May 27, 2014 Tony Morgan

7 Warning Signs Your Church Has Ministry Silos: The Systems Test

When churches are small, systems aren’t as necessary. When churches grow beyond a couple hundred or more, though, it becomes difficult to maintain the flow of next steps you’re hoping people take at your church. Leaders will create their own methods of dealing with bottlenecks. That, of course, leads to different processes for different ministry teams, and that, once again, will lead to ministry silos. That’s why we offer this sixth test:

6. The systems don’t encourage unity.

Here’s a simple way to determine if you have a healthy system in place. Consider every next step people take at your church. That may include connecting in a Bible study, volunteering, checking in a child for the first time, joining a small group or participating in a community missions project as examples. If someone new to your church comes to you asking what they should do to take one of those steps, how do you respond? If you say, “Go see Joe or Sue.” You don’t have a system–you have a person.

Just having a person helping people take their next steps works when everyone already knows that person, and that person is always available and willing to respond. Once new people start showing up, though, that doesn’t work anymore. And it certainly won’t work when the church grows into multiple services and potentially multiple locations. Joe and Sue can’t be in multiple places at the same time.

And this is where churches get into trouble, because they continue to embrace small-church thinking even after they’ve grown to hundreds or thousands. If effective systems aren’t established for the entire church, ministry teams start creating their own systems. Competing systems will lead to ministry silos.

Some common systems that growing churches need to consider include:

  • Scheduling ministry programs and events (including facility scheduling)
  • Communications and promotions
  • Budgeting and purchasing
  • Tracking people and their next steps (database)
  • Connecting into your discipleship process (groups, Bible studies, classes, etc.)
  • Volunteering
  • Giving

Without a scheduling system, whichever ministry signs up first gets the space.

Without a communications system, whichever ministry is loudest gets the most attention.

Without a budgeting system, whoever asks for the money first is most likely to get it.

Without a tracking system, every ministry keeps there own database or their own spreadsheet. That means it’s impossible to look at the overall health of the church, because there’s no central place to track spiritual next steps.

I think you probably see the point. Without systems, it’s every ministry for itself…even if that ministry isn’t necessarily what’s most critical to helping people take their next steps toward Christ.

Let me speak specifically to systems for times of transitions in people’s lives. This is especially important in “generational” ministries like children’s ministry, middle school ministry, high school ministry, young adults, etc. Each should be working together to transition people towards next steps as they enter new phases of life. The systems for transitions are huge and require teamwork between different ministries.

How are you doing with this test? Do you have effective systems in place that encourage unity? If not, that’s the sixth warning sign that your church may have ministry silos.

Other articles in this series:

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Tony Morgan

Tony is the Chief Strategic Officer and founder of The Unstuck Group, theunstuckgroup.com. For 14 years, Tony served on the senior leadership teams at West Ridge Church (Dallas, GA), NewSpring Church (Anderson, SC) and Granger Community Church (Granger, IN). He's written several books and articles that have been featured with the Willow Creek Association, Catalyst and Pastors.com.
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