How to Structure for Growth in Ministry

Ministry Structure

In ministry, it’s important to plan for growth in order for growth to be possible. However, the challenges of ministry are so great and so demanding it makes it hard to do anything but focus on managing the present. Maybe you haven’t experienced that, but I sure have.

One of the exercises our team likes to do from time to time is imagine what our ministry would be like if it was double the size. It’s a chance to step back from working in the ministry to work on the ministry. That exercise helps expose the problems we would face if, all of a sudden, two times as many kids and students attended next week.

Most of the issues that come up fall into 3 categories: structure, systems, and programming. In this post, I’ll share some helpful questions to ask to evaluate your ministry structure.

10 Questions to Test Your Structure’s Growth Potential

Every church and every ministry have some type of structure. The structure must grow for the ministry to grow, no different than the human body structure (skeleton) must grow for a person to grow. This will relate to staffing and volunteer structures. There are also building and financial structures, but that’s another post altogether.

Is anyone responsible for directly leading more than 5-6 staff? That’s not a magic number, but if someone is, they may be limiting growth because of how much has to go through them. If leading their team is most of what their time is committed toward, that number can probably increase to 8-10.

Is a volunteer responsible for directly leading more than 10-15 volunteers? Even 15 is high unless the volunteer leader is giving a lot of time each week to the role. If anyone has to lead too many people, none of them are cared for well.

Can you easily describe your staff structure or would staff even have a hard time figuring out how it works? If it’s complex, it is a growth barrier. The larger the organization the more complex it can become.

Do you have an organizational chart? Not just for staff, but for volunteers? If not, you might be like Moses. An org chart clearly defines your structure and lets volunteers see opportunities where they could step up and lead.

Is there a leadership pipeline to ensure you’ll continue developing leaders? You can read more about the importance of a leadership pipeline here, but know that leadership is one of the earliest lids you’ll face in your ministry. A pipeline helps clarify the path people can take to lead at higher levels.

Is it clear who is responsible for everything in your ministry? If everyone owns it, nobody does.

Do you develop volunteer structures that would work as staff structures? Part of thinking big is planning for what would happen if some of those key volunteer roles were staff roles because they needed more hours to get it done.

Does information flow throughout the organization well? Ask people at the “bottom” rungs for an honest assessment.

Does seniority drive your structure? If so, you might not have the best talent and competency in key positions.

Does your strategy drive your structure or are they misaligned? You should have staff and volunteers in positions that line up with your strategy. Not sure what strategy is? This post can help.

I hope those questions will help you evaluate your structure to see if it’s fueling growth or preventing it. For another great resource on systems, check out Jim Wideman’s book Stretch.

What barriers would you face if your ministry doubled in size?