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.
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.
Subscribe to get these posts via email.