May 10, 2005 | 4 Comments

I thought this paragraph from Urban Tribes was worth noting:

History had proven, apparently, that this social bond dramatically diminished when individual fighting units exceeded 150 men. The 150 figure was not an optimal size of human groups, but rather the maximum size of human groups — the point just before, as Dunbar put it, “complete social collapse.” The optimal size of a human group would some something less than 150 and would vary depending on the demands of the particular environment and needs of group members.

What does this mean for a local community of Jesus followers?

  • It is interesting to see that and how it tends to play out wherever you are.

    I just heard again recently about how Jesus himself had the inner circle of three, then the 12, then the 72 and then the hundred and twenty something or other followers.

    We as humans only have the capacity to genuinely connect with a few people, after that it’s just down hill.

    Doing life deep with others is hard and requires vulnerablity…It’s seems only a few, only in groups made of a few will ever truly experience this. That is exactly why it is so precious and makes us stick it out and hold on through the tough times. These are times which inevitably causes us to grow, hopefully, more into the character of Christ.

    (I hope you can track my thought here…)

  • I think it says a lot, but most are afriad afraid to say it. I know for me, coming from a megachurch background I dont want to read into it too much. I love the big groups, I even go to a church that is fairly large, mainly so I can slip in and out unnoticed.

    I read a story once about a church plant, the head minister said that he was able to keep up personally with everyone in the church until it reached about 120 members. it was at that point that he found it hard to do.

    Interesting indeed.

  • The modern church growth movement has understood that Sunday morning worship, although important, isn’t want keeps people coming. Every mega-church breaks into smaller groups at some point that fits the 150 max your book talks about. For instance, Thom Rainer writes about the effectiveness of Sunday School. Rick Warren says it is about the small home groups.
    The postmodern church is addressing the same concept in other ways. Natural Church Development talks about the importance of reproducible structures. Bee hives can be massive, but they are all built on the concept of the honey comb building blocks. Each individual cell contains all the structure it needs to support itself and help support surrounding cells.
    Every church will always have people who only attend worship without developing relationships or taking advantage of other programs a church has to offer. But real church growth needs to be understood relationally. Mentoring and being mentored are part of the natural cycle of life that most seek from a faith community. Growth is a matter of being able to share the load in meaningful ways–whether through staff or well trained volunteers.

  • Ron,
    Thanks for commenting and welcome to the site. I’ve heard a lot of about Naturual Church Development…I need to get a copy of that.