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How to Structure Your Church To Grow Past 200 Attenders

grow bigger

It’s one thing to want to see your church grow.

It’s entirely another to position your church structurally so you can accommodate growth.

If you structure bigger, you can grow bigger. If you don’t, you won’t.

Earlier this week I was connecting with a pastor who has seen his church grow from 200 in attendance over 450 in attendance in the last 2 years.

That’s a lot of growth in a short window of time. He’s actually scaling what 90% of churches never scale: the 200 attendance mark.

He’s also figuring out the changes he needs to make. Changes that most leaders miss:  how he spends his time and how he structures his team.

That might seem surprising, but that’s exactly what he should be figuring out. It’s the key to growing your church past 200 on a sustainable basis.

Preaching, prayer and trust in God are not what’s going to keep his church from growing. He’s always pursued those with passion. As, I imagine, have many of you.

One of the chief challenges that will keep his church from growing centres on structure.

As I wrote about in my book, Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow, if you want your church to grow, you need to structure bigger to grow bigger.

So how do you do that? This post is a little technical, but I hope it will help you and your team put your finger on all those things you haven’t been able to really put your finger on.

These tips have helped us at Connexus Church grow from a start up eight years ago to almost 1100 attenders today. I hope they can help you.

If you want your church to grow, you need to structure bigger to grow bigger. Click To Tweet

How To Restructure Your Time As a Leader

As your church grows, so will the demands on your time.

When your church or organization is small, you can accommodate all the requests on your time. As it grows, that simply has to change.

More people equals more requests, and that reality will completely overrun your life if you let it.

You’ll burn out responding to people’s needs, which ironically means people’s needs go unmet.

Too many leaders burn out responding to people's needs, which means people's needs go unmet. Click To Tweet

So how do you spend your time?

That’s what you need to decide. I make a strong argument you should NOT spend your time doing pastoral care in this post.

Remember, no one will ever ask you to complete your top priorities (say, sermon preparation or strategic planning or even prayer);  they will only ask you to complete theirs.

That’s why you need to decide ahead of time how you spend your time.

These two posts contain some of my best tips on time management and that help answer my most frequently asked question—how do you get everything you do done? 

How to Stop Working 7 Days A Week

The Top 10 Ways Leaders Waste Time (And 10 Time Hacks to Help)

Another massive shift in time management you will need to make as your church grows is to cut down the number of meetings you’re involved in.

This post can help tremendously with doing just that:

5 Persuasive Reasons You Spend Way Too Much of Your Time in Meetings

Sure, there may be a season where you sprint through some productive planning meetings, but if you spend your life in meetings, you will never get your real work done or your true mission accomplished.

No one will ever ask you to complete your top priorities; they will only ask you to complete theirs. Click To Tweet

The next changes are all focused on how to build and grow staff teams as your church grows.

How to Restructure Your Staff

Most churches start with a very small staff. That’s normal.

But as your church grows, your staff will grow. And as it grows, you need to change how you interact with them.

When our church started, there were just a handful of staff. We were in start-up phase, and more than once we made decisions in the car while we were driving somewhere.

In regular staff meetings, we’d talk about everything we were facing because, well, the whole team was there.

But you soon grow out of the phase.

Over the last eight years we’ve added a leadership team and an executive team.

As a result, our staff meetings needed to become something very different.

These days, our staff (about 15 people) meets every other week to celebrate wins (how do we know we’re accomplishing our mission?) and to share general information about what’s happening and clarify anything that’s become unclear.

That may sound trite, but it’s not.

It’s the job of the leader to keep the team healthy, motivated and clear.

If you don’t think thats important, trying serving in an unhealthy, unmotivated and unclear team for a while. You’ll quit.

A few months ago we started short 15 minute huddles a few times a week to connect on our most urgent priorities and keep the team connected (thanks to Chris Lema for the tip). People dial in via video conferencing if they’re working remotely. It keeps a growing team on the same page.

The biggest shift? We don’t make decisions at staff meeting anymore. 

We simply focus on keeping people on mission, on vision, on strategy, healthy and encouraged.

It's the job of the leader to keep the team healthy, motivated and clear.. Click To Tweet

Tips on Adding a Leadership Team

Shortly after launch, as our staff grew, we added a leadership team that consisted of some of the more senior staff.

At first, we used this team to make decisions, but eventually that broke down (when we were about 600 in attendance).

Why? Because the Leadership Team became the bottleneck.

If Leadership Team failed to meet, decisions didn’t get made. If our agenda was too long to cover everything in a meeting, leaders might have to wait a month for a decision. It was a recipe for intransigence.

So a few years ago, we switched to push down decision making. Essentially, we have leaders permission to make decisions, and teams stopped making them.

That’s been a much better process for us. If you’re interested in exactly how we did that and what criteria we use, I outlined that process here.

We kept Leadership Team, but I refocused it to working on the mission rather than in the mission.

When you work on the mission rather than in the mission, your mission tends to advance.

We focused more on reading books together, talking honestly about how things were going and working on medium to long term objectives together.

When you work ON the mission rather than IN the mission, your mission tends to advance. Click To Tweet

Maybe You Need An Executive Team

A few years back, I also created an Executive Team composed of two or three senior staff who began to serve more as a personal advisory team.

Executive Team was created to help me process the most significant directional issues for the church, deal with sensitive HR issues and help us plot out the 30,000 foot issues for the church.

It’s not a decision making body, but obviously, if you want buy-in on decisions and aligned team, it’s a good idea to hash out good ideas until they become great ideas and other leaders own them.

Executive Team has served that function well for us, and it frees up Leadership Team to do what it needs to do and the Staff Team to do what they need to do.

Every leader needs a forum to hash out good ideas until they become great ideas. Click To Tweet

Tips on Restructuring Elders

Of all the groups of leaders who meet, the elders are among the most critical and the most confusing.

In a small church, the elders often govern by managing. Sometimes by micromanaging. That’s understandable (who is going to manage in the absence of staff?), but it’s a bad idea.

If your elders try to micromanage a church beyond 200 people in attendance, they either need to change or you need new elders.

Micromanaging elders will permanently stunt the growth of a church to below 400. It is impossible for a board to stay on top of a church larger than that, and if they insist on doing it, they will never govern a church larger than 400.  Structurally, it’s impossible.

Micromanaging elders will permanently stunt the growth of a church to below 400. Click To Tweet

Several things need to change between an elder board and the senior leader as the church grows.

1. Trust needs to deepen with the senior pastor

Trust is the greatest currency a leader has or a church has. The deeper the trust, the more effective the ministry.

The challenge in many churches is the board doesn’t trust the staff, or the senior pastor, or each other. This is horrible.

As the senior leader, you need to either look in the mirror and see if there’s a good reason not to trust you, or move the distrusting elders off the board.

2. Elders need to stop micromanaging

The reason a board shouldn’t micromanage is simple: you can’t manage a complex organization in two hours a month. And if you try, you will keep shrinking the church down to the size of what you can manage in a narrow window of time.

This is a tough transition for a lot of boards, but one they can make if they see the issue and are willing to adapt.

The board will get full disclosure on budget and key items, as it should, but examining at a $2,000,000 budget is very different than examining a $20,000 budget.

But, where trust is healthy and high and the staff is competent, instead of drilling down on how many paper clips are being used each year, the board can help the leader focus on healthy ratios of staffing costs to mission, growth challenges and the like.

After all, a great staff team will make sure there are no more paper clips being used than necessary. And the board knows that.

3. The board refocuses on guiding the mission

The most important function of a board is to guard and guide the mission of the church that they’ve all agreed on.

When the staff, elders and senior leaders are all aligned around a common mission, vision and strategy, the church becomes so much healthier (I wrote more about what an aligned team looks like and the benefits it offers in this post).

Because trust is high, the elder’s main job is to ensure the senior leader stays true to the mission, and the senior leader’s job is to help the elders do the same.

Over the years, I’ve also enjoyed a deep relationship with the elders and have used them as a sounding board for new ideas, new direction and new initiatives.

When trust runs deep, those conversations are life-giving and energize not only them and me, but ultimately the entire church.

Trust is the greatest currency a leader has. The deeper the trust, the more effective the ministry. Click To Tweet

Everything I Know About Growing a Church

 

Getting a stuck church growing or helping a church that’s reaching new people grow even further can seem daunting.

It doesn’t have to be.

Whether you’re a church that isn’t growing, has plateaued, or whether you wish your church was growing faster than it is, I’d love to help you break through. That’s why I created the Church Growth Masterclass.

The Church Growth Masterclass is everything I wish I knew about church growth when I got into ministry more than 20 years ago.

Naturally, I can’t make a church grow. You can’t make a church grow. Only God can do that.

But I believe you can position your church to grow.

You can knock down the barriers that keep you from growing. You can eliminate the things that keep your church from growing and implement some strategies that will help you reach far more people. That’s what I’d love to help you do in the Church Growth Masterclass.

In the Church Growth Masterclass I’ll show you:

  • The 10 reasons your church isn’t growing
  • Why even committed church-goers aren’t attending as often as before
  • How to tell if your church leaders are getting burned out
  • The 5 keys to your church better impacting millennials.
  • What to do when a church wants to grow … but not change
  • 5 essentials for church growth
  • 5 disruptive church trends to watch—and how to respond
  • How to increase church attendance by increasing engagement.

The Masterclass includes a complete set of videos that you can play with your team, board or staff, PDF workbooks that will help you tackle the issues you’re facing, and bonus materials that will help you navigate the most pressing issues facing churches that want to reach their cities today.

You can learn more and gain instant access to the course today.

What Are You Learning

What are you learning about changing your structure as the church grows?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

23 Comments

  1. Favour Omoh on September 23, 2019 at 8:11 am

    Thank you for the article. its worth celebrating. I have a ministry of about 200 in attendance and we’re one year and six months old. I discovered that most of the people that came are never grounded in the faith and do not have or exhibit the characters of a changed life, even though they have been long in other churches before joining us. I am done with salvational and sanctification teaching with proofs. Please enlighten me on how to properly structure for growth because I have a vision to give God 1000 souls by Dec. 2020. Pst. Favour.

  2. Isaac phiri on April 18, 2019 at 4:29 pm

    Great article, my question is as a pastor how many leaders can you have if you have started with 30 members? Isaac phiri Zambia.

  3. Frank Olague on December 19, 2018 at 10:33 am

    Thanks for this important information, its quite insightful….
    I need more information on how to structure a new and upcoming church.
    Thanks
    Shalom

  4. Francis maruhi on June 13, 2018 at 7:38 am

    This is well thought and practical. More grace as your share these truths. I got something i was searching for. Blessings

  5. Bsp.Mike uhuru on June 12, 2018 at 4:34 pm

    This is a great article with powerful insight on leadership. Send me more materials

    • Gitirime on July 23, 2018 at 11:16 am

      Timely article please I need help me with more information over the same.Blessed

  6. Mesfin on May 27, 2018 at 4:07 pm

    This is a great article. Insightful at both strategic and operational level.

  7. Rondy Carty on February 14, 2018 at 4:36 pm

    Hi. Great post may I add. Question: I need some guidance in terms of structuring leadership for a ministry that is approximately 180. At the moment I have leadership council that’s 10 strong.

  8. NATANAEL SANTOS on January 28, 2018 at 10:05 pm

    PHENOMAL READ!! Can you elaborate on duties on your executive team and the leadership team. Thanks

    • Tony guerra on July 12, 2019 at 12:30 pm

      Need help w/our chrch 3yrs and still no growth am the usher ,p,time teacher ,in chrg of feed the homeless on sat ,I feel a jazebel spirit is amung us ,and thru observation ,and listening I feel it’s my pastor,shld I just continue to pray to God for help or spk to my pastor gently about this???

  9. Andrew on December 30, 2017 at 11:16 pm

    Thank you so much. I came across your notes at the right time. I found everything I have been searching for in here. God bless.

    Andrew
    Cape Town South Africa

  10. jealous khuleya on December 27, 2017 at 9:19 am

    Thank you soo much.
    Pastor khuleya
    Zimbabwe Africa

  11. Links of the Week (12/12/15) - Rookie Preacher on December 12, 2015 at 7:37 am

    […] Practical Tips on How to Structure Bigger So You Can Grow Bigger – by Carey Nieuwhof […]

  12. Rudy Hagood on December 10, 2015 at 8:21 pm

    Carey,

    Great read! Really encouraging and insightful. How would you structure a church plant of 4 and a half years with over 400 regular attenders. Specifically, would you install elders at or anywhere near the 5 year mark? How many would you have on an executive team. We have 6 staff, 5 are full time.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on December 11, 2015 at 7:37 am

      Hey Rudy. Thanks. Were had elders from the beginning. Started with three and we usually have between 4-6. When we were your size, we didn’t have an executive team. We added that when Leadership Team got to 7 people and staff hit a dozen. Hope that helps!

      • Rudy Hagood on December 12, 2015 at 12:24 am

        Thanks Carey!

  13. Bobby Williams on December 9, 2015 at 10:06 pm

    Hi Carey- great post! I was curious as to what your elders are organizationally responsible for or doing during their meeting? You have a leadership team- executive team- & elders, yes? Also, how often do you meet with elders? Where do they fit in the process of teams?

    Thanks Carey!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on December 10, 2015 at 6:42 am

      Great question. The elders meet once every month to two months. They approve ‘big’ things like directional changes, budgets, property disposition etc. And otherwise are a sounding board that is outside staff. Good check and balance that way.

      • Bobby Williams on December 10, 2015 at 10:26 am

        Thanks Carey!

  14. Brian on December 9, 2015 at 11:25 am

    Thank you, love all your posts…very helpful. One question: How are decisions made, if not with a team? Isn’t the point of decision making as a team for accountability/ideation? I read your post about the difference between meetings for brainstorming and meetings for decision making, and I thought it was great. But if decisions are not made in board meetings/leadership meetings, then do big decisions get made by the senior pastor?

  15. Marc Ulrich on December 9, 2015 at 10:00 am

    Great article. What suggestions do you have about a church plant with volunteers as part of the launch team not paid staff?

    • Carey Nieuwhof on December 9, 2015 at 11:06 am

      Hey Marc. I think it’s a similar dynamic. Just change “staff” to team. When I started twenty years ago I was the only staff member and we grew from there.

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