Church, Size, and the Rule of 10


15/01/2016 by Chris Green

20130911-111146.jpg We all get stuck trying to think creatively and clearly about a church or ministry. Imagining new stuff is hard, improving old stuff a bit easier, but staying in a rut is the default option.

One exercise I use is called ‘The Rule of 10’, and it’s dead simple and really helpful.

Just draw three columns on a pad. The middle column represents your present situation in your home group, children’s ministry, church, or whatever you’re currently thinking about.

Us /10
Now pay attention to the left-hand column, and ask yourself, ‘if we were ten times smaller than we are, what would we value?’ So a church ten times smaller than yours might value the fact that everyone knows everyone, that when you’re absent, you’re missed, and that everyone gets to play a valuable part. You’re all crew, no one’s a passenger. You can think of others.

Bring those ideas across to the middle column. Those might well be good values that you don’t express so well in your current size – so how can you address them without shrinking back? How could you access the benefits of being ten times smaller than you are? How can you stop folk from feeling nostalgic for the good days when things were smaller and simpler? What do they miss?

Stay on the left- hand side. What would be the values that would stop a church like that from growing? Isolationism, perhaps. Divisiveness. Now bring those across. Can you see any trace of them in your current scale? Because those habits will drag you backwards and down.

Us x10
You know what to do on the right-hand side now: how would you behave together if you were ten times larger? You’d probably pay greater attention to planning, and communication. You’d be used to having a bigger crowd there, so you’d make sure that the teaching was excellent, the systems on things like child-safety were watertight, you’d have high standards for volunteers (and they would of each other, and you), and there might be more staff.

So how can you learn from that list now? I’m not saying that if you do those things you can or should grow – I’m saying look at the areas where larger churches have to do things much better than you because of their size, and watch and learn. Bring them into the middle column.

Then, what are their problems and headaches? And avoid them like the plague.

That exercise is often all I need to get the creative juices flowing

  • Let’s take an example, and try this: say you’re planning a church weekend away, and you’ve got around 100 people booked.
    How would you spend the weekend if there were just 10 of you? Could you build any elements of that into your programme?
    Or, what if you were 1000, on a Christian holiday? What would need to happen behind the scenes to make sure that it runs smoothly?

Have a go, and share your thoughts below.



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2 thoughts on “Church, Size, and the Rule of 10

  1. Um, if my churches were 10 times smaller I’d have 1 and 3 people 😉 Think I might have to work with the right column!

    • Chris Green says:

      No – that’s the point, but I didn’t want to extend the post. If there’s only one person you really would be missed if you didn’t turn up! You,d also have to turn your hand to all sorts of different things you weren’t gifted at in order for church to happen, AND you’d have to make a real effort to ensure that church wasn’t just for people like you. It’s a tool, not a prediction!

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