It is a common understanding that churches with fewer than 50 in worship usually function as a kinship or Matriarchal/Patriarchal system (Arlin Rothauge – Sizing Up a Congregation for New Member Ministry). When this system is healthy, the “matriarch/patriarch” tends to carry the vision for the church and the “gatekeeper” tends to the hospitality and screening functions of new member recruitment.

Few of today’s churches this size still have healthy and functioning matriarchs/patriarchs or gatekeepers necessary to keep the kinship system operating effectively. Over the years they have shifted the visioning and welcoming functions to the pastor, making them “pastor dependent”, more in keeping with the “pastoral church” which is usually larger with more resources. Now these same churches are discovering that they are no longer able to recruit or support pastors with the time, skills and energy to carry on these essential functions. As a result, their unifying sense of mission is deteriorating to a directionless quest for survival characterized by a vague longing for past memories, preservation of their building.

Many of these churches are seeking to reduce the costs associated with their pastor. While most are approaching this process only on an economic basis, in terms of “systems” they are seeking a return to the pastoral costs and functions more in line with a “kinship church”. Since our goal is to help churches find greater health, our approach to these downsizing considerations will include attention to some basic principles of what recovery of health might look like. We suggest several components to this recovery:
  1. Discover a widely shared sense of mission that provides their identity beyond location and pastor.
  2. Recognize and develop spiritual resources to discern and carry a vision (formerly carried by matriarch/patriarch and/or pastor).
  3. Identify and equip persons who are able to carry the gate-keeping/hospitality function
  4. Shed stuff (staff, property, programs, and practices) that interferes with their mission.
  5. Arrange for appropriate and affordable pastoral leadership
A Different Kind of Bread - Changed Pastoral Relationships
Downsizing Pastorl Terms of Call
Let's Do the Numbers
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