Stop Hiring People to Work at your Church


Churches love to hire people. I mean they really love to hire people. Often times when churches are just starting off, staff members will raise their own salary until the church has the capacity to pay them. Then as they grow I’ve seen churches long for the day where the budget grows just a little bit more so they can make that next hire. They put so much hope into staffing. Many think that if they could just add one more special staff position to the team, the church would grow.

Now before we get too far into this conversation, let me just say that I’m not against churches hiring staff members. I’m just against churches hiring as many staff members as they do.

You see the average church in America has somewhere around a 1:75 staffing ratio. That means for every 75 people they have attending the church there is 1 full-time equivalent staff member being paid to work at the church. A full-time equivalent may be made up of 2 – 20 hour a week employees, 4 – 10 hour a week employees, or any combination you can think of. At the Unstuck Group when we help churches build a Staffing and Structure plan for the future, we encourage churches to staff at 1:100. By the way, do you know where you church measures up on that ratio?

Why Staff Lean?

One of the many reasons why we encourage churches to staff with this approach is because the churches across America that are reaching the most amount of people with the Gospel and are seeing the most amount of life change are leaner with their approach to staffing. They’re putting resources into reaching people, ministry, and developing people instead of into salaries. They pay fewer people more so they can attract and keep great people.

The More Staff the Less Life-Change

When churches staff at a lower ratio they unintentionally keep people from following Jesus. When people are hired that means what was previously being done by volunteers is now being professionalized. This takes the ministry out of the hands of volunteers and actually often times discourages volunteerism. Volunteering is discipleship. You can’t follow Jesus and not serve others.

More Staff is an indicator of Over Programming

A low attender to staff ratio is also an indicator that a church is probably over-programmed. The staff are busy running a lot of programs to minister to people who are already a part of the church and already know Jesus. 

It’s Easier to Hire than Develop

It’s faster and requires less effort to hire people to do ministry than to recruit, train, and develop volunteers to do ministry.

It’s more Convenient to be Served than to Serve

It’s easier for church members to pay to hire people to serve them than to invest the time into stepping up and serving others.

I could go on and on, but I bet you get the point. Hiring isn’t always the wrong move to make at a church. But if you do hire, hire for two big results:

  1. Hire people who can build teams and develop people
  2. Hire specialists because of a needed skill

Posted in Staffing


5 Reasons Why Churches Avoid Developing a Strategy


There is a popular phrase often attributed to Peter Drucker that says, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” After a time of careful research, I discovered that there is actually no evidence that he ever made this statement. In fact, there is no evidence that any leadership guru ever said it. It appears many different statements from several leaders were merged together over a period of years. Thus, “culture eats strategy for breakfast” burst onto the scene. And with its arrival came the notion that strategy is really not that important in leading an organization…

But nothing could be further from the truth. It has been my privilege to serve in the ministry for over 36 years. Decades of up close and personal observation have yielded some basic conclusions as to why so many churches and ministries in America are so opposed to developing strategy.

There are two misconceptions about strategy that often lead churches to discount it:

1) “Strategy quenches the Holy Spirit’s spontaneity.”

I grew up in a church that handed out a bulletin every Sunday with a service-order script for the Holy Spirit to follow. So I understand that you can actually become “over-structured” in planning. However, as I moved on to a more “Spirit-led” church, the pendulum swung in the opposite direction of just casually going with the Holy Spirit. The belief was that a truly Spirit-led service/ministry had no structure because God is a spontaneous God.

Think about that for a moment. The thought that God is spontaneous is implying that God suddenly thought of something that He had never thought of before… But everything about His nature is founded in a purpose and plan. Therefore, we need to consider this balance in our approach to ministry.

2) “Developing a strategy is using secular business practices.”

Somewhere along the line, our church leaders have adopted the mantra of separation of church and state as a scriptural mandate. Many spiritual leaders believe that it is somehow compromising to use solid business principles in the strategic development of the church.

The actual underlying concept of separation of church and state was developed to keep the government from interfering with the church. It does not mean we cannot use proven leadership principles to help our ministry grow. Solid strategic practices are not secular or spiritual.

Misconceptions aren’t the only reason churches avoid strategy. Here are three other reasons:

1) Strategic thinking requires honest evaluation of our current condition and effectiveness.

It is my opinion that we fall short at this point more often than not. It is much easier to blame outside forces for our lack of impact and growth than to take an honest inventory of our (in)effectiveness in reaching our lost neighbors.

For example, when our team helps churches assess their staffing and structure, we have church leaders complete the Leading From Your Strengths assessment to get a clearer picture of the strengths on the team. Most churches have gaps in key strengths that God has given leaders to better lead the church. By better understanding where those gaps exist, a church staff can make strategic decisions about future hires and how to structure the current team.

The truth sets us free according to Jesus. Yet, many of our ministries spend a considerable amount of energy avoiding the truth. Taking an honest look can often be the catalyst of developing new and effective ways of reaching our community.

2) A strategic plan to impact a community will often “rock the boat” of our current comfort.

A thorough study of Jesus’ teachings in the New Testament will reveal that He never offered His followers a life of comfort and ease for following Him. In fact, His command was take up your cross and follow Him daily. The daily cross-bearing isn’t comfortable. But it is fulfilling!

I actually had a church board member say to me, “I would rather this church shut down than change what we are doing!” Eventually, the church dissolved and gave its assets to another ministry. The leadership was so ingrained in the comfort of what God had done in the past that they could not entertain the thought of Him doing something new in the future.

3) A written strategic plan brings accountability.

Research has proven people are more able to remember things written down than remember what they heard. I can side-step being held accountable when I avoid putting a plan down in writing. This also means I will probably never accomplish what is possible!

Writing down the strategy does not necessarily mean I have figured out everything. But it does put a methodical process in place that moves me closer to actually accomplishing the goal. The Bible says in Habakkuk 2:2, “And then God answered: ‘Write this. Write what you see. Write it out in big block letters so that it can be read on the run.’”(MSG)

Putting the plan on paper is a great way to bring clarity and unity to your team.

Maybe some observant leader actual developed the mantra “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” And it may be that your current ministry or organization is experiencing this today. If so, here is a radical idea: develop a strategy to change the culture! I promise it will not happen quickly or without some pain. However, I do promise it is a necessary step in fulfilling your God-given calling and purpose.

If you’d like support in developing your strategy and vision, our team would be happy to help. Take a look at our 4-phase process and start a conversation. We’d love to hear from you.

Dale is a consultant/facilitator with over 35 years experience. He has served in a variety of roles from founding/directing a Christian music group, special events coordinator at a Christian radio station and as lead pastor for 12 years. He’s currently executive pastor of The Mill Church in Pickens, SC. His passion is to help small/medium size churches become healthy. He and his wife Gina have been married for 35 years and have three daughters, two sons-in-law and a recent grandchild!

Posted in Leadership


The Tension between Power and Leadership


A little bit of power can go to your head. Give some people a uniform, a title, or a little bit of authority and they can become a little overbearing and overzealous (the movie Mall Cop comes to mind).

People often confuse power and leadership. I get it, leaders by perception have all the power and leaders often misuse power. But leadership and power are not the same thing.

Power doesn’t make you a Leader

Just because someone has a little bit of power doesn’t mean they’re a leader. They may have a title, the authority to tell others what to do, or even decision-making responsibility but it doesn’t mean they’re a leader. We’ve all met small minded people who get a little power and authority only to throw it around in a manner that repels everyone around them. No one wants to follow that person. That’s because they’re not a leader.

Power reveals Character

I’ve heard people say that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. I don’t buy into that, rather I subscribe to the idea that power simply reveals the character of the person wielding it. What you do with the power (whether you have a lot or a little) you have is a reflection of the kind of person you truly are.

Power is a Tool

Power is simply a tool, nothing more, nothing less. Some use power well…others not so much. It can be used to build up or tear down. It can be used to serve others or serve yourself. With it you have the ability to empower others or be controlling.

Power is a Last Resort

Making a power play to get people to follow you should always be a last resort. While statements like, “I’m your boss,” “I’m your parent,” and “because I said so” may work from time to time they don’t endear followers to you.

Posted in Leadership


A Sneaky way to Change the Culture of your Church Staff Team


The church staff at Sun Valley Community Church (the church I have the pleasure of serving at) just did something really unique. It wasn’t complicated or particularly flashy and it didn’t make a big public impact on the church. In fact the church body doesn’t really even know about it. But I believe it will have a tremendous influence on the trajectory of the church.

Due to our unique location being in the southwest, we were able to pile up our church staff in a convoy of vans and drive across the border to Mexico to spend a day serving with one of our ministry partners.

Like I said…not particularly flashy…but how many churches do you know of who take the time and pay for all of their staff to do a 2-day mission trip to Mexico? It’s a simple thing that I believe can make a really big difference…and here’s a couple of reasons why:

#1 Speed of the Team, Speed of the Church

The church always, always, always takes on the culture of the church staff. If you want a church body that cares about reaching people with the Gospel but your church staff doesn’t model that you can forget about it. If you want a church that cares about the nations you need to have a staff that cares about the nations. I want to serve on a church staff team that cares about what Jesus cares about.

#2 Discipleship/Development doesn’t happen in a Classroom

The first time I went on an international mission trip my life changed. It changed the way I viewed people, the way I read God’s word, my friendship with Jesus and the way I viewed myself and call upon my life. I want to put the team I’m responsible for in environments where their life can be changed by Jesus!

#3 Time Together

Like your church staff, most of the time our church staff spends together is related to work. Rarely do we set aside a significant amount of time designed to move us towards one another relationally and spiritually. A shared experience like serving together can begin to change the relational dynamics on a team.

Posted in Leadership, Spiritual Formation, Staffing


You Get What You Tolerate

not my job

I talk to church leaders all the time who dream about how they wish their church were different. But I rarely talk to church leaders who are willing to take action and do something with all of that wishing. Just like in parenting, any relationship or social construct, in church leadership you get what you tolerate. If you tolerate bad behavior, you’re going to get bad behavior.

Inaction is Equivalent to Action

By doing nothing you’re actually doing something. Everything person, church or organization is led by intent or neglect to be where it is and where it’s going.

Hope is not a Strategy

Hope is not a strategy. It doesn’t matter what you hope will work or what you wish would work. It only matters what actually will work. And nothing works until you do.

Take Personal Ownership

If you don’t like the way things are in your church today and you’ve been a part of the leadership team for more than 3 years (less than that and you can blame the prior administration) than most likely it’s because you’ve allowed it to be what it is. You’ve tolerated bad or sloppy behavior and it’s become institutionalized in the culture of the church. Take personal ownership of it, admit it, apologize to your team for it, and then stop tolerating it.

Posted in Leadership