3 People Issues That Get Church Staff Teams Stuck

Today’s post is written by Tony Morgan, Founder of The UnStuck Group.

Here’s a church growth lid I don’t hear people talking about very often—your org chart.

Yep, the way your church is structured can actually cap your growth. It very commonly does.

A bad structure negatively impacts the health and effectiveness of the team, which ultimately impacts the health of the church.

And you may not even realize it’s the culprit.

I often hear something like this from pastors my team at The Unstuck Group and I are serving:

“I knew we needed to assess our ministry’s health. I knew we needed to clarify our vision for the future. But I didn’t realize just how mismatched our staff structure was for our mission and ministry strategy.”

They’re referring to a key moment in their experience of walking through the Unstuck Process—which is my team’s way of helping a church assess ministry health, build a plan and strategy, align the staff structure to that strategy, and build systems for execution and follow-through.

What they learn in the Structure phase of the process seems to illuminate the rest and make it all come together. You can learn more about how the Unstuck Process works here.

In taking hundreds of churches through this process, we’ve noticed 3 staff structure issues that seem to get churches stuck most often:

A bad structure negatively impacts the health and effectiveness of the team. -@tonymorganlive Click To Tweet

1. Your Staff Structure Is Built Around The People You Have, Instead Of The Ministry You’re Trying To Accomplish

We recommend you start with strategy. Answer the question, “Where is God calling us to go, and what structure will serve us on that journey?”

Most churches do that in reverse order. It goes more like this:

Who are the people we have?

How can we organize them?

Now… what can we get done?

Do you see how that approach constricts vision? Do you see how it caps the possibilities?

People are your most important asset. To build an effective staff structure, you need clarity around where God is calling your church to go in the next 3-5 years, and then you need to build your teams accordingly.

I know that can mean tough decisions for many churches, and I’ll get to that more in number 3. But before I do, let me bring up one more rather difficult people issue you may need to grapple with…

Answer the question: Where is God calling us to go, and what structure will serve us on that journey? -@tonymorganlive Click To Tweet

2. You Don’t Actually Have People With Leadership Gifts In Leadership Positions

You need people with leadership gifting in leadership positions.

What we see more often is that churches have a lot of doers and specialists on their teams—people who are excellent individual contributors.

Or people who have learned to delegate some things but are not really equipped to lead a core ministry area of the church.

Don’t misunderstand me: We need specialists on our staff teams, especially in areas like operations, production, and music.

But in the churches my team serves, we see too many specialists in the leadership seats.

For example, many churches take a person who has the best connection with kids and put them in the leadership position over children’s ministry.

Sometimes the person who is most passionate about helping others is asked to be in charge of local outreach.

Or, and this happens a lot, churches ask a talented, creative musician to be responsible for the weekend service experience. (I did a whole podcast episode about that one: Why Your Worship Leader Shouldn’t Lead the Creative Team – Episode 64 – The Unstuck Church Podcast.)

We need those people with passion and giftedness in all these ministries, but they only need to lead those areas if they are also gifted to lead.

Otherwise, the church isn’t structured to effectively equip and empower more people to do the work of the ministry.

Many churches don't have people with leadership gifting in leadership positions. -@tonymorganlive Click To Tweet

3. You Don’t Make Staff Changes Until It’s More Painful Than It Needs To Be

I alluded to it before, but I’ll say it again: People are the most important asset to any organization.

But that doesn’t mean you can continue to employ all of the people you have employed forever.

It doesn’t mean you have to stand by role decisions you made in a different season or before you had a clear vision for the future.

I find that senior church leaders usually know when they need to make some changes.

But people changes in the church are the hardest changes. There’s a fear because of the certain ripple effect, and it can cause church leaders to wait too long to address structural issues.

Failing to address what’s broken in your staff structure at the right time creates more pain in the end.

This is one area we find churches really value having an outside perspective to help them confirm what they sense and process the best options for transitioning the team to a more effective, healthier structure.

Failing to address what’s broken in your staff structure at the right time creates more pain in the end, not less. -@tonymorganlive Click To Tweet

Position Your Ministry Team To Execute At Its Highest Potential

It’s important to the long-term health and growth of your church to get the people stuff right.

At The Unstuck Group, we have developed a process to help churches do that. It’s one of the core components we do with just about every church we serve.

We find two extremes at play in many churches that have gotten stuck because of their structure:

Either the church has redefined the team so many times—they keep switching it up, adding people, changing roles, demoting and promoting—that the organization gets unsettled and unstable.

Or—

The team has never been pruned or adapted or reshaped at all, and they’ve ended up with a group of individuals who lack role clarity or focused wins. People who aren’t leaders are in leadership roles, and people with leadership gifts are frustrated by their lack of empowerment.

If you’re in either of those spots, consider getting outside support finding clarity around your next steps organizationally.

It’s important to the long-term health and growth of your church to get the people stuff right. -@tonymorganlive Click To Tweet

What Other Structural Issues Have You Seen Holding Churches Back?

Clarity around decision making? Issues with how important information is communicated throughout the organization? There are lots of structural issues that are really not complicated to address if done strategically.

Scroll down and leave a comment to share your perspective!

2 Comments

  1. Scott Button on November 10, 2018 at 5:01 pm

    When the church elders / board are made up of the wrong people with the wrong mindset. I know of one church who had an aha moment when they realised their whole board of elders was made up of slow adopter, manager, micro detail people. They suddenly realised why they never made a decision that moved the church forward. The related issue is when the board think their role is to micro manage the church or the staff instead of overeeing the big picture vision and mission.

    Carey on another topic. If you wanted to do a podcast with a Senior Pastor about the need for generational change in leadership , especially taking the church out of the hands of control of boomers and engaging younger generations then can I suggest Kynan Brookes – Senior Pastor of Hope Valley Church in Adelaide South Australia. He has led our congregation through such change. We are church literally of all ages from babies to 100 years of age but with a growing young cohort of leaders. Really appreciate your your podcasts and blogs. They are a great help to our team.
    In Australai it is possibly one of the top leadership issues. Kynan can also talk about the courage required to do this because there is big push back. courage to lead change a

  2. Chris Hahn on November 8, 2018 at 11:28 am

    Great stuff as always. For more on #2, check out Kim Scott’s book, “Radical Candor.” Her description of Rock Stars vs. Superstars is very helpful and clarifying. Excellent book all the way around but speaks specifically to how we elevate the wrong people at times because of the wrong reasons.

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