“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”
Many of my ideas are applications of research and findings documented in a work by Malcolm Gladwell titled David and Goliath – Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants. Jesus directed me to that book when I was wanting advice on protecting myself from evil influences. The first chapter, which was about playing aggressive defense, gave me some good pointers.
The next chapter, however, addresses an issue of a different nature: misconceptions about the correlation between class size and education quality. (In fact, the book is more about misconceptions than it is about battling giants.) What Gladwell says about class size sheds amazing light on why certain churches are successful (truly helpful; facilitating the inspiration of the Holy Spirit; and directing people toward an ever-closer relationship with God)…and why others are not. Maxwell’s research revealed that despite the common misconception that the smaller the class, the more effective the educational experience, there is actually a critical mass necessary for a successful class of adolescent to teen-age students. (I will leave as an exercise for the student to look up why.) I will suggest that the same is true for effective BiaFoC Collectives (Believers in and Followers of Christ in Collective).
Mega-churches, by definition, are so big that for logistics sake, the people are separated into groups. Those groups are usually defined by common characteristics: age, marital status, with family (or not). The issues addressed within those groups naturally pertain to (read: are of interest for) those groups. For example, adolescent-age groups often address bullying; high school groups address peer-pressure, sexual morality, movies, music, etc. but bullying, not so much. Single mothers address child support, discipline, parent-teacher conferences, child psychology. Elderly couples address wellness, senility, travel, living on a fixed income, and death.. Young families address balancing work and family, budgeting, finding time for faith, finding time for each other.
In a mega-church, such groups (which I will call “Collective Subsets”) can have a critical mass of BiaFoCs which engenders good back-and-forth discussion, ‘teaching and learning,’ and moral support. In a smaller church, typically all adults are lumped into one class and half are bored; the other half are asleep. If not, there are so few BiaFoCs in the group that no one speaks up…or only one, and that was usually me. I am sure to you pastors and Christian educators, this is not news. But I have a solution for those of you interested in starting fresh or willing to try something innovative: Divide and Pair Up.
Divide into the Collective Subsets and then Pair Up, on occasion. For example, every month or so, have the Senior men meet with the Young Professionals to help with advice on starting a business, integrity, and finding time for God. Have the Mature or Retired Couples meet with the Young Families to help them manage budgets, DIY projects, prepare for parenting and discipline challenges, and occasionally take the kids for an afternoon. Have the Elderly Couples meet with Teenagers to discuss morality issues, spiritual development and challenges, education and career choices, or plan trips together. (Teenagers can usually talk with their Grandparents when they cannot talk with their parents.) Young singles can meet with the Elderly Singles to see if they can join forces in running errands, making small repairs, going to plays and concerts, putting together a foursome for bridge. The Teenagers can run a free Summer Day Care for Young Families and Single Mothers to take advantage of. Grandmothers can pair off with Single Mothers to give parenting advice, emotional support (proof that one does not die of single parenting), and a shoulder to cry on.
In the typical medium sized church, there is usually one or two single moms who are going under for the third time; no one notices when they stop coming to church. The Elderly feel irrelevant…in spite of their wealth of wisdom and experience; they have a knowledge of spirituality unimagined by the Teenagers. Mainline denominations probably have rules against combining congregations to facilitate a critical mass. Would one Collective consider focusing on only two or three Subsets and the Collective on the other side of town focusing on another two or three? How about a Collective for the Single Mothers of a community or town?
These are just some thoughts….
Next time, I will present the BiaFoC Inverted U…or finding and keeping the right balance of hardships and blessings.
(Note: some feel it is too late for fixing churches. In case it is not, I will continue to pass along what I have been shown. I would like to add that the main reason for critical masses and like-situated groups of people is that the Struggling Christian needs to be with enough people with the same questions, wrestling with the same issues, and worrying about the same things so tht they do not feel isolated and alone…to know that they are normal.)