Understanding Your Church: Part 5 – The Mansion

Steve Petty
Written by Steve Petty


Those people who worship in a congregation of 225 to 450 are attending a church that represents only 9% of all churches nationally. Please take a moment to notice the bracket enlarged: Houses are 175 to 225 a bracket of only 50 attendees, Mansions double in breadth so the bracket is 225 wide.

Though it represents less than 10% of all churches nationwide over 25% of the people in church on a Sunday morning are worshiping in Mansions.

There are about as many churches in both brackets yet the Mansion is much broader. The reason is the Mansion is seen and understood as a large church. Its physical size may be imposing and mansion-like. People walking by may think, that’s just too big for them to ever walk in there. The mansion will require maps around the buildings to help people find their way to different rooms. It is much more likely that a person can be totally anonymous in the Mansion than in the House. In the House many long time members know and can name 80% of the membership. In the Mansion, most long time members would be lucky to identify 25%.

The Mansion has its many rooms, many staff, many ministries, small groups, outreach ministries, missions, musical groups, age level fellowships, and peripheral associations. Just keeping track of which group is meeting in which room is a big job. Maintaining the structure in readiness and cleanliness takes a small army of custodians and janitors.

People will gravitate to the Mansion because it can provide more programs which run at a higher degree of excellence than the House. The Mansion will have more resources to spend on its operations, ministry, productions, and outreach. In a Mansion more people will also attend anonymously, desiring only to fill pews on Sunday and remain uninvolved.

Operating the Mansion is very expensive, the building is expensive to maintain, the staff is expensive to pay, the programs are expensive to operate, the level of expectation is higher and the cost of meeting those expectations is higher. The staff of the Mansion is more highly trained and more vertically specific than the House. The Mansion could not run without its staff.

The Mansion is more likely to have more than one full time clergy on staff. The Sr. Pastor will be able to leverage his or her best talents into specific tasks to accomplish and split off those areas of weakness to associate pastors to pick up the slack. The Sr. Pastor of this size church will be personally attractive and charming, an effective communicator both in the pulpit and in leadership roles. This person may not know everyone in the church, but has the ability to make people feel the pastor’s personal care even when meeting strangers. As with the House, the Sr. Pastor will be an effective team leader, coordinator and communicator; someone who is happy to delegate authority with complete trust and never micro-manage or undercut the staff.

The pastor who manages a house wisely can grow that house, adding rooms and buildings, ministry and staff, until it becomes a Mansion. The same skills are needed in both size churches. The pastor who comes to a Mansion having never lead a House size church will have a steep learning curve. If a new pastor is unable to manifest the skill set required to lead the House and Mansion, the results can be devastating and rapid as the staff begins to create opportunities for internal fighting over diminishing resources. The key lay leaders watching this will either participate in the infighting or decide to quietly resign their positions and attend a more harmonious church elsewhere. When key staff and key lay leaders leave, the congregation quickly realizes that the church programs and ministries that fed them wonderfully in the past are no longer done with the same joy and quality. When they realize they are not being fed they will seek a better source and move on. Some will leave quietly, some will complain vociferously, some will try to blow up the Mansion before they leave. In all cases, the results are disastrous. It takes years to build a mansion to full operational strength. It takes very little time to destroy it. Once the Mansion has lost its full operational strength, it is almost impossible to rebuild, the mere weight of the building costs and staffing costs upon a diminished giving base simply crush all attempts to rebuild.

The major problem for a Mansion is growing to the next level. An average attendance of 400 to 450 seems to create a very firm ceiling that most churches are unable to break thru. New members may continue to join, but average attendance will level off and even decline if the leadership is not careful about its guidance and intentional about making the substantial changes necessary to become a Ranch.

Is your church a Mansion?

Steve Petty