Does 1 Size Really Fit All?
Recently, I came across this article at BuzzFeed. Five women with different body types tried on clothing from a retailer that sells only one size. Their market is teen and young adult women. In their stores, you find the following sign: One Size Fits Most. Per the article, when you order online "the size option is listed as 'fits size small/medium.'"
This is interesting given that the average woman in America weights 166 lbs., 5 feet 3 inches tall and has a waist of almost 38 inches (CDC). Of course, that is all women and not just the teen and young adult demographic. It's reasonable to assume that these women would be smaller given they are still developing, and many have not experienced child birth or the middle age spread. Still, one can't help but look at the pictures on BuzzFeed of young adult women and state the obvious, "Of course, one size does not fit all and probably not even most."
So, why is there a size "one size fits all" and stores that make that their focus?
Because it fits many. Because it's simpler. Because it works. Because it fills a need.
What a huge blessing to not have to worry about what size one is. What a treat to just consider if the item looks good and fits right on you. No trying to figure out if this shop or brand uses the same sizing chart as another store or brand. I imagine there is less waste when a band focuses on making only one size.
Yet, this doesn't work for all and many would argue with the idea that it even works for most.
What does this have to do with leadership? With church?
Don't Be a Grasshopper
Karl Vaters has written an excellent book on the idea of "one size fits all" when it comes to churches, pastors/leaders, and growth. The Grasshopper Myth: Big Churches, Small Churches and the Small Thinking that Divides Us is a quick and easy read that challenges us to reconsider many of the ideas in church growth that we have accepted as truth and reality for all. At the core of his book is what he calls the grasshopper myth. This is "the false impression that our Small Church ministry is less than what God say it is because we compare ourselves to others."
The idea is taken from Numbers 13 when the Israelites found themselves at the edge of the Promised Land. Spies were sent out to inspect the land. They discovered that it was indeed a great land, everything and more that God had promised. They also discovered there were giants in the land. These giants made them look and feel like grasshoppers. That small realization — their size in comparison to the people in the land — made them forget the God they were following and His plan for them. His plan was not for them to be giants or even giant-conquering people, but to be his chosen people displaying his image to the world.
As a daughter of small church pastors (and I do mean small, as in 50 or less), I found this book a refreshing read. For too long and too often, small churches and those that lead them have faced challenges often not addressed by leadership and church growth conferences. Their contributions and assets have been overlooked and made to feel insignificant or less than because of their size.
I also know, as a former staff member and continuing member of a church of almost 3,000, that larger churches are often accused of things that are not true. They only care about the numbers. They only want your money. They are just building a name for themselves. They have no depth. They just want to please people. They water down the Word of God. This is what I appreciate most about Karl Vaters’ book. While he offers valid critiques of the church growth movement and points out the weaknesses of larger churches and the benefits of small churches, his tone is not hostile nor does he pretend that being smaller is better or the answer for what plagues the church.
His thesis might be summed up when he says, "Let's stop arguing about which size is best, and start seeing what's best about each size." To continue with our clothing analogy, let's figure out your body type and dress you not in the clothes the girl has on next door, but in the clothes that fit you and enhance your best attributes while being beneficial to your day's activities.
The Book Fits All
This is a book I would recommend to those starting out or leading a smaller sized ministry. However, this is a book that every leader in ministry should read, even those leading a large ministry or church.
Karl Vaters' offers some challenges and questions that all leaders must ask themselves if they desire to be successful. These challenges and questions not only help a newer leader or smaller ministry thrive but provide veteran leaders and larger organizations the opportunity for course correction and greater focus on their strengths.
What are these key challenges and questions?
- One size does not fit all, and that's a good thing.
- Principles are universal; strategy, plans, approaches, and events are not.
- Growth and health are not always the same thing.
- Growth and the Church are bigger than your local church.
Over the next few weeks I'll unpack a little bit more about these ideas, and I hope you'll come back and consider how they apply to your context. In the meantime, pick up a copy of Grasshopper Myth. Find someone to read it with you; it has a discussion guide included.