Reblog: Ambiguity tolerance and church size

In general, small churches (30-90) and especially church-plants, are filled with people who have a high tolerance to ambiguity. You can tell by the very fact they’re at a small church plant. That means they would have had to pluck up the courage to go to a strange venue, with an unclear expectation of what was going to happen and what they’d be asked to do.

But as church grows, people start coming because they’ve heard about it 5-10 times, and they’ve been explained what happens 2-3 times, and they’ve got a reasonably clear idea that they’ll sit, listen, and leave in about 1.5hrs. They took a huge risk in coming to your church because they can’t stand ambiguity. They hate trying new things.

How are you going to love the 50% of people in your church who have a low-tolerance to ambiguity? Let them find their own way into a small group? Let them approach you to meet you? Wait for them to ask you about all the things they don’t understand?

Clarity about your church’s assumptions isn’t just for your sake, it’s also just loving for the people who get freaked out by ambiguity.

Solve or manage? What type of tension are you dealing with?

There’s only two things you can do when you face a tension; a situation when you are faced with two good things and you can’t easily do both they way you’d like to.

You can either solve the tension or manage the tension.

Solving the tension means coming up with a simple solution. It usually ends with all parties agreeing they they will loose something they think is important. It often looks like a “policy” eg; “we will give twice as much to mission as we do to maturity, financially, time, effort, prayer, etc”. It attempts to have the conversation once, get it all clear for everyone involved, and free people up to get it done, so they don’t waste time having to keep hashing it out to see who gets what, and never getting anything done.

A tension to manage, however, is the opposite. It’s about not having a policy and keeping the two principles always on the table. It means that no one is ever satisfied. It’s choose to live with dissatisfaction on both sides. It’s choosing to always want both sides of the tension to be perfect. It’s a decision to have conversation after conversations and verge on arguments again and again. Yes, you will need to make a decision and it will fall on one side it the other, but that’s just that time, next time it might fall the other way.

I reckon almost all the Christian life is a tension to manage. Now but not yet, sinners and saints, mission and maturity, work and rest, duty and awe, respect of outsiders and being a fool for Christ.

I wonder what that says about God?

Why is it working?

Is something your running working well? Is your church growing? Are people coming along? Are people growing?

Don’t be too quick to assume its your amazing programs. Don’t be too quick to claim that God is blessing you specially.

Sometimes, things just work for a certain group of people. Churches grow at 5% per year because their suburb is growing at 10% per year. Maybe people just like your style. Maybe the time your running works better for people.

Don’t be too quick to over-spiritualise growth. Certainly God’s hand is at work, but it could just simply be through the the basic principles of the world he’s created.