Those who are not optimized for growth have made the choice to surrender a transformative influence in society. At the same time, how big one grows depends on the overall aim. Each level of doubling may require an entirely different strategy than the one previous. Let’s consider the following:
1. Start with 1 person. Just starting is hard enough.
2. Double to 2: you have a compatriot. This first doubling could potentially be the most difficult, since you’re looking for someone that you will work closely with. This is a choice of personal alignment on goals, whereas doubling from 100,000 to 200,000 people is more a growth optimization problem.
3. Double to 4: you have a team. Many small businesses and entrepreneurial startups never grow bigger than this stage. Note how Instagram, for example, kept their team very small; most of the time it was about 4 people. Out of 6 million companies in the United States with employees, over half (3.6 million) had 4 employees or less.
4. Double to 8: you have a larger team. Another million companies max out here (so, out of 6 million, 4.6 million have less than 10 employees). If you are seeking growth beyond this level, then what you’re growing is either (a) manpower for a large company, government, military, etc., or (b) followers or users of your platform. At this point in some countries, you have to split, because people aren’t allowed to congregate in large groups.
5. Double to 16: you have a small group. Most church small groups will be on the order of 10 to 12 people; after that, churches talk about splitting. There’s a reason: A group of 16 is about the maximum according to Dunbar’s Number for a small tribe. The intimacy of friendship and personal relationship is lost when the group is much larger than 12. A lot of small groups top out here, because they never undertake what’s necessary to turn group members into group leaders.
6. Double to 32: you have a mother/daughter pair of small groups. With ~30 people, you’re talking about a larger retail firm or a growing church. Many churches in small rural areas will be about this size, or one stage bigger. Or, you could be talking about a network, a club, or an association. Leadership structures become important here, because you have relationships between a pair of groups; you’ve multiplied into more than one group, and you could do it again–if the first time succeeds.
7. Double to 64: you have a multihouse church. In many rural regions, a church will struggle to get bigger than this due to competition with other churches. This size is the max size for many mission agencies, too. At this point you’re probably seeing 2nd or 3rd generation growth. You’re starting to think, perhaps, about a building, and what you decide now can limit just how many doubles you can do.
8. Double to 128: you have a church in a school facility? In this range, you’re thinking more about a corporate entity that requires some staff (part-time or full-time) to operate, or else a voluntary grouping of people for which the organization is a platform.
9. Double to 256: you are bigger than the average church in America. Right around the average church size in America (~200). *Note: *consider the case of Bethlehem Baptist (Piper) which had about 300 people in 1980. After it began focusing on missions, it began to grow, and in 10 years doubled and nearly doubled again. Many churches operate at this level with a bi-vocational pastor.
10. Double to 512: you are a multi-service Sunday. This is about the point where, if you are a single congregation, you might be looking for a new building in order to double again to 1,000. You’ve “broke the 400 barrier” and may be thinking about what it takes to become a megachurch. The decisions that get you to a megachurch size could limit you from being a movement of 100,000 or more.
11. Double to 1,000: Kevin Kelly’s “1,000 true fans” idea puts most artists aiming for this level: 1,000 clients who each buy $100 worth of product or service from you in a given year is a $100,000 business per year. Most churches at this level have full time staff and multiple pastors (senior, youth, administrative, etc).
12. Double to 2,000: you are now on the megachurch list (over 2,000 members). Many churches never reach this level because the population of their towns doesn’t permit it. Only churches in specific population concentrations can.
13. Double to 4,000: you are in the upper half of the US megachurch list. The church has to be in a fairly large urban area to easily accomplish this.
14. Double to 8,000: you are close to the tip-top of the megachurch list.
15. Double to 16,000: Breaking 10,000 members–many of these churches are outside the United States. Only 23 churches in the USA are bigger than you.
16. Double to 32,000: you are bigger than any church in California except Osteen’s Lakewood Church (43,500 members).
17. Double to 64,000: you are the largest church in America. You are also larger than most USA cities, which means you really have to be in a megacity.
18. Double to 128,000: you are a quasi-denominational network.
19. Double to 256,000: you are a quasi-denominational network.
20. Double to 512,000: you are vying for the title of largest church in the world (if you are a single congregation).
21. Double to 1 million: you have more members than most cities have people.
22. Double to 2 million: larger than many denominations.
23. Double to 4 million: you have more people than half of the states of the United States.
24. Double to 8 million: members, more than 40 of the states of the United States.
25. Double to 16 million members, and would compare to the top 4 states of the USA.
26. Double to 32 million: Only California is bigger.
27. Double: Over 64 million members. What Robert Scoble called “winning the doubling lottery.” Saddleback went from 0 to 20,000 in ~32 years. Facebook went from 0 to 100 million in 4 years–and then in the next 4 years, it went from 100 million to 1 billion. How fast are you doubling? Are you even measuring your doubling time?