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How Centralizing Ministry is Crippling Your Church

Many churches are enamored with the idea of centralization. Internally you’ll even hear churches talk about ideas like efficiencies, being streamlined or getting rid of redundancies.

In many multisite churches it’s even common to hear the term “Central Services” thrown around, a workgroup that is essentially designed to do away with redundancies and duplication of efforts between campuses. For instance, having one business department instead of staffing a business department or function on every campus. Seems smart right?

While at first pass centralization may seem like an efficient approach to greater ministry impact and moving further faster, it’s not always the best thing for the advancement of the mission of the church. In fact here are 6 ways well intentioned churches are unknowingly crippling their ministry impact for the sake of centralization.

1. Slows Decision Making

In a centralized system decisions get pushed up in the organization instead of down. It forces high-level staff members to deal with low-level problems. And it takes decision making away from those on the front line who are closest to the problem and probably know the most about it. Whenever Sr. level leaders are dealing with the wrong issues it slows the pace of any church or organization

2. Makes Communication Cumbersome

When communication has to be filtered through one person (the gatekeeper), or funneled through a chain of people you’ve got problem on your hands. Layers of bureaucracy, policy, and multistep communication chains slow progress towards the mission. And it creates more opportunities for miscommunication, misrepresentation, and misinterpretation of decision-making and actions to be taken.

3. Creates an “Us vs. Them “ Mentality

Whenever “we” have to wait for “them” to make a decision, and “they” don’t understand what “we” are dealing with on the frontline because “they” are somewhere back at a centralized headquarters it creates an “Us vs. Them” mentality.

4. Undermines Innovation

In any organization or church one of the most important sources for innovation and creative problem solving is the frontline employee or volunteer. Centralization takes away power from that individual to creatively solve their own problems and as a result people don’t learn how to think, rather they’re trained to just take orders. As a result creativity and innovation begin to dry up.

5. Requires very little Trust

When someone doesn’t need to be trusted to think and act through the filter of the culture of the church or organization it’s demoralizing. Conversely it’s an empowering thing to know that one is trusted, it boosts one’s spirit and often encourages them to rise to the occasion and actually increase the level of their game. Trust is the fuel that the best leaders and churches run on and if you’re not careful centralization can begin to erode trust and damage your culture.

6. The Gospel was Never meant to be Controlled

Ultimately the dance that church leaders do regarding centralization vs. decentralization comes down to an issue of control. And the Gospel was never meant to be controlled or managed it was meant to be unleashed.

Photo Credit: JustinJensen via Compfight cc


Posted in Leadership

3 Responses to “How Centralizing Ministry is Crippling Your Church”

  1. Alex Smith July 12, 2014 at 6:15 pm #

    Hey Paul,

    Another great post. I have seen so many churches try this approach. I have participated in a “satellite” church service and I agree, it loses something.

    Like you say, the feeling is almost as if, we don’t trust you to do it the right way or you are doing church exactly like we are so you won’t be successful. Of course the hub church isn’t saying these things, but it still feels that way, even as an outside observer.

    It would be interesting to hear from people who think differently and feel like this approach is really working.

    Alex @ MyChurchMatch.com

  2. Bill Weisler February 7, 2015 at 11:52 pm #

    I find this article interesting because I agree with almost everything it says. Centralized leadership can easily set up guidelines to let the satellites manage themselves. But I find it most interesting because isn’t what you are talking against exactly what we just did as a church? If not, it is definitely the way I have perceived it. So I would welcome why what we are doing doesn’t violate the principles you have put in this article.

    Thanks,

  3. Paul Alexander February 8, 2015 at 9:32 pm #

    Thanks for the comment Bill! I’m actually addressing this in an upcoming post…but the short-hand is decentralization doesn’t mean complete autonomy and centralization doesn’t mean complete control. It’s both/and.

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