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Not Prince Hamlet

"Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse."

Insights from The Internet: Smaller Is Better?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Church of the Customer links to a whitepaper today that says that, in the world of online communities, the fewer the participants the greater the contribution of those participants. Communispace, a company that specializes in creating online communities for companies around certain products, studied 66 different private online communities (totaling over 26,000 participants) and found that roughly 86 % of people who logged on to online communities with an average size of 300-500 participants contributed content to the site.

So the smaller the community, the more its member actually participate in it.

NPH wants to pursue this insight into the emerging online space a little bit. What might this say to the "declining" brick-and-mortar space of the small church? Most people in small churches would probably agree that there's a relationship between the intimacy of a community and its activism; when you know most of the people in your church by name, you're more likely to join with them to get stuff done. Paid staff can't be relied on to do as much as in a "large" church, so the members themselves contribute a lot of content, to put it one way.

But what more is there here? What actually constitutes "small" in the world of churches? In the world of online communities small is 300-500 members, which is no doubt a "large" church.

And what does "contributing content" look like in a congregation? Volunteering? Leading worship? Teaching a Bible study? Bringing a casserole to the pot luck?

There's a good conversation to be had here, one that lifts up the virtue of smallness when it comes to the church's task of cultivating community.
posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 6:12 AM

2 Comments:

I think this is, if anything, a great thought for the need to nurture small groups in one's community of faith.

Malcolm Gladwell wrote about this in one of his books, but, after a certain point, everyone is assuming that everyone else is taking care of it.

To place (or encourage, if you will) people in a small group setting that is responsible for discerning and activating some sort of experience/content/etc might help us activate a larger percentage of the community.
And yet most of the research on small groups finds that they don't really work to do what they're supposed to do. They don't really nurture Christian community.

There's also something here about the presumption that "intimacy" is the end and goal of Christian experience, either intimacy with Jesus or intimacy with other Christians. Do you trade the sense of a larger "public" in a smaller, more "intimate" church?
commented by Blogger Not Prince Hamlet, 9:38 AM  

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