This past weekend, the vestry held its annual retreat at the Episcopal retreat center in Rehoboth, MD. In addition to getting to know one another as a new team and enjoying each other’s company, the vestry engaged in very intentional strategic conversation around how to best support St. John’s in its transition from a medium to a large-size congregation.
The guiding text for our work was the book “Inside the Large Congregation” by church consultant Susan Beaumont. Having attended a workshop led by Beaumont last Fall, the vestry continued its work in exploring the key elements necessary for a church of our size to thrive.
Beaumont identifies four categories of large churches based on Sunday attendance and annual budget:
- The Multi-Celled Church: 250-400 attendees each Sunday, $400K – $1M annual budget
- The Professional Church: 400-800 attendees, $1M – $2M budget
- The Strategic Church: 800-1,200 attendees, $2M – $4M budget
- The Matrix Church: 1,200-1,800 attendees, over $4M budget
Each of these size categories, according to Beaumont, requires a different type of leadership system – from clergy roles, staff team design, and vestry function, to new member acculturation and how strategy is formed and executed.
With close to 500 worshipers each Sunday and a budget of $1.2 million, St. John’s falls clearly within the “Professional Church” category. The name is derived from the observation that once a church reaches this size, “most of its behavior,” as Beaumont describes, “is driven by the need to professionalize operations.” Being on the cusp of this shift in size – from “Multi-Cell” to “Professional” – it is crucial, as Beaumont explains, that a church like St. John’s intentionally and strategically adapts its leadership system to support the dynamics of its size.
This weekend the vestry spent time identifying those areas of our church’s leadership system that are still operating within a smaller church framework and are beginning to cause some stress on our institution. One clear area that was identified as necessary to accommodate our larger size parish is increasing the number of staff we have.
The discussions at the retreat were fruitful and strategic. The vestry looks forward to continuing the conversation at our next vestry meeting, which will be held on Tuesday, May 23 at 8pm in the lounge. As always, this is an open meeting for anyone who would like to attend.
Grace and Peace,