Size Theory

The size of the organization affects how it can function.  Groups of all kinds – not just Ethical Societies — have some predictable patterns for how size affects how they organize.  You may be familiar with the classic story of the small family business which, as it grows, is no longer able to function in the same way; not-for-profits and communities also have similar issues.  With growth, communication needs to be organized differently because everyone no longer knows everyone. In a very small society, one person can take care of a task area — in fact, often has to, because there aren’t a lot of people.  In a very large society, committees, subcommittees and staff divide responsibilities and have interconnections.

Decades of studies of congregational life — or rather, of human behavior within communities of meaning and purpose — have come up with descriptions of  not only how different sizes of congregations function, but what has to change to grow to the next size.  If the organization does not re-organize and re-orient as it grows to a new size, something will happen to cause the growth to be lost.  This might show up as a conflict, as a budget crisis, as a crisis in how many volunteers there are to take care of increased needs, or people leaving from burnout or not being able to find a role or not having a clearly-defined role  or just feeling “I don’t have a way to know everyone.”

Large congregations can also organize well to be friendly and inclusive; small congregations can learn to handle behavior issues that are hard to escape from in a small group.

More on size theory:

From Great Expectations: