Competing for Channel Capacity

Creating healthy spans of care

Answer "YES" or "NO" to the following questions:

  • Do you regularly have feelings that you have neglected your small group members or family?
  • Do you frequently find yourself failing to send that email, note or making that phone call to a group member you wanted to encourage and support?
  • Do you struggle with keeping your group members' prayer list current and complete?
  • Do you have difficulty finding time to "hang out" with your family or group members because of a full schedule of work, school or church activities?
  • Are you frequently out of emotional energy making it hard to rejoice with those who are rejoicing and weep with those who are weeping?
  • Including your family, do you have 12 or more individuals that you are taking initiative to shepherd and see develop?

If you answered "YES" to most of these questions, then you may have exceeded your healthy span of care. Span of care is the number of people, activities, and projects that you have significant responsibility for. While many of these areas are very worthy of your care and attention, each of these responsibilities compete for your available time, energy, and emotional resources. The risk involved in exceeding your healthy span of care is that you may exceed your ability to effectively respond to the care and development needs of those you shepherd.

In his book The Tipping Point (Little, Brown and Company), Malcolm Gladwell notes that we each have a "channel capacity." Channel capacity is the number of things we can continually manage in our memory at any one time. On average, we can manage seven unique pieces of information in our mind at the same time. That is why U.S. phone numbers have seven digits because Bell Telephone thought that was the longest number an average ...

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