Friday, November 20, 2009

68. Dunbars Number and Intimacy in Community

Ever thought to take a step back and look at your social network from a numerical stand point? The diagram below groups people into various numerical segments. With the technology of facebook, twitter, and all the social networking tools out there, the number of friends eventually blends into the number of acquaintances. The question is, just how many friends can you have? I know for myself I love having a lot of friends. y wife on the other hand is more of a smaller cluster of friends type person. I am an extrovert and she is an introvert.

Seth Godin in his blog highlights the curious, but intuitively accurate concept of Dunbars Number. I think there is something to be said for larger gatherings. However, we must ask our selves, Whats the Point? If we are supposed to be making disciples, and this involves cultivating authentic relationships, why would we want to go any higher than 150 people?

It is a proven fact that any larger than this leads to the breakdown of the collective interpersonal capacities of the people in the tribe. I think a lot of churches settle for ambient intimacy and try to cultivate true intimacy in their small group ministries. I think the idea of Missional Orders being at the 5-15 level, Missional Villages at 15-35 and Missional Tribes being at the 35-150 mark is a good place to start on how to organize an organic simple church network. I would personally love to have a group of 150 people to hang out with once a month and synergize for the Kingdom. God willing, we will multiply our small missional band/order into a group this size. But the goal is transformation of people into the image of God and mission.


The Feral Pastor said...

For me, the critical point in this is not what's lost when you get past 150 but what's lost when you get past 5. Christian community is often characterized in terms of the "one-anothers" - love, admonish, care for, bear with and so on. These things are essentially impossible in any large group setting. Yet they are essential both for making disciples, and for growing disciples. The standard congregational paradigm is to concentrate on the large group expression (i.e. Sunday worship) and then try and get people into some kind of relational groups on top of that. Large group is the cake, small group the icing. That's backwards. But what you describe - growing your small group through multiplication until you can have 150 or so to gather monthly - seems right on target to me. Blessings on that & thanks for lifting up the Dunbar Number material!


Planter said...

Hey tim,

I notice you are into starting small missional communties on you site. Care to have any conversations about that sometime? Share some ideas and stories?


The Feral Pastor said...

Well, hoping to start, anyways. ;) I'd love to talk! I'll give you a ring.