As a community of believers grows, its needs new leaders raised up to handle the increased ministry needs. This is true for churches that handle growth by multiplying into new locations and for churches that keep their growth in one location.

It is the story of Acts 6:1-7. The early church was a time of growth where 5,000 men could find Christ from just one sermon (Acts 4:4). Yet we see in chapter 6, that the Greek-speaking Jewish widows became lost in the bustle of growth and were neglected. Seven men of good reputation and spiritual maturity were chosen to meet that need.

Unfortunately, raising up volunteers isn’t easy. It’s hard work. And to have Acts 6 quality volunteers takes a culture well-equipped at discipleship and cultivating spiritual maturity long before being appointed to serve.

Volunteer Challenges Based on Church Size

The benefit of house churches (<25 people ideally) is they have no need for volunteers to run major equipment, maintain facilities, or manage ministry operations. What volunteer needs do exist tend to happen naturally, such as greeting newcomers and watching kids.

But as a church grows, even a house church, the need for volunteers and structure increases as the ease of relationships decreases.

For example, it is said that the quality of community intimacy declines after a house church exceeds 25 people. At this size, it is less likely for everyone to take part and more difficult to know each other deeply. At around 100-230 people, we experience Dunbar’s number – our cognitive limit of being able to know who everyone is and how they relate to each other. This is a medium-sized church (51-300) that still has some relational agility but still needs structure to meet all ministry needs and appoint believers according to their gifts.

Large churches (301-1,999) often undergo intense growing pains as they learn they can no longer know everyone. It is at this size and above that we more commonly see volunteer mistakes, such as:

  • not communicating volunteer opportunities
  • lack of clear leadership
  • lack of leadership training
  • lack of accountability
  • lack of volunteer appreciation
  • haphazardly appointing volunteers (lack of necessary spiritual maturity, abilities, etc.)

By the time a church grows to be a megachurch (2,000-9,999) or gigachurch (10,000+), they’ve usually figured out structure and now must work even harder at relationships and love. If left to itself, structure and management become cold and sterile. You can’t systematize love and relationships; trying just seems artificial and disingenuous. It is a weird tension because you need structure, but true love is sloppy. This is non-negotiable. It doesn’t matter how structured and high performance you are, if you don’t have love, it is in vain (1 Corinthians 13).

So each stage comes with its own challenges. Regardless of what size you’re at, download ACTIVE Faith’s free ebook and think through if there is anything that your church needs to change.

Download: How to Maximize Church Volunteers (PDF)


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