The Impact of Proxemics on Disciple-making

Proxemics is a sociology and psychology term. According to, proxemics is…

the study of the spatial requirements of humans and animals and the effects of population density on behavior, communication, and social interaction.

Edward Hall wrote a book entitled The Hidden Dimension. There he identifies four American spatial distances/zones:

  • Intimate distance: 0-18 inches
  • Personal distance: 18 inches to 4 feet
  • Social distance: 4 to 10 feet
  • Public distance: 10 feet to infinity.

Group size is impacted by spatial distance.  Reversing the list above:

  • Public: 35 people and more
  • Social: 8 to 35 people
  • Personal: 3 to 7 people
  • Intimate: 2 people.

Think about the disciple-making efforts of your church in each of these group sizes. Worship would be public. Mid-sized meetings or groups would be social. Small groups would be personal. Intimate would be one-on-one.

Sometimes simply adding one person changes group dynamics. For instance, adding someone to a pair ends intimate conversation. Adding a person to a small group sometimes changes the group from everyone participating (personal) to everyone expecting the leader to talk (social) with occassional questions and comments from group members.

How can we best take advantage of these realities? How can we plan our assimilation and disciple-making strategies to take fullest advantage of each venue? There are examples of each venue in use in the life of Jesus, Peter, Paul, and others. Share your comments.

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