The Role of Organization in Church Growth

Has your church grown over the past few years? Sometimes churches stop growing because their organizational structure is not capable of handling a greater number. A church with a thousand has a highly complex organization. A church of fifty will have a much simpler organization. But for a church of fifty to one day become a thousand, it must be willing to change its organizational structure to accommodate more growth.

David Womack, in his book ‘The Pyramid Principle’ sited inadequate organization and leadership as the number reason that churches stop growing. He explained that church growth is much like piling sand on a table. Eventually the table will become full and the sand will form a pyramid-type shape on top. No matter how hard you try, the table will hold no more sand. What do you do? Expand the base. Only when the base becomes larger can it accommodate more capacity. The sand represents your church membership. The table, or foundation, represents your church organization and leaders. Until you expand both of these, you will likely be unable to grow much larger.

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For a church to grow, often times new departments must be added, new ministries developed, additional staff placed on payroll, and many other changes as needs dictate. When a church stops growing organizationally, it will usually stop growing numerically.

What Is Organization?

There is no right and wrong way to organize a church. A church’s organizational structure will reflect the pastor, his priorities and the type of church that God has put into his heart.

Organization is not management. These two terms must not be confused. Organization is a thing, a structure, it has substance. It shows responsibilities and positions. Management, on the other hand, is the work performed to make your structure work. Organization is properly defined as “The work performed to identify a job, and relate an individual to that job, in order that the work might be best performed.” In short: when the whole place blows up – people know what to do. And when the dust settles – someone is still in charge.
Examples of organization are found throughout the Bible. In Genesis God created the heavens and the earth in an orderly, systematic fashion. The early church organized as particular needs arose: first, with the election of an apostle (Acts 1:15), and then with the selection of the seven deacons to assist the apostles (Acts 6).

But perhaps the best example of biblical organization is found in Exodus 18, where we find Moses overworked and needing help (sound like you?). He was trying to do everything himself. There were endless lines of people waiting to see him. Moses felt he had to make every decision. If Moses would have continued, he would have soon collapsed.

Finally Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, suggested that a organizational chain of command be established. Moses did this and it worked. Had he not done this the Children of Israel may have wandered endlessly in the wilderness. Many a church is in the same kind of wilderness because they ignore the biblical principles of organization.

Developing Your Organizational Structure

The following guidelines will help you set up your own unique organizational structure.

First, don’t establish too many departments. Some fall into the trap of trying to make every position in the church a department. The major problem that arises from this approach is “Span of Control” or how many people you, as a leader, can manage effectively. Studies have shown that a manager can seldom maintain good management practices with more than about twelve people. Long before business discovered this the Word of God established twelve as the number of government. Try to hold it to twelve; fourteen departments at the most.

Secondly, make sure every job, position, or responsibility appears on the organizational chart. This may sound like a contradiction of what was just said – but it’s not. It’s only saying that every position must appear on the organizational chart as either a department, or as a ministry within a department. There is a difference. A department head works directly with the pastor. They come to the departmental planning council each month, they attend the annual planning retreat, and they hand in a monthly report. But within a department may be many ministries. For example, a Music Department might contain the Adult Choir, Children’s Choir, Orchestra, Special Singing, Sound Ministry, Tape Ministry, and others. It is possible for each ministry to have its own director. These inner-department directors report to the Music Director. The Music Director, in turn, reports to the pastor. All positions within the church should be either a department, or a ministry within a department. If the pastor, after meeting with the department heads, must still chase someone else down to take care of additional business, his time has not been managed effectively.

Thirdly, don’t place too many major responsibilities under any one individual. When an individual has two or three major responsibilities that all require considerable time, then it stands to reason that some will go lacking. This has often been the case with an “Outreach Director.” Too often one individual is in charge of all home Bible studies, all visitor follow-up, all new convert care, all canvassing, campus ministry, street ministry, tract ministry, jail, rest home, etc. and every other outreach that the church might have. Outreach is too critical to allow any of these vital ministries to fail. By separating visitor follow-up, new convert care, and home Bible study out of the outreach and making each its own department, it allows all four ministries to flourish.

Fourth, develop your organizational structure to fit your main objectives. The church has two main objectives: to win the lost and to perfect the saints. Anything outside of these two basic objectives is a weight the church shouldn’t carry.

List the departments in your church into two columns. On the left side put departments that have an ‘inward’ emphasis. In other words, their main purpose is to minister to and strengthen the church. This would be departments like Music, Youth, Sunday School, etc. On the right side list those departments that have an ‘outward’ emphasis, meaning that their main purpose is to win souls. This would be departments like Outreach, Home Bible Study, Bus Ministry, etc.

Now, look at your list. There should be some balance here. Your structure may not have exactly the same number of departments on both sides, but it shouldn’t be out of balance by three or four departments.
But then again, organizational charts should not be developed to simply look “pretty” or to have perfect balance in appearance. Organize only to fill needs. Keep your structure ample, but simple. A long, detailed structure in a small church is cumbersome – it can even become a hindrance to growth.

Fifth, if you want a ministry to operate smoothly and successfully, make it a separate department. Before you place any department upon your organizational chart you should ask: is this ministry of great importance? Is it critical to the growth of the church? If you answer ‘no,’ you may not want to make that position a department, but rather a ministry within a department. For example, the lady that does the flower arrangements for the entry table is important, but does not need to be a department. It’s a matter of priorities.

On the other hand, if you answer ‘yes’ to these questions then you may want to make that ministry it’s own department. Doing so cause that ministry to grow and expand at a maximum rate because you will be meeting with and motivating this leader on a monthly basis.

Of course, in the very small church, you may not have enough faithful individuals to develop all the departments that you would like. That is where priorities must be established.

Selecting Your Departments and Ministries

A church’s departments, and the kind of ministries within those departments, are wide and varied. Much depends upon where a pastor’s priorities lie. It is vitally important that a pastor place much prayer and thought into the development of his organizational structure. This is the foundation of everything else. If the foundation is poorly designed, the entire building is in danger.

A pastor should have as many departments as he has faithful directors to oversee them. A church that averages less than 30 may only have three or four departments. But a church that averages over 80 will most likely have at least ten departments – or even twelve. A church of two hundred will most always have twelve or thirteen departments. Yet size does not dictate how many departments you will have, but rather your leadership resources.

Common ‘inward directed’ departments that you will find in Apostolic churches are Sunday School, Ladies Ministries, Men’s Ministries, New Convert Care, Music, and Youth.. Common ‘outward directed’ departments are Outreach, Home Bible Study, Visitor Follow-up, Promotions, Bus / Van Ministry, and Prayer / Missions. Please understand that there is no “right” way to set up an organizational structure. How your structure is designed need only to make sense to you. Your structure must be functional or it becomes useless.

There are literally dozens of ministries that can be placed within these departments. Some of the more common ministries are Jail Ministry, Door Knocking, Greeters, Ushers, Church Bulletin, Tape Ministry, Sound Ministry, Singles, Rest Home, Young Marrieds, and many others. The ministries within a department may or may not have a separate director over each.

Too often times we find ourselves running around like the proverbial chicken with its head cut off. Important things are not done, responsibilities are neglected. A good organizational system can solve many of these problems. Good organization, when coupled with the Holy Ghost, can help a church and pastor tremendously in their quest for growth and revival.

Tim Massengale is an instructor at Indiana Bible College and the author of “Total Church Growth” and “Let My People Grow.” He is available for church growth seminars and church growth consulting work. Contact him at: tmassengale@apostolic.edu or call 1-800-800-0247.

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