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Top Posts of 2015 #1: “How Many People should your Church have on Staff?”

I’ve been counting down the top 10 posts from 2015 this past week and you made this the most popular post here at Helping Churches Make Vision Real in 2015!

Before you buy into the idea that you need another staff person at your church, think again. That just may be the worst decision you make at your church this year.

It’s not uncommon in churches that I work with to hear them say, “We need to add more staff.” After all if there are problems or areas where the church is stuck then throwing staff at that problem will surely fix it…right? Well, not always. In fact the opposite may be true. In fact the most effective churches that I see have a tendency to hire fewer staff not more staff. They hire more competent team members who have the ability to turn attenders into volunteers, volunteers into leaders, and build teams. Instead of paying people to do ministry they pay people to lead others to do ministry.

At the Unstuck Group we encourage churches to staff to a ratio of 100:1. As you can see in the chart above the average ratio of attendance to staff in most churches is 86:1. In other words for every 86 people in attendance at the church (including adults and kids), there’s typically one full-time staff person.

This number includes all paid staff at the church. That means administrative staff, support staff, ministry staff and pastors. This number also includes both full-time and part-time staff. We calculate the full-time equivalent (FTE) number by adding the total average number of hours part-time staff work and then dividing by 40. That number is added to the number of full-time staff to get the FTEs. For example, if there are 5 full-time employees and 10 part-time employees working a combined average of 200 hours per week, that makes for a total of 10 FTE’s.

Over staffing is a big deal in churches because it’s usually an indicator that:

1. The church has become Insider Focused

Typically an overstaffed church is paying people to do ministry and run programs to keep long-time people in the church happy.

2. The church has a Poor Culture of Volunteerism

There is a direct connection between staffing and volunteerism at churches. Generally the more a church spends on staffing the less likely attenders are to serve.

3. The church has Stopped Growing

There is also a direct connection between staffing and church growth. What we’ve discovered in our research at the Unstuck Group is that the more a church spends on staff the more the rate of attendance growth slows.

In other words the more staff your church has the more likely your church is to become insider focused, have a low level of buy-in and volunteerism by attenders, and to be plateaued or in decline.

Interested in learning more? Download the ebook “Vital Signs: Meaningful Metrics That Keep a Pulse on Your Church’s Health” or consider engaging the Unstuck Group to do a Ministry Health Assessment with your church.

Posted in Leadership, Staffing


5 Keys to Developing Young Leaders in Your Church

It seems like everywhere you turn lately some national church leader is writing about the bleak future of the US Church due to younger generations leaving. Well, recently I spent some time at a place that made me really hopeful about the future of the church in America.

This past weekend I had the opportunity to do some coaching at Ethos Church, a young multisite church located in Nashville, Tennessee. In just 7 years Ethos has grown to 3 locations and more than 2,500 people in attendance, and the rate at which they are baptizing people is in the top 10% of churches in the US! Plainly stated God is using the ministry of Ethos Church to change people’s lives. But what excited me the most about my time with them was everywhere I looked there were young leaders, and not just serving as interns or in some inconsequential role. But there were young men and women in their 20’s and 30’s (the ones in their 30’s were the old ones…I guess that makes me ancient now) who are serving as the Sr. Leaders of this fast growing church.

In working with churches around the country unfortunately churches like Ethos have become the exception rather than the rule. It doesn’t have to be that way. This list below of “5 Things Young Leaders Need” is a great place for your church start.

1. Opportunity

Even leaders who have been gifted greatly don’t start out as great leaders. Someone somewhere gave them their first opportunity. The tough thing about leadership is that it isn’t learned in a classroom it’s learned by leading. In order to grow and develop, young leaders need the opportunity to get real hands on experience.

Question: Does your church give young leaders real opportunities to lead stuff that matters?

2. Access

Young leaders need access to real leadership conversations. They need to be a “fly on the wall” in board meetings, management team meetings, and executive team meetings. They need to watch the Sr. Leaders in the organization lead through the tough stuff and make the big decisions. They need access to ask experienced leaders questions about how they lead and why they do it the way they do.

Question: Do the Sr. Leaders in your church give young leaders unfiltered access to watch real leadership take place and discuss it?

3. Authority

Young leaders don’t just need busy work to keep them occupied. Once they’ve proven they can deliver through following through on tasks being delegated to them they need to be empowered to make real decisions and exercise real authority to accomplish objectives through leading their own teams and delegating to others.

Question: Does your church give young leaders real consequential responsibility?

4. Grace

Part of the nature of being a young leader is making mistakes. Even experienced leaders don’t get it right all the time; and young inexperienced leaders certainly are going to make mistakes, it’s the nature of young leaders. How you respond when young leaders fail matters.

Question: Does your church give young leaders the room to fail?

5. Coaching

Great coaching can make all the difference in the performance of a team or a particular player. Great coaches do four simple things with their players. They train their players before the game, they put their players in game like situations in practice and get “reps” in before the real game happens, they make in game adjustments, and they watch the game film after the game to review and learn from the player’s performance.

Question: Does your church expect young leaders to learn on their own through their own experience or do you actually coach them?

Posted in Leadership, Spiritual Formation, Staffing


The 2 Most Important Ingredients of a Winning Team

You’ve probably heard this popular African Proverb before:

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

The reason this statement has become so popular and “gone global,” is that it resonates with us at a core level. We inherently know that it’s true; not just from a tactical team building framework, but this is the way God designed life to work.

If you’ve ever played on or been around a winning team you know how much fun it can be. You also know that winning teams are rare, only one team wins the championship each year. You also know that winning teams don’t just happen on accident. They’re built with great intentionality. So as you’re in the process of mixing the right ingredients to build a great team, make sure you mix in the 2 most important ingredients to building a winning team:


Trust is built up close and over time. It’s more given than earned. But it’s given to people who have a proven track record, because the best predictor of future success is past performance. We know what to expect from each other and trust that we are each going to play our role at a high level.


While great teams are composed of great players, those great players know how to keep their ego in check. Great players are great not just because of their talent level, but they put the team first. Which means they do what’s best for the team instead of what’s best for themselves or their career. They’d rather be a role player on a championship team than a star on a mediocre team.

Posted in Leadership, Staffing


3 Reasons it’s Good for Church Staff Members to Leave their Church

Through coaching and consulting relationships I’ve had the privilege to work with a lot of Church Staff out there in church-world. One of the more common questions I’m asked by Church Staff Members is, “How do I know when it’s time to leave my church?”

It’s not always a simple straightforward conversation, it’s complicated and often nuanced. And it’s never a decision that should be made lightly. Truth is, there are probably a lot of reasons a Church Staff Member might leave a church. Some of them are valid; some of them are not so valid. But if you’re a Church Staff Member and you’re considering leaving your church, below are three great places to start in the conversation.


I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had this conversation. Someone on the church staff is frustrated due to the lack of vision at the church or they don’t agree with the vision and they feel that it’s their job to challenge the leadership and point out their flawed ways. If as a church staff member you can’t get on board with the vision of the church or there is such a lack of clarity of vision that it’s leading to a deep level of frustration then it’s time to find a leader and a vision to follow that you believe in.

God’s Call

If you’re sure that God is calling you to something else, then that’s a fantastic reason to leave a church. But before you start waving around the “God’s will card,” you better be sure that it was God’s voice you heard talking and not that pizza you had last night at 1:00am.

Loss of Trust

If for some reason you lose trust in the leaders that you’re following, or if they lose trust in you it can make it exceptionally difficult to remain on staff at that church. Trust is the fuel that leadership runs on. When it’s eroded you can forfeit the right to lead or be led. And while most will contend that trust is earned, it’s actually something that someone chooses to give.

Posted in Leadership, Staffing


Why Secret Sauce is Better than any X-Factor at your Church

When a church begins to grow people usually start to wonder and ask, “What’s the Secret Sauce?” or “What’s the X-Factor?” Why is this church growing? Now let me preface this article and say we know that God is the one who draws people to Himself and grows His Church. Yet, it would be disingenuous to exclude the human effort or circumstantial situations that contribute to the sustained growth of a church.

I was recently asked by someone, “What’s the secret sauce/X-Factor at Epikos Church?” I wasn’t able to answer the question quickly or clearly. This conversation caused me to ponder why I couldn’t answer quickly and it dawned on me. These phrases are often used interchangeably…but I’d like to suggest there is a difference!


There is a single, overwhelming, identifiable, and powerful element that is the main growth catalyst. For example, this could be a super talented preaching pastor or worship leader. It could be a phenomenal location and building that just draws people in.

Secret Sauce:

There is this perfect mixture of multiple ingredients that adds up to a tasty irresistible experience with God that you have to have more of. For example this could be a combination of core values of a church and a strong staff team. It could be a combination of unique vision, vibrant small group structure, and inspirational worship services.

The great thing about an X-Factor is that it’s easy to identify and so it’s easy to leverage and maximize it for God’s glory. You can gain momentum fast by highlighting and leaning upon the X-Factor. The dangerous downside to an X-Factor is that if the X-Factor is removed it can decimate the church. It’s also easy to begin to rely on the X-Factor for church growth instead of relying on God working through the church. There are plenty of examples of X-Factor communicators when once removed the bottom fell out.

While secret sauce might not be as flashy as an X-Factor, I would argue it has some advantages. Unlike the X-Factor it is much more stable. Take out an ingredient in the secret sauce and it still has the main elements to thrive. Because it’s less identifiable, it’s a little easier to keep people focused on God working through the whole church body instead of a single individual, building, or ministry.

What I love about secret sauce is that it’s not out of reach for any church. An X-Factor is probably going to be expensive and potentially a high-risk proposition for most churches. Secret sauce on the other hand starts with identifying who and what God has given you and stewarding it for His glory. It’s recognizing that God has already given you the ingredients to accomplish the mission of the church (Hebrews 13:20-21). We’re currently going through a process with Unstuck Group to help us work on our secret sauce. They are helping us: identify the ingredients, scale it for larger batches, and simmer it so the gospel can be shared with many!

Final Thought: A church’s secret sauce isn’t meant to be kept a secret. Feel free to follow me on twitter or facebook as we share what we learned in our recipe process.



This is a guest post by Danny Parmelee. Danny founded and Pastors Epikos Church located Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Started in 2005, today Epikos Church has 5 services in two locations and they are getting ready to open their third campus in the near future.

Posted in Leadership, Staffing
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