In this episode, we’re talking about:
The simple shift in how you think about staffing that will fuel your growth engines
Why senior pastor burnout is actually a symptom of a Senior Leadership Team problem
How reducing the senior pastor’s span-of-care can help the church grow—numerically and spiritually
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Have you experienced increased health and growth after adjusting your structure? Or, are you currently feeling the frustration of an ineffective staffing structure? Comment or share on social media using the hashtag #unstuckchurch.
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Amy Anderson: welcome to the unstuck church podcast. I’m Amy Anderson and I’m here with Tony Morgan and each week we share our conversation, our teams been having about getting churches unstuck. And today we’re talking about ways to optimize your structure for growth. And Tony, this is an area we both spend a lot of time in. So, you know, through the years we’ve helped hundreds of churches structure their staff team for growth. And I even wonder if that’s a common phrase here, but it’s just our internal language. Can you just unpack that a little bit? What’s the key principles behind structuring around your growth engines?
Tony Morgan: So they’re, um, you know, the good news is people that are in ministry, they actually want more people to meet Jesus. I think that’s a good thing, right? And we want more people to actually become disciples of Jesus. That’s a good thing. And so the churches we work with, they’re not only trying to get healthy, but they really do. They want to grow, they want to reach more people. And what we’re learning as we’ve engaged with, uh, hundreds of churches through the years and looked at their staffing and structure, there are kind of three key areas that we really want to focus in on. Number one is, are they structuring around growth engines? And we’ll unpack that more in a moment. Yeah. Secondly, are they starting with a healthy senior leadership team? And by the way, every church of every size can build a healthy senior leadership team. So you don’t have to wait until you become a big church to develop a senior leadership team. Every church can do that. And then finally, really paying attention to span of care. And I think I have a couple of surprising thoughts around that topic, uh, that, uh, may be helpful for all the leaders that are listening in today.
Amy Anderson: Well, let’s, um, let’s start with the growth engines. Talk again. What is that all about?
Tony Morgan: Yeah. We call them growth engines because really there’s two types of growth. And I alluded to this earlier, that we want every church to experience. Number one, we want churches to help people grow spiritually. We want, we want people to take their next steps toward Jesus and as a result of that, we learned every church, of course has to have some intentional strategy to help churches move from, from where or help people move from where they are to where God wants them to be. And you’ve heard me talk a lot in the past about churches moving from programs to a path. This is essentially what we’re talking about with growth engines is that there is some engine for helping people take steps on the path to become fully devoted followers of Christ. So that’s part of what the growth engines about. But the second part about growth engines is we actually want the church to grow numerically.
Tony Morgan: We want. We want the church to reach more people, for more people to be connected to the congregation and be taking those steps toward Christ. And so when we engage with the church through a planning process to look at what’s our vision for the future, what’s our strategy for how we see that vision accomplished? One of the key conversations were happy having with every church is to identify what are those three or four core growth engines of the church that are helping us reach more people and helping us, uh, encourage people to grow in their faith. And so when we start to look at structure, then what we’re trying to identify is do we have a champion over each of those growth engines? And then does the rest of our ministry structure align to those growth engines? And that’s why a is the funniest thing.
Tony Morgan: It makes sense. But those very first conversations that I have with lots of pastors, they want us to come in and fix their structure first and then talk about their ministry strategy because they sense there’s something broken with their staffing and their structure. But we always talk about we have to figure out what our strategy is first. Including what are these primary growth engines go going to be so that we know how to structure the staff. And so we really do believe that form follows function. We need to figure out the strategy for the Ministry strategy and then we can focus on the structure to support it.
Amy Anderson: That’s great. All right, so the next area that you talked about was developing a healthy leadership team. So what, why prioritize that? I know it sounds silly, but why prioritize [inaudible]senior leadership team?
Tony Morgan: Yeah, so what we’re seeing in healthy, thriving churches is there’s an intentionality when it comes to some senior level of leadership and in smaller churches, this may be a combination of staff in key lay leaders in larger churches commonly it’s all staff leadership that’s driving this team, uh, but it’s looking at making sure we have people that are not just thinking about their ministry area and actual actually what they’re more focused on is the overall health of the church. And I don’t know where this thought came from originally. I actually think it came from my friend Sam Chand. So we’ll give him credit. But the thought is this, the top five leaders of any organization will ultimately shape the culture of that organization. And it’s one of the reasons why we prioritize building a healthy senior leadership team is because if we feel we feel like if we can get that team healthy first, ultimately the entire rest of the ministry will healthy as well.
Tony Morgan: This is the team then that’s going to be driving vision for the future. They’re going to be driving what our strategy is for seeing that vision accomplished. And as a result of that, what we’re really trying to help the church identify as what are those high capacity leaders, those leaders have hundreds and thousands is how, uh, we, jethro, what had described it to Moses, those leaders have hundreds and thousands that are going to be focused on the overall health of the church and help us move the ministry forward. And so we’ve learned, if we get that team housing in the long run, the eyes of the church being healthy, go up that much more.
Amy Anderson: You know, what are some of the evidence is Tony, you’ve seen when a senior leadership team is not healthy when they know something needs to be done, what are some of the symptoms you see?
Tony Morgan: Yeah. Great question, amy. So some of it comes down to just not having healthy conflict and where everybody, where the team’s not able to process and pushback and ideas and more importantly pushback on whatever the strategy that churches embracing today, uh, in order to help the church to look for what are our next steps going to be in the future. That’s definitely one. One key area of fear is another area that we see where the people on the team, the senior pastor, the senior leader, and so there again, there’s not the, the people on the team aren’t bringing everything that they have because they’re fearful that if they share opinions, they share new ideas but that’s not going to be received. And as a result of that they’re the team. Just as another example is the team ends up focus too much on what’s happened in the past and what needs to happen for this coming Sunday. And that team doesn’t invest enough time looking at where are we going in the months and years ahead. And that would be an indication that they’re focused more on the execution of ministry rather than the vision. And the strategy for where the church needs to go down the road, those are some common things that came to mind. And Amy, anything else you would highlight though, because you’re, you’re many times involved in working with shaping these senior leadership teams.
Amy Anderson: Yeah, maybe the top thing that I see as a level of burnout and fatigue with the senior pastor, the lead pastor, and that’s because he doesn’t have a team that he trusts and that maybe have the abilities that are needed around him or her. So he is carrying more than he should. And then of course you still have that teaching load and just the overall you feel that burden as a lead pastor for the entire church. And so that’s probably where I see one of the biggest symptoms is when that, that senior leader is really wiped out, burnt out, kinda running on empty.
Tony Morgan: Yeah. And whether we wanted to admit it or not. If I’m the senior pastor and I’m feeling overwhelmed, burnout, all of that, I can assure you. Everybody else around you knows that you’re dealing with that. So, um, you might think that you’re hiding it and you’re the last person or the rest of the team doesn’t recognize it, but everybody else does. And so, uh, yes, that, that’s a great indication, another great awful indication, but it is an indication that, uh, some attention needs to be centered around building this healthy senior leadership team.
Amy Anderson: Right. And again, we talk a lot. I think we talked last week about just you sometimes you have to lead change. I also see churches end up with a senior leadership team that’s not very strategically put together. It’s kind of been based on history and who’s been working where the longest. And so there is, there are times in church life cycles where you have to reevaluate what kind of leadership team do we need now. And you know, Tony, you’ve said often that you don’t want the team to be any larger than eight. Can you just speak to where you see what size do you see the healthiest senior leadership teams that.
Tony Morgan: Yeah, and one of the previous podcast we recently talked about the rule of eight. And um, that’s definitely, and it kind of leads to the last thing we’re going to be talking here about here as far as span of care is concerned, but if you get too many people engaged on that team, it comes, becomes very challenging for everybody to engage, for everybody to participate, share their thoughts, uh, offer their questions, and then maybe more importantly to make decisions becomes very difficult for the senior leadership team to make decisions if you have too many people engaged. And so you’re right. Um, I think, you know, normally we’re suggesting three to eight people on that team and as you mentioned, amy is not based on roles. It’s based on their leadership capacity and their sense of, of leadership and responsibility for the overall health of the church.
Amy Anderson: Well, I’m anxious to get those last one on span of care because we’ve been talking about it and talk to us about your theory on span of care and why that’s so important for churches.
Tony Morgan: Yeah, and when I talk about span of care, what I’m really talking about is the number of people that were responsible for leading and the number of people at the same time that we’re responsible for discipling. And that’s the uniqueness of leading in the churches. We have a mission to accomplish which involves helping people get projects and tasks completed. But on top of that, we’re also responsible for discipling people. And so there’s a relationship component that’s pretty essential, uh, to those of us who are leading in ministry as well. And that’s why I think span of care is actually a bigger issue for those that lead in the church than we’d in the marketplace. Um, what we’re seeing is for most people, that healthy span of care looks like it’s one person leading between three and seven people. Some, sometimes a leader can go up to seven or eight a, sometimes a leader, it really needs to be two or three.
Tony Morgan: Uh, but somewhere in that range is, is what we’re seeing. As a matter of fact, I just had a conversation with Warren Bird warns with leadership network and he’s, he’s routinely doing research thousands of churches around the country and we were talking about this topic Spanic care just recently, he did some research back in 2010, 2012 and he found this to be the case. And again, it’s a bit counterintuitive, but what he found is this, the larger the church gets, the smaller the span of care is for the senior pastor. Yes. And so, uh, if you’re, if you’re concerned that your church isn’t reaching more people and you’re the senior pastor, one of the things you may have to consider doing is actually reducing your span of care. Uh, and it, uh, it actually makes complete sense if you unpack that because in fact, many times we see this amy, when we engage with small and mid size churches, the senior pastor is still trying to lead every single ministry programming pastor or director in the church and sometimes and mid size churches that can grow to as many as 12 or 14 different people reporting directly to the senior pastor.
Tony Morgan: And frankly, I just don’t know how they do it because in addition to trying to lead that many people pass, senior pastors are also trying to prepare a message on a weekly basis and then on top of that they usually have some lay leadership team elders or a board or some other group of people that they’re responsible for as well. And so a smaller or mid sized churches commonly use the advice that we’re providing that senior pastor is you have to reduce your span of care. And I know it’s challenging because in essence what they’re saying is some people that they’re connected directly with today cannot be connected to them in the future. In other words, somebody else who’s going to have to be their boss, but those. That’s one of the necessary changes that’s required for churches to move forward and to experience growth is that the senior pastor has to reduce their Spanish. Like Aaron. Again, that research that Warren has done with leadership network has confirmed indeed that that’s actually happening.
Amy Anderson: I’ve heard you say this isn’t just staff. This is also, as you look at your volunteer systems, you don’t want to have one volunteer responsible for or one staff member responsible for 30 volunteers. You want to break that
Tony Morgan: span of care down as well. Correct? That’s right, and again, it goes back to that first Sada was sharing is the good news is we’re not just getting stuff done in churches were actually helping people take their next step toward Christ and so in order for us to do that effectively, we have to be intentional about our span of care and it’s not good enough just to make sure people are showing up to to engage in the ministry is not good enough just to make sure they’re getting tasks completed. We we want to help people become disciples of Jesus and in order to do that, we need to invest time and to invest the amount of time that’s required to accomplish the discipleship part of our mission. We have to pay attention to the Spanish.
Amy Anderson: Well thanks for those ideas around optimizing our structures for growth. Tony and thanks again to all our listeners for joining us for this week’s conversation about getting churches unstuck and we hope you’ll tune in again, so be sure to subscribe on iTunes, Google Play, or wherever you get your podcast so that you don’t miss an episode and we’d love to hear your thoughts and comments. So join the conversation on social media using Hashtag unstuck church, and finally, you can learn more about how the unstuck group helps churches get unstuck.