Signs You Need to Restructure Your Staff (Part 3)
Restructuring is never easy, because every restructure involves people. However, if we avoid these changes, we are also choosing to be less effective in carrying out our God-given mission.
In other words, you can’t choose both keeping everyone happy AND winning at your mission.
In this podcast series, we’re walking through a number of early warning signs that it’s time to address staffing issues and restructure in your ministry team. In part one, we explored three warning signs related to overstaffing in churches. In part two, we discussed four more warning signs related to a legacy staffing structure. (Listen to part 4 on warning signs related to lack of alignment and span of care.)
OUTPACING STAFF & LEADERSHIP CAPACITY
Sometimes churches put people in leadership positions when they don’t have the leadership gift or capacity required for the role. This week, we’re continuing our conversation around Signs You Need to Restructure and addressing three warning signs related to team and leadership capacity. Listen in as we unpack:
- Hiring ministry leaders vs. ministry doers
- The different levels of leadership capacity
- Clarifying the seven types of decision rights
- Why diversity is crucial for effective teams
[Free Webinar] How to Restructure Your Church Staff
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Watch the replay of this event where Tony Morgan and The Unstuck Group are revealing the three key steps to restructuring your staff—and the tools you’ll need to get there.
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Welcome to The Unstuck Church Podcast, where each week we are exploring what it means to be an unstuck church. Healthy churches take their staffing structure very seriously. And one of the key areas of focus is making sure that they have ministry leaders rather than ministry doers in their most important leadership roles. On this week’s podcast, Tony and Amy continue our four-week series on The Signs Your Church Needs to Restructure with a conversation about how to know if you have the right leaders in your key ministry positions. Before we get into this week’s podcast, though, I want to invite you to join us on July 28th for a free one-hour webinar on how to restructure your church staff. Join Tony and Amy as we reveal the three key steps to restructuring and tools you’ll need to get there. You can register now using the link in your show notes. Now, let’s join Tony and Amy for this week’s conversation.
Well, this month, we’re talking about all the signs that it’s time to restructure your staff team, and Tony, before we jump into today’s conversation, have you ever had to lead through a restructure in your past?
Yeah, we’ve been through restructures with our team at The Unstuck Group. I’ve also been through restructures in my previous church staff roles, but because the people involved in those restructures may actually be listening to our podcast., let me share a couple examples of restructures I led before ministry. So, Amy, I don’t talk about this a lot, but before I was in ministry, I was a city manager. And what’s crazy is in my first city manager position I was hired, I was only 25 years old. My last city manager’s position I was in, I had a staff team of 150 people. I had a 20 million budget that I was responsible for. And let me just say, 25 years ago, that was still a lot of money. Today, maybe not so much, but it was 25 years ago. And the first structure I had to lead through, it was related to an alignment challenge that I was seeing because we had these independent kind of public works functions in the city: the streets department, the parks department, the sanitary sewer department, the cemetery, and all . . .
That sounds really exciting, Tony.
It is, yes. And all of these departments were responsible for a certain aspect of the infrastructure of the city and making sure that that was maintained. But what was happening is there were silos that were forming, and teams weren’t working together. And there was no unified purpose to serve the citizens of the community. And essentially, these departments ended up kind of doing what they had always done for decades. And so the first kind of major restructure I led through, I hired a young leader and combined all of those separate functions into one public works team. And I just went on the website for that community. And here we are, 25 years later, and that community still has a director of public works, and all of those functions are aligned now. And the reason why is it’s because when we started to bring all those teams together, we noticed that we started providing those services to our community with more strength. The second major restructure really came out of a crazy situation in another city that I worked for. This city had two separate finance departments. I don’t know if you can imagine this. One of the finance departments was kind of over the utilities part of the city’s operations, and the other finance department was over everything else. But, as you can imagine, with two finance departments, there were duplicate finance directors, duplicate CPAs, duplicate bookkeepers, duplicate office space, duplicate accounting systems, and so on. And needless to say, this is government at its finest, I mean, total bureaucratic redundancy. And it was a huge expense for the taxpayers. And the worst part of it, though, is not just the expense. It was really the “us against them” mentality that began to set in in the organization. And again, it was done this way because this is the way it had been done for decades. And the crazy thing is I couldn’t convince the city council and the city leaders that we needed to combine these two finance departments. I had to bring in an outside consulting firm to convince everyone that the city only needed one finance department.
But now, here we are 25 years later, and that community still has one finance director and one unified team to serve every finance function for the city. So you’re probably thinking now, after hearing those two examples, “Well, Tony, this is just so obvious. I mean, these restructures help save money. They helped unify the team. They helped create synergy of effort. You know, these communities were able to deliver more effective and efficient services. These restructures are no brainers.” And if you’re thinking that, you’re absolutely right, but because those restructures involved people, neither one of them was easy. I mean, some people had to give up control. Some people had to embrace new roles and responsibilities. Some people lost their jobs through those restructures. Some people got angry. But, looking back now, it’s easy to say anyone would have led through the restructures because it was the right thing to do. But let me just tell you, no restructure is easy because every one of them involves people. But does that mean in the context of church, especially, that we should avoid upsetting people and therefore avoid restructuring our teams? Well, I certainly hope not because if we avoid these important changes, we many times are also choosing to be less effective in carrying out the God-given mission that God has given to our church. In other words, we can’t choose both keeping everyone happy and winning at our mission. And that’s why having gone through several restructures in my career I can certainly attest to the fact that restructures are necessary, but no restructure is ever easy.
No, it’s not. And with that introduction, if anyone is still listening, we . . .
Was it because of all the conversation about city government or was it the topic of restructuring, Amy?
I work with a lot of lead pastors. They’re so great. One of the favorite parts about my job, Tony, is seeing the beauty of the church across the country. But you know, I do a lot of staffing and structures, and they would love it if you would’ve said, “You can choose both keeping everyone happy and winning at your mission.”
Because these are such hard things to lean in on, but. . .
You know, we spent the first couple of weeks talking about the signs that it’s time to restructure related to overstaffing and structure issues. And today, we’re gonna focus on team capacity. So, Tony, where would you like to begin?
Yeah, sometimes we have to restructure because we don’t have gifted leaders in roles where they are leading other people. And instead, we have people who don’t have the leadership gift who are in positions of leadership. Or let me say it this way; sometimes, churches put people in leadership positions when they don’t have the leadership gift. So, here’s the first sign that you may need to restructure. It’s when you hire ministry doers rather than ministry leaders to fill leadership positions. Healthy churches take staffing and structure very seriously. They look at their core ministry areas and every team in those ministries, and they make sure there’s a leader in the leadership role. In other words, they hire leaders rather than doers. And because just about every staff person in a church will also be responsible for leading teams of volunteers, healthy churches tend to hire leaders rather than doers for all their staff positions. It’s as if every paid staff person has at least some leadership responsibility. So every staff person has to have some leadership gifting. Then when they hire those staff leaders, they make sure they’re very clear that one of the wins for each person’s job is to identify and empower volunteer leaders and then build volunteer teams. In fact, I’ve encouraged pastors, church leaders, when you’re crafting job descriptions for specific roles, certainly you should include the specifics of that particular position, but at the very top of the job description, I would put part of your job is to identify and empower other leaders and build volunteer teams. Stuck churches, on the other hand, tend to hire doers rather than leaders and then put those people into leadership responsibilities. And over time, of course, the person in that position grows frustrated because they’re trying to do something that’s really outside their God-given wiring. And then the church leadership grows frustrated because that person oftentimes becomes a lid to the health and growth of that ministry area. And also, when they hire staff to do the ministry rather than lead the ministry, that just fuels the assumption within the congregation that the staff are paid to do ministry. So, volunteers—they’re just not needed. And the problem, of course, is that ministry doers do ministry because that’s what they’re hired to do. Are you keeping up, Amy?
Yeah. Yes. But, on a related note, it’s not just about finding leaders to fill leadership roles. You also have to find the right leader with the right level of leadership capacity, right?
Yeah, absolutely. And again, this is what I see in healthy churches. Before they promote or hire someone to fill a leadership position, they assess what level of leadership capacity is required. In other words, they acknowledge that not all leaders are created equal. They recognize that just because someone can lead a team, as an example, doesn’t necessarily mean that that same person can also lead an entire ministry department or an entire campus. Stuck churches, though, they tend to take a different approach. They tend to hire or promote people based on their ability and experience to perform a specific role, and in doing so, they tend to elevate people into positional leadership roles. They promote from within to fill vacant leadership positions without considering the leadership capacity needed to succeed. And Amy, maybe a specific example here, in the area you are most familiar with in the creative arts or worship arts area, way too many times, I’ve seen churches promote the most gifted vocalist or the most gifted worship leader or musician to lead the creative and worship arts area. But they that promotion came because of their giftedness to do something, in this case to lead worship or to sing or play an instrument, but they didn’t consider whether or not that person also had strong leadership gifts. And in the long run, that, of course, creates challenges. We know from scripture that leadership is a gift, and those that have the leadership gift have different levels of leadership or leadership capacity. And maybe the passage I commonly point people to the most is in Exodus, which describes Jethro’s visit with Moses. And Jethro was Moses’s father-in-law. And every time I read through this passage, I think again of Emily’s father, my wife’s father. And I just think, “Man, my father-in-law, he was a wise man,” and needless to say, so is Jethro because specifically in Exodus 18:21, Jethro says this, “Select capable men from all the people: men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain, and appoint them as officials over 1000s, 100s, 50s and tens.” And there’s a lot we can unpack from that passage, but these are some things that stand out to me as I read through this entire chapter of Exodus. First of all, even leaders need to follow leaders. In other words, if you have a leadership gap in a ministry area, it might be because you don’t have a leader that other leaders are willing to follow. A second thing that stands out to me is we need far more team leaders, leaders of tens, than we need leaders of churches, campuses, for example, leaders of 1000s. And Jethro would argue, we actually need 100 times more team leaders that are leaders of tens than we need leaders of 1000s. Another point that jumps out to me is there are different leadership roles that have growing levels of influence in every organization. And that means we need to be more intentional about developing future leaders for future influence. But here’s the key principle and probably the most obvious: we need different leaders with different levels of leadership capacity to lead ten people, to lead 50 people, to lead 100 people and then to lead 1,000 people. So, an obvious indication that it’s time to restructure is if you have people in leadership roles who just don’t have the right leadership capacity.
All right. So that’s the first sign that it’s time to restructure your team. What’s the second warning sign you’d like to talk about?
Actually, Amy, I’d like you to talk about this one because this topic it’s one of your areas of expertise. Sign number two that you need to restructure is that your team doesn’t have the capacity to make decisions because everyone assumes they have a voice and a vote in every decision. And, Amy, I’ve heard you talk about this on a previous episode. I’ve heard you kinda do some training with church teams around this topic. Too many times, churches don’t have clear ministry and leadership lanes, and therefore, no one knows who’s responsible for what. And when responsibilities aren’t clear, everyone thinks they should have a voice and a vote on every ministry decision. And as you can imagine, that lack of clarity will certainly impact the capacity of the team to make decisions and get things done. So will you talk a little bit about decision rights, with that in mind?
Yeah. Let me start with the key principle. Healthy churches decide how they’re going to decide first. They clarify decision rights by deciding who will have a voice and who will have a vote before every key decision is processed. And stuck churches, on the other hand, they assume every leader has a voice and a vote on every decision. And this is it’s actually more common in smaller churches, Tony. But we see it in churches that have grown, but they’re still structured like they’re a small church. In fact, that was my journey. Decision rights got less clear the larger we got and the different people who were on, you know, our leadership teams. But again, this is common because the structure, the reporting relationships and responsibilities, aren’t clear.
Yeah. And let me just give you an example of this. I was having a conversation several weeks ago with a church leader, and she said, “You know, I have a title, but I don’t know exactly what I’m supposed to be responsible for. I don’t even know who is supposed to be my boss. I actually have three or four bosses.” And unfortunately, Amy, situations like that, they’re just not uncommon on church teams. Are they?
Not at all. And I think I’ve said this on the podcast before: the way we used to do our staffing and structure, I would meet with, you know, different leaders on a ministry team. And I’d say, “What’s the win look like for your role?” And they would often go, “That’s a great question.” I mean, there are so many things in this area that if we lack clarity on, we are just not going to get unstuck and so clear wins. And of course, who do I report to, what’s the win for my role—those are all key things. But unfortunately, not clarifying decision rights is oftentimes linked to not clarifying what you called those clear lanes in the structure. When you don’t have clear lanes, it’s gonna slow down decision-making. It’s gonna make it challenging to get consensus around necessary change. And like your city manager days, it fosters this us against them culture, which creates distrust on the team, especially when a decision is made and others feel left out because they thought they should have been a part of that decision. So again, we did a whole podcast on this. I believe it’s episode 149, but let me just give our listeners a quick overview. The first step is making a decision or determining which of the seven decision rights you’re going to use as you make a decision. So the first one—simply leader decides you’re gonna choose a leader to make the decision, and then we’re gonna move on. The second would be a leader decides with input from some other people. The third is that a small group, a subgroup is gonna make the decision. Then a subgroup with input from others. And then five, six and seven is kind of like whoever the team is—we all decide. And number five is a majority vote; we’re gonna vote and see which is the best option. Number six: we all decide but through consensus; we want everyone who’s got that vote to be for. They don’t necessarily have to be all for it. This is just no one is opposed to the decision. And number seven in the we all decide is alignment. And that means everyone’s for it. And by the way, if we use subgroup, that subgroup still has to decide in advance if they’re gonna use majority vote, consensus or alignment. But when there’s clarity on who has a voice and who has a vote and who is not included, that clarity alone lessens the issues of angst and distrust.
Yeah, Amy. That’s so helpful. And just a great reminder when we don’t have that clarity, even around decision rights, it’s probably an indication that a restructure may be necessary to clarify those lanes again. But as you were talking about that, I’m also reminded by the fact that, you know, not every decision needs to default to consensus. I remember, I’ve been picking on city government, so I remember one time, this is many years ago, I was still in city government in the finance director. Well, we were trying to bring a more collaborative approach to leading the team and decision-making and so on for the big decisions. But he thought he was being a jokester. So he was asking me, you know, “Tony, we’re trying to figure out where to put the coffeemaker in the office. Should I pull a team together to make that decision?” I kind of wanted to fire him on the spot, but . . .
You should have.
It’s an indication of a decision that doesn’t require consensus. However, when the decisions get big, they require more buy-in. And an example: I was recently working with a church, and they’re trying to figure out, where are we going in the next three to five years? And that included some big decisions related to multi-site and facility expansion and new engagement in the community that they were trying to make. And when you are making bigger decisions like that, you’re gonna have to get more buy-in, and that’s gonna shift how then you approach the decision-making.
Yeah, it’s always this trade-off between how much time do we have to make the decision and how much buy-in do we need. And so choosing the right decision rights will help that. Well, Tony, the last sign that you need to restructure your team, it has to do with the makeup of the team itself. Will you explain that a little?
Yeah, you’re correct. We talked about this a little bit last week, but the healthy way to approach structure is to think strategy, then structure and then people. But eventually, you do need to make the right people decisions or the structure, and more importantly, the strategy it’s just not gonna work. So this is the last warning sign that you’re going we’re going to talk about today. And it has to do with getting the right mix of people on the team. Sign number three is this: you don’t have a diverse group of people on your leadership team, and healthy churches, they prioritize this. They prioritize having a staff team, and more specifically, a leadership team that includes a mix of strengths, ethnicities, genders and ages—and that really, this team reflects who the church is trying to reach in their mission field. Stuck churches, on the other hand, tend to have a team that’s much more homogeneous. They hire people who are similar in age and ethnicity while possessing similar strengths and experiences. And unfortunately, many times women, they’re underrepresented on these leadership teams.
Let me jump in there, Tony, on that.
They don’t always hire, you know, the same people, same age, but it goes back to they haven’t restructured in a long time.
And so that team continues to reflect, you know, maybe the younger leaders from 20 years ago. What we’ve just never made any changes to that top level to reflect who we’re trying to reach.
Yeah, absolutely. So what ends up happening then? Churches are learning that this lack of diversity, it also impacts their ability to fulfill their mission, especially when it comes to reaching and connecting with the next generation of young adults. So I’m talking about millennials and Gen Zers in particular. They expect every environment they walk into to be diverse and that includes the churches that they’re connecting with. But when I talk about diversity, you may be thinking primarily about ethnicity and gender and maybe even age, and yes, all of those are important. However, I actually think the aspect that’s most often lacking when it comes to diversity in the church, it has to do with gift mix, and many churches haven’t prioritized a diversity of strengths and wiring in their staff and leadership. At The Unstuck Group, we use a tool that’s called, Leading From Your Strengths. And sometimes, we also will pull in Patrick Lencioni’s Working Genius to kind of assess the mix of strengths within the church leadership teams that we serve. And you would think churches would be the perfect example of teams that reflect a good balance of the gifts and strengths of the people in the body of Christ. However, that oftentimes is just not the case. As an example, one of the common dynamics that we see on church teams is that they are heavily staffed with people who are more, well, let’s just call ’em more people-oriented. But they often lack the people who are more task or mission-oriented, especially people who fulfill the role of driver on the team. They’re just missing drivers. And this is a bit of an overstatement, but because of that, many times, everyone gets along, but nothing gets done. And when you don’t have diversity on your team, especially we’re talking about diversity of strengths, whether that’s around strengths or otherwise, it impacts the overall capacity of the team. And that’s another sign that it might be time to restructure your team.
I could just talk for another 20 minutes about that whole topic, Tony. You just kind of threw it in. . .
. . .at the end. But if you don’t know the strengths wiring of your team, you really should take a step forward to figure out that because it’s a game changer. I mean, the teams are amazing when they get that diversity in there, but, Tony, any final thoughts before we wrap up today’s conversation?
Well, first of all, I just wanna piggyback on that, Amy. Gosh, people ask me all the time. What’s one of the reasons why The Unstuck Group has experienced so much success through the years and been able to help so many churches? And I think a part of it goes back to our priority of making sure we have a good mix of giftedness on our team.
And there are people on my team—you’re an example —that can’t do what I can do. And we have other people on our team that can’t do what the combination of the two of us can do. And it’s just fun to see how that wiring, that I believe God has put into each of us as Christ-followers, when it comes together as a team, can be leveraged for a great impact. But, all that to say, we’re trying to focus in this series on signs that you need to restructure your staff. But once you’ve identified that you do need to change, the question is, how do you go about it? And with that in mind, I want you to join us on July 28th for a free one-hour webinar. And the webinar’s all about how to restructure your staff team. We’ll reveal three key steps to restructuring, and then we’ll give you some tools that you’ll need to actually get that done. You can register now at the link in your show notes.
Well, thanks for joining us on this week’s podcast. At The Unstuck Group, our goal is to help pastors grow healthy churches by guiding them to align vision, strategy, team and action. In everything we do, our priority is to help churches help people meet and follow Jesus. If there’s any way we can serve you and your church, reach out to us today at theunstuckgroup.com. Next week, we’re back with another brand new episode. So until then, we hope you have a great week.