Ringlemann Effect

For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.
Matt 18.20

Within a single mile of wherever you are...there are dozens upon dozens of people who are loving their neighbor as an expression of their love of God...there are millions more migrating to this relational way of being the church.
The New Parish, Sparks, Soerens, Friesen, pg 28

So many times we think about the strength we have in numbers. There's the belief in synergy and how the total group effort is greater than the sum of its parts.

Not so fast...

That's not always the way it works.

Max Ringlemann, a German psychologist, pinpointed the phenomenon by asking people to pull on a rope as hard as they could, first alone and then as part of a team. Average productivity dropped as more people joined the rope-pulling task. Ringlemann suggested that people may not work as hard in groups because their individual contributions are less noticeable in the group context and because they prefer to see others carry the workload (Schermerhorn, 2013). 

One of the realities of my congregation is that there is no back row. The lack of a back row is a reality of how we sit together, but it also has metaphorical power.  The old 80/20 rule had minimal effect.  When we share in projects, helping some members move to a new house, making food for an annual Mennonite Central Committee fundraiser, or just gathering for worship, everyone has an opportunity to be involved.

There are times I struggle with our smallness the things we cannot do with a small number of people, a small budget, and constrained availability.  However, everyone gets to pull, because everyone knows they are vital.  Ringlemann may not hold as much sway in the new parish.