I think this captures the experience of many many churches I know:
Overgrown Small Church Style
The Plateau Church is an interesting church size. These churches are often called "Medium-sized" churches and have between ninety and one hundred and sixty in average attendance. They are called "plateau" because they are in many ways stuck between being small membership and large membership churches.
Plateau churches are uncertain of their identity, because they are caught between the relationship focus of the small church and the activity focus of the larger church. Their pastor is often busy being a repairperson or a gardener. The pastor is always pulling weeds, because they grow as soon as the back is turned. There is always something to fix whether it be relationships or hardware. There are always many small fires to be put out. A Plateau Church is often beyond the work of one pastor, but there are rarely the funds for additional professional staff. Burn-out is common among clergy and lay leaders for they are afraid to walk away for a few minutes because some other fire will crop up to be put out! The lay people and leaders in these congregations need to learn how to throw water on fires instead of gasoline.
Another characteristic of the Plateau Church is the development of small groups. This is one of the areas that will help the church move toward an activity focus like the medium church. Some members want to be nurtured through small groups, while others will want to be nurtured by personal pastoral care. Some want both! These churches often vacillate between the personal pastoral care and the activity focus. They will move upward or downward (neither is good or bad) on the type of church they are based on the focus (relationship or activity) of the day. They have a common problem that has to do with a growth barrier. They grow, hit the barrier and fall back again and again. They become larger than one person can handle for pastoral care and soon someone feels "not cared for" and average attendance drops back to a comfortable place for one-person-pastoral care. This will happen repeatedly over a period of years. People are aware of it but usually can not explain it.
Nicknames for these churches are Garden or House. There is always something to do, whether weeding or dusting and the work never really seems to get done!
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