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.

Numbers change communication

When church is 30-60 people, your primary communication channel is word-of-mouth; you can get around to most people in a week, and the other will hear about it soon enough. Any ads up the front, or video-ads are purely secondary to that word-of-mouth.

When church is 120-200 people (and all the more as you grow), your primary communication channel is up-front ads, videos, etc. But what’s often forgotten is that word-of-mouth becomes a purely secondary method. What was once primary simply becomes unreliable.

It’s nice when it does happen, but you can’t rely on it.