Mann, The In-Between Church

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Alice Mann, The In-Between Church: Navigating Size Transitions. Alban, 1998.

Referenced in: Church Leadership – Size Dynamics and Transitions

LifeandLeadership Summary

This is one of Alban Institute’s contributions to the issue of congregational size transitions. Other volumes include the anthology edited by Beth Ann Gaede, Size Transitions in Congregations, and Alice Mann’s more focused look at one of the more difficult size transitions, i.e. from pastoral (50-150) to program (151-400), in Raising the Roof: The Pastoral-to-Program Size Transition. Alban’s materials on this subject are more useful for smaller or mid-size churches that are experiencing transition.

In this volume, Mann uses Arlin Rothauge’s classic church size typologies of family (1-50), pastoral (51-150), program (151-350), and corporation (351+). She recognizes the limitations of this framework, but still believes “these are the attendance levels at which a church will probably get stuck unless it undergoes a change in form.” (2) In the transition between these stages, “the potential for gradual change runs out and a whole new form is required if the church is to move fully into the next size.” (3) She adds that “churches almost always encounter difficulties when they arrive at a step – the boundary between one size and the next – because the culture of the congregation is in flux. Formal and informal relationships are being reshaped; key structures and processes are changing.” (4) Reaching these size plateaus unsettles congregational life, creating confusion because “one pattern of interaction has run its course, but a new one has not yet emerged.” (8)

To address this, Mann describes the numerical and behavioral clues that indicate if a congregation is “bumping its head on the glass ceiling of size plateau” (8) and guides congregations through the transitional issues. Written in a group-friendly format, each brief chapter presents a manageable description of transition realities, followed by biblical reflections and application exercises. Chapters address questions: Are we facing a size transition? What happens between sizes? (identical to chapter 3 in Gaede, Size Transitions in Congregations). Should we be growing? Why make the sacrifice? Should we add a new worship service? Should we add staff? What will it take to make the change? The chapter by Roy Oswald, “How to minister effectively in family, pastoral, program, and corporate size churches” is identical to chapter 2 from Gaede, Size Transitions in Congregations.

This is an excellent first-level guide for church staffs or leader groups in congregations facing size transitions in smaller churches.

From the Publisher

Alban Senior Consultant Mann draws on her lengthy experience in helping congregations deal with the hurdles and anxieties of expansion or contraction in size. Often, congregations experiencing size change do not recognize the need to change culture and form as part of the successful adaptation process. Mann details the adjustments in attitude-as well as practice-that are necessary to support successful size change.

About the Author

Before joining the staff of the Alban Institute, Alice Mann served for two decades in the dual roles of local pastor and nationally recognized consultant-trainer in the field of parish development, with emphasis on incorporating new members; redeveloping struggling congregations; defining judicatory roles in growth and revitalization; breaking through size plateaus; and deepening parish spirituality. She frequently assists churches with self-assessment, long-range planning, and the development of context-sensitive strategies for growth. In training workshops and planning retreats, Alice engages large and small groups in practical learning and candid conversation about the choices church leaders face today.

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