I get asked a lot about what the right way is to structure your church for growth. Here’s a sample question and my response.
What’s the right structure for our church? I’ve received that question by email, at conferences and from pastors I have met. They want to know how to grow their church and what structure is best for them to accomplish it.
I understand. It’s a great question—and one we should be asking.
Here is an email I received. I left out a few key points disguised for anonymity. I think it could be a question others are asking. Do you ever wonder what the right structure for your church is?
“Pastor Steve” (not his real name) wrote:
We are a small town church about 100. I have one full time and one part-time staff besides me. I would like to reorganize for better efficiency. We have a deacon board leadership and would like to come up with different titles and job descriptions for the leadership. Right now we have assignments for building, music, finance, missions, education and chairman. Pretty standard, traditional titles.
I lead the board and, thankfully, they are open to change. I’ve pastored here for over a dozen years, so they trust me.
Any suggestions on structure, purpose and job descriptions?
My reply (slightly expanded from the original). If you are thinking you need a new structure to help you grow, I hope this helps shape some of your thoughts:
I applaud you for thinking about how to be more efficient as a church. Frankly, that almost seems unusual for pastors, churches and church leadership.
I’d probably start, however, by asking bigger questions. Not magical questions. Just bigger.
Start with questions like these:
• What are we trying to accomplish?
• What is our vision?
• Who has God uniquely called and equipped us as a church to be to our community and world?
• What are my unique passions as a pastor?
• What do we want to be known for above everything else as a church?
• What are three or four activities or programs we would do if we had to quit everything else?
Once you (And I’d invite others) have spent sufficient time brainstorming and summarizing some those questions, (feel free to add your own) then you can ask:
• Considering our answers above, what are vital steps needed to accomplish each of these listed?
• What’s an appropriate timeframe to expect to be doing these?
• What are action steps, with timelines, for the future goals we have as a church?
• How can I and/or the staff or leadership improve so we can lead these new initiatives?
• What are things we are currently doing that simply aren’t needed anymore or don’t work?
And finally, ask yourself or as a group:
• Who is gifted best to serve where?
• What can I do and what will others need to do?
• What can other staff members do?
• Are there key leaders in the church we’ve not tapped for leadership who could fill some of these roles?
• Where are the biggest gaps in people and leader resources we need to fill?
Keep in mind these are broad, general questions designed to get you and your team brainstorming. You’ll need to choose the questions best for you and adapt them accordingly.
After you’ve gone through the questions, which is not a quick process, you can then begin to organize the new structure around tasks and people. This type of process gives you a more realistic and effective structure. Keep in mind, the more you keep the list of things you are trying to do to a minimum, the more you will increase your effectiveness.
I always try to start with the biggest vision and work backwards. We want to reach people. We want to disciple people, etc. Always start with what you must complete and do well.
Then, I lead us to ask, how are we going to accomplish that? Finally, we need to know who the people on the team are to help us do that.
If you spend time working through that process you’ll be close to having your new structure. Also, you’ll need to review this process again over time as people and times change. Your broad answers to the questions will likely stay the same, but it is always good for review. Your more specific answers will change depending on whom the people are in the church at the time and how things need to be done now.
Quick response, but hope that helps some.
Ron Edmondson is CEO of Leadership Network, former pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky, and the planter of two churches. This article originally appeared on RonEdmondson.com.