Beaumont, Inside the Large Congregation

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Susan Beaumont, Inside the Large Congregation, Alban Institute, 2011.

Referenced in: Church Size Dynamics Summary

This is an insightful text based on the author’s research and consultations on the major systems at work in large congregations, and how each functions and changes for a church to be effective in its size, and to successfully navigate the transition zones in moving from one congregational orientiation to another.  Note that the first “large” church she discusses is the “Professional Church” or “emerging large church” that ranges from 400-800 in attendance, so it applies to more churches than a reader might suspect. It differs from other books of this genre (e.g. McIntosh, Next Level) in that while it “explores organizational and leadership dynamics that may prevent health and growth from happening…it does not advocate for numerical growth or predict when growth will happen.” She adds, “This book does not assume that large is better than mid-sized or small; it does assume that the large church functions dramatically differently from the megachurch, mid-sized, or small congregation.” It is a valuable tool in understanding the dynamics of large congregations.

Publisher’s Description

For five years, Alban Institute senior consultant Susan Beaumont has been giving voice to the organizational and leadership demands of large congregations. Through her work, she has identified five basic leadership systems that need to stay in alignment for the large church to function well for its size:

  1. Clergy leadership roles
  2. Staff team design and function
  3. Governance and board function
  4. Acculturation and the role of laity
  5. Forming and executing strategy

She has also learned that these five systems operate with some important but subtle distinctions in what Beaumont calls the professional church (400-800 in worship attendance), the strategic church (800-1,200), and the matrix church (1,200-2,000). Often, she has discovered, problems in a large congregation are related to the fact that one or more of the five systems is inappropriately structured for the size of the congregation. In other words, the church isn’t acting its size.

Beaumont is invested in helping large congregations “rightsize” their leadership systems to better serve their ministry context. This book articulates why size matters and how it matters in the world of large congregations. It is written for anyone who wants to better understand the leadership and organizational dynamics of the large church—anyone seeking to understand the challenges of leading from inside the large congregation.

About the Author

Susan Beaumont is a Senior Consultant with the Alban Institute. Susan’s practice specializes in the unique leadership dynamics of large congregations, particularly in the areas of staff team and board development, strategic planning, pastoral transition, and size transition. She is the coauthor of When Moses Meets Aaron: Staffing and Supervision in the Large Congregation. Susan is an ordained clergy leader in the American Baptist Churches, USA.

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