July 13, 2022

Signs You Need to Restructure: Legacy Structure – Episode 253 | The Unstuck Church Podcast

signs to restructure legacy structure e253

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Signs You Need to Restructure Your Staff (Part 2)

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Change is never easy… especially when people are involved. However, you can’t pursue new vision, new ministry strategies, and new priorities without also embracing a new structure. 

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 discussed three warning signs related to overstaffing in churches. (Listen to Part 3 on warning signs related to leadership capacity and part 4 on warning signs related to lack of alignment and span of care.)


In this episode, we’re unpacking issues related to legacy structures. You’re perfectly structured to get the results you’re getting today—so if you want different results, it will likely require you to change both your strategy AND your structure. Join in as we discuss four more warning signs and:

  • Structuring around your strategy
  • The ministry strategy stuck churches typically ignore
  • Why you can’t bring fresh direction to an existing structure
  • The problems with a legacy structure
You can’t pursue new vision, new ministry strategies, and new priorities without also embracing a new structure. [episode 253] #unstuckchurch Click To Tweet Healthy churches recognize that shifts in vision or ministry strategies require shifts in the staffing structure as well. [episode 253] #unstuckchurch Click To Tweet Healthy churches reevaluate their structure often—usually every 18 to 24 months. [episode 253] #unstuckchurch Click To Tweet When the pandemic presented new challenges, healthy churches were willing to change. Stuck churches, on the other hand, tend to double-down on past strategies and structures when crisis hits. [episode 253] #unstuckchurch Click To Tweet

[Free Webinar] How to Restructure Your Church Staff


Leading an organizational restructuring process is one of the most challenging—and often painful—things a leader has to do.

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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Sean (00:02):

Welcome to The Unstuck Church Podcast, where each week we are exploring what it means to be an unstuck church. As more and more churches struggle with overstaffing, misaligned structures and a decline in results and team capacity, many are wondering how to know when it’s time for a change. 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 what your current structure can tell you about your need for change. 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.

Amy (00:56):

Well, welcome back. At least I hope our listeners are back, Tony. I sometimes wonder how many church leaders we might run off when we get more pointed in our content like we are in this series. And since you didn’t hold back last week, it’ll be interesting to see who shows up this week.

Tony (01:12):

Yeah, this is probably why I often hear people tell me I really appreciate your podcast, especially when Amy does more of the talking. But I get it. This is a more pointed conversation. This month we’re talking about signs that you need to restructure your staff team, and even that word, restructure, I know that scares a lot of people. In fact, I was at a church recently, and I heard someone say out loud something along these lines, I’m good with engaging new ministry strategy and taking on new responsibilities. I just don’t want to go through another restructure of our team, and so I just thought, oh, you don’t know what’s coming next, do you? But I get it. I get it. Change is never easy, especially when people are involved, and that’s obviously often the case when we’re changing something. However, I also know that you can’t pursue new vision, new ministry strategies and new priorities without also embracing a new structure. Or another way to say it is this: you’re perfectly structured to get the results that you’re getting today. So if you want different results, it will likely require you to change your strategy and your structure. And actually, we’re going to talk about that a little bit more specifically in today’s episode. However, Amy, since people like it so much when you do more of the talking, we’re going to flip roles today, and I’m going to ask you questions and let you focus on delivering all the wisdom that I know you’ll bring. And let me begin here. Last week, we talked about several signs that it’s time to restructure. All of those signs last week were about overstaffing. This week, all the warning signs are directly related to the structure itself. So Amy, where would you like to begin?

Amy (03:09):

I think I’d like to begin where we normally begin with churches, Tony, we bring them back to the three foundational questions. Why does our church exist, right? What’s our mission, our purpose. Why do we exist? Who are we trying to reach? And of course that’s our mission field. Where has God placed our church, and who in that mission field should we be reaching? And lastly, how are we going to reach them and help them follow Jesus? What are our ministry strategies? And I start with these foundational questions because it leads to the first warning sign that it’s time to restructure, which is sign number one. You’re currently structured around your people rather than what we just talked about, your ministry strategy. So let me explain it this way. Healthy churches structure around their strategy. Stuck churches structure around their people. Or another way to say it is this healthy churches think strategy, then structure, then people. Stuck churches go the other direction. They tend to think people, structure, strategy. A healthy church, in other words, they’ll pause every once in a while and they’ll assess how are we doing? And they ask, are we seeing the results we want? And often, you know, that we’re at churches all the time. They’re hitting the mark in some areas, right? But in other areas they aren’t. And so they identify their updated ministry strategies for their next run. In other words, they set those strategies first. Then they assess if they’re structured in a way that will best help them accomplish the goals related to those ministry strategies. And then they ask who should be in what seats? And so stuck churches, when I say they reverse the order, they actually first assess who do we have? And then they ask the question, what can they do? And then based on that, what can we do? So let me just give you an example, Tony, where I saw this so much. It’s related to digital reach strategies. We’ve talked a lot about that through the pandemic. And many churches recognize that everybody they want to reach is online, right? Facebook, Instagram, the Metaverse. But so few churches are actually designing a structure that includes a digital team and determining like what new skills people on those teams need to have, who they need to be. Instead, they’re just grabbing people they already have, like for instance, the worship team, and then having them put the service online and realize that this is what that team can do. And so that’s now their digital strategy. And I think that’s why it’s important to start with those foundational questions about mission, who we’re hoping to reach, and our strategy to help people move from where they are to where God wants them to be. Because if we don’t start there, we’ll miss new strategies, like the digital strategy that we should be structuring people around.

Tony (05:49):

Yeah. It’s always interesting, Amy. It’s a great point that you raise right off the bat today because you know, when pastors call and I’m talking with them about why they’re reaching out to us? One of the common reasons is they just feel like their structure is a problem. And so when we start to talk about getting on the solution side of that problem, they always want us, I mean, really, they almost always want us to start fixing the structure first and then maybe we’ll talk about direction and strategies and so on. However, our Unstuck Process always starts with clarifying mission, direction and strategies. And then we talk about structure changes that need to happen. And this is why we go in that order. If we try to fix structure first, before we take a look at the direction and strategies, it will often require a restructure right after we just help them with a restructure. And let me ask you the question what’s worse than one restructure? It’s two restructures. So again, as I stated earlier, if you don’t clarify strategy first, your existing structure will be resilient, and it will oftentimes resist needed changes required for the church to fulfill its mission. All right. So that’s the first sign that we need to restructure. Amy, this second warning sign. I think it’s actually related to the first one though, isn’t it?

Amy (07:23):

Yeah, that’s correct. Again, the second sign that you need to restructure builds upon the principle that you need to think strategy before structure. So sign number two is that you structure solely for your discipleship strategy and not your reach strategy. So healthy churches, they make sure they have a structure in place for both reach and spiritual formation. They know that it’s important to structure around ministry strategies to reach people, those who are outside the church, outside the faith. And they know they need a staffing structure in place to support their discipleship or their spiritual formation strategy to help Jesus followers take their next steps towards Jesus. In stuck churches, typically they only structure around the discipleship side of their strategy. And it’s not that they’re without a reach strategy. Instead, though, many times it’s just assumed that everyone is responsible for reaching new people for Jesus. However, I haven’t told my joke for a while, Tony.

Tony (08:20):

Yes. You should do that.

Amy (08:22):

Okay. I just told it to a church in North Dakota this week. All right. How do you kill the dog, Tony?

Tony (08:27):

I don’t know, Amy, how do you kill a dog?

Amy (08:31):

You give eight people the responsibility to feed it. It’s such a bad joke. But it makes a point. It makes a point that if everybody is responsible for it, then nobody is. So unfortunately when churches don’t structure specifically around their reach strategy, they become stuck because they end up reaching few, if any new people and especially the next generation of young adults. So it’s not a surprise to us when this happens though, because again, no one on the team typically owns that part of the church’s strategy. No one’s waking up every day thinking about how we’re going to connect new people to the church and to the faith. No one is building teams to carry out the reach strategy and no one is raising questions and pursuing necessary changes if that reach strategy isn’t working.

Tony (09:16):

Yeah. And related to this, Amy, can you explain what we’ve seen happen when churches assign both reach strategy and discipleship strategy to the same leader and to the same team?

Amy (09:28):

Yeah, that’s really clear. The discipleship strategy, Tony, it almost always gets the focus. And the reach strategy always gets neglected, and that’s just the natural drift. And I understand why, because in many ways the discipleship strategy is easier because the people who we want to help grow in their faith, they’re a captive audience. They’re already in the church. So the reach strategy will always be harder. And primarily that’s because the people we’re trying to reach aren’t in the church yet. And oftentimes they aren’t even Christ followers yet. Because this natural drift towards discipleship, to the neglect of a church’s reach strategy, is so common. That’s why we always in ensure churches come out of our Unstuck process with both a strategy and a structure for both reach and discipleship.

Tony (10:14):

All right, Amy, let me go ahead and take this next one because it’s closely related to what we’ve discussed already, and therefore we don’t need to spend a lot of time here. Sign number three is that you probably need to restructure because you’re trying to bring fresh vision, direction and strategy into an existing structure. And what I’ve seen is healthy churches recognize the shifts in vision or ministry strategies require also shifts in the staffing structure itself. Otherwise, and I mentioned this a moment ago, the natural tendency is just to pile new initiatives onto someone’s existing job. And when that happens, something gets dropped, either the job they were previously doing gets dropped or that new initiative gets dropped. And oftentimes it’s the new initiative. And that’s probably one of the key reasons why stuck churches have such a hard time getting unstuck. Leaders and teams will always gravitate back to what they were hired or built to do. They will work hard to preserve what they know because it’s what they’re designed to do. And it’s because of that, it’s also where they’re oftentimes most comfortable.

Amy (11:31):

Yeah. Let me share a specific example of this, and it has to do with volunteer engagement in churches. Now granted, every staff leader in every ministry is responsible for building volunteer teams in the church, but for many churches, especially on this side of the pandemic, we found that churches are struggling when it comes to re-engaging volunteers. And because of that, it’s not been uncommon, especially this last year, for churches to identify that they need to launch a focused initiative around implementing a new volunteer engagement strategy and for the result of increasing the number of volunteers serving inside and outside the walls of the church. So many time churches don’t have someone on their team whose sole responsibility is being the champion of volunteer engagement in the church. I run into this all the time, Tony. They’ve got lots of pastors on the discipleship side, and serving is certainly one of the steps they want people to take, but there’s no specific, you know, owner around that. So again, let’s say the groups pastor draws the short straw, and they become responsible for new volunteer engagement initiatives. Well that groups pastor’s already really busy with groups. And guess what ball that pastor most likely drops? It’s almost always going to be that new volunteer engagement initiative. So that’s just one small example of why it’s important to restructure when you’re trying to pursue a fresh vision, direction or strategy. It always brings me back to the old wine skin, new wine skin. You need something new to put that new vision in.

Tony (12:59):

That’s right. And speaking of volunteer engagement, just kind of a preview of where we’re going with the podcast. Next month, we are going to focus solely on volunteer engagement. So you’ll wanna stay tuned to upcoming episodes. Amy, there’s one more topic I wanted to hit today, and it has to do with the frequency of structure changes. Can you unpack that a little bit?

Amy (13:22):

Sure. And let me just begin by saying it’s probably more frequent than most people think, because sign number four is that you’re married to a legacy structure even after legacy staff have left or retired, right? So again, let me remind you of what I talked about earlier. Stuck churches think people, then structure and then strategy. Because of that, they rarely change their structure because they’re unwilling or unable to consider ministry strategy changes first. So when vacancies occur and they seem to be occurring more often the last couple of months or years, they just promote or rehire people to fill vacant positions. And that legacy structure perpetuates itself and the results it delivers. So when a worship pastor leaves, stuck churches just promote someone or rehire a worship pastor. When a Christian education pastor leaves, stuck churches just promote someone or rehire a Christian education pastor. When the student pastor leaves, stuck churches just promote someone or rehire a student pastor, et cetera, et cetera. But that’s not the way healthy churches function. Healthy churches evaluate structure probably, Tony, every 18 to 24 months. I mean, I’m not suggesting that we restructure, you know, every six months. That would be a little manic, but 18 to 24 months is a good range. And they recognize that the ministry is constantly evolving as strategies to reach and disciple people also change, because strategy is changing. We talk about it all the time. At the top of the pyramid, that how comes after we know what success looks like. And then we have to evaluate those strategies. And if they’re not working, we need to shift. And the more we shift, the more we have to think about how the structure has to change, too. But guess what? When structure changes become more commonplace, structure changes also become more accepted. Sometimes the first restructure is the hardest one because we haven’t done it forever, but the more regularly we revisit this, the easier it gets because everyone begins to recognize, oh, we’ve done this before. We determined we needed to pursue new priorities to accomplish our mission, we restructured to support that new direction, and we continued to help more people meet and follow Jesus. And that’s what healthy growing churches do. So, you know, just change for change sake produce church health? Of course not. And are healthy churches willing to change both their strategies and their structures? Yes. You better believe they are. And frankly, that’s why we’re seeing healthy churches come out of the pandemic in such healthier positions than stuck churches. When the pandemic presented new challenges to accomplishing the mission, healthy churches were willing to change. Stuck churches, though, tended to double down on past strategies and structures when the crisis hit.

Tony (16:00):

All right, Amy, good stuff today. Thanks for sharing your wisdom and experience on this important topic. But I will say, however, that you also got rather pointed in today’s conversation. So let’s see if all those “We love Amy” podcast fans will still like it when you do more of the talking. Okay?

Amy (16:20):

All right. I did do a lot of talking. Tony, do you have any final thoughts before we wrap this up today?

Tony (16:28):

Well, yeah, in this series, we’re discussing four signs that you need to restructure your staff, but once you’ve identified the need to change, the question is how do you go about it? So with that in mind, we’d love for you to join the Unstuck team on July 28th. It’s a free one hour webinar that we’re offering on how to restructure your church staff, and we’ll reveal three key steps to restructuring, and then the tools that you’ll need to get there. So you can register now at the link in your show notes.

Sean (17:01):

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. Until then, have a great week.

Tony Morgan

Tony is the Founder and Lead Strategist of The Unstuck Group. Started in 2009, The Unstuck Group has served 500 churches throughout the United States and several countries around the world. Previously, Tony served on the senior leadership teams of three rapidly growing churches including NewSpring Church in South Carolina. He has five published books including, The Unstuck Church, and, with Amy Anderson, he hosts The Unstuck Church Podcast which has thousands of listeners each month.


  • How do you count staff…do you include secretarial and grounds? Technology folks? Book-keeping? Or are you only talking about ministerial staff? All of there people can end up in the personnel budget….

    • Hi Darrell, Here’s the formula: total staffing budget (all salaries, taxes, benefits, etc) as a percentage of the general fund/ministry giving.


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