Plan Your Church Split Now


Richard Branson heads a bizarrely global galactic branded house. You may have heard of it. It’s called Virgin.

In his book Business Stripped Bare, Branson describes Virgin’s forays into ventures as diverse as small Americana record labels, rail travel, telecommunications, and space travel. They’re all over the place.

Despite this, Branson has sought to keep small-company culture operating across Virgin’s gazillion sub-brands.


Picking Teams

When a typical Virgin company gets to 100 employees, Branson splits them into 2 companies. He gathers the senior executives and their deputies together, and what ensues reminds me of choosing teams for kickball in the schoolyard. They put together two new teams of 50 people. They promote from within. New executives often rise to leadership after beginning as coffee-fetchers or even janitors.

Resulting small companies even “compete” with one another in the sense that they’re sometimes going after a overlapping markets. Yet they share administrative resources and retain a sense of camaraderie as new ideas surface and cross-pollinate.

The small, intimate work culture keeps every Virgin company agile and innovative and allows for growth without allowing them to settle into the institutional predictableness that besets Big Companies.

Like a Virgin

Plan your church split.

Cell division is a bona fide reproductive method. Once you get beyond the capacity to exist as an extended family on mission, split. Once you distinguish that a new cluster of neighborhoods calls for a new sort of missional community, split. Once you begin to have more people with talent and character than can be deployed in pioneering ways, split.

Once you need a sound system to hear the person speaking, praying, or leading the music, split.

You can still get together and share resources, talk shop, celebrate, collaborate, and cross-pollinate. But if the Church is going to maintain its missional edge and its extended-family sense of community—two things that the post-Christian world needs to experience so desperately—you’ve got to face this unsettling, exciting challenge.

Like Branson, I think 100 is a nice round number. Maybe you’re still technically the same “church” by some official reckoning. But you’re 2 fresh start-ups operating with a fresh mission and fresh missionaries.

Plan your church split now.

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6 thoughts on “Plan Your Church Split Now

  1. Hold on. Whatever happened to “bigger is better”? “Like Branson, I think 100 is a nice round number.” You mean “100,000” right? If you split your church, then you will lose control. How will you ever published a book? How will you ever get invited to speak at the big, national pastor conferences? How will you ever engage in the incestuous back rubbing of endorsing a big name pastors’ book, only to have them turn around and endorse your book? Or speak at their conference, only to have them speak at yours? How will you ever travel the world to tell other churches in other countries how to do it your way? How will you ever get other people to download your sermons and critique their own pastors by your preaching style?

    You seem far too misguided on this post, brother. Let’s meet for coffee. You need my correction.

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