possible, if we have a clear understanding of who we are and what we are being called to do.
I'm always happy to hear what you think about all of this and more. Call me any time! K.G.