15 October 2012

Groups of sixty to eighty

< Groups of six to twenty | Index | Dunbar and 130-160 >

Groups of around seventy are good for workshops, perhaps with an invited speaker or a small team. It's an excellent number for training and for networking, but much too large for deeper, family-like relationship.

A group of around seventy
Numbers larger than twenty lose the sense of family. Although it's possible to know everyone in a group this size, it's not possible to be intimate with so many.

This is too large a number for a circle, most likely there will be rows of seating and an area at the front for speakers.

But there are ways in which such groups are rather useful. It's a good size for training purposes with one person or a small team presenting material and opportunities to ask questions. A group this size can also divide up to discuss aspects of what has been presented or to develop answers to questions.

It's unlikely that groups this size will meet regularly; they are more likely to be called or invited to meet for a specific purpose and then disband. Think in terms of workshops with a well-regarded invited speaker. These may be one-off occasions, or they may be annual events, but they are certainly not weekly and the expectation is that the people composing the group will be different every time. Because of this, such meetings are often good opportunities to meet new people, some of whom may become long term contacts or even close friends. This networking aspect is a valuable feature of groups this size and above.

The main exception to this will be a small, conventional church where the size is not a deliberate choice. Many, if not most, conventional churches are keen to increase the size of their meetings by drawing in additional members. Growth in numbers is often regarded as evidence of success. A size of sixty to eighty is rarely intentional, it's seen merely a point to pass through on the way to greater things.

Even in the time of Moses, seventy was a number for a particular purpose (Numbers 11:16). The elders would no doubt have taken back what they heard to share more widely with the entire community. But it's only fair to add that seventy was also a symbolic number in ancient Israel.

Jesus selected a group of seventy-two followers for a specific task (Luke 10:1-2). He sent them out in pairs and on their return they may well have talked together about their experiences. However, this was not a group called to meet, but a group called to go out.

In the early church, groups of sixty to eighty may have met from time to time, either on a city-wide basis or when delegates met regionally to share information and pray together.

Expect to be part of a group of this size from time to time, usually with a defined and specific function. But don't expect to settle in a group of sixty to eighty regularly, it's more effective to meet in groups of twenty or fewer where there's scope for family-like intimacy and close friendship.

  • Have you been involved in meetings of this size?
  • How many of the other people do you know well?
  • Was the meeting led from the front? Were there break-out sessions? If so, did these seem more personal than the main meeting?
  • If you meet regularly in a group this size is there an intention to grow larger? Why?

< Groups of six to twenty | Index | Dunbar and 130-160 >

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