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Swarm, Part 2


In the UU Growth Lab on Facebook this past week, there was a bit of a conversation about the implications of Dan Harper’s post, “Neocortex size as a constraint on group size in primates.” Basically, the size of our neocortex means that we can keep track of the relationships in a group of up to 150 members.

What does a congregation do when it gets larger than 150 active members?

I’ve been interested for some time in a model that looks something like mitosis.  One cell, then two cells, four cells, etc., all networked together.

When I learned about the process of bees swarming, that added a new possibility.

I had assumed that the leadership of a congregation would stay put, and be generally supportive of the new spin-off congregations.

But what if the leadership and 60% of the congregation left in search of a new home, leaving the infrastructure of the congregation (including the building) to the remaining 40%.  Would new leadership emerge in the smaller group?  Would the larger group find a new home and flourish there?


4 thoughts on “Swarm, Part 2

  1. I think one of the definitive essays on UU growth was written by Thom Belote back in 2003 or so. Read it here. He suggests that splitting churches to found new ones is about the only way that we will grow.

  2. In my early work with small group ministry I used that approach to grow and divide groups. I was clear up front that the goal was to make room in our groups for more people. I was explicit that I would be mentoring others to take over the original group and that I’d start a new group with those on our waiting list. We grew from the one group I was leading to three groups over the course of 18 months with the three groups having larger potlucks and social events together. A huge success. Easy to replicate given a few strong leaders. That’s a group example. Love to see it on the congregational scale. Lab church anyone?

    • It makes so much sense to me that those with the most leadership experience should venture forth into the unknown. Glad to hear of someone using that model. Maybe I’ll poke around on your blog & look for what you’ve written about your work with SGM.

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