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People & Technology: The Importance of Scalability

“I wish I had more things to do,” said no pastor, ever. At every size church, pastors and staff have their hands, and email inboxes, full. Doing the work of ministry takes more time than they have to offer.

You know what’s coming next: the famous Ephesians 4 Five-fold ministry model. I like how The Message paraphrases this oft-quoted scripture:

He handed out gifts above and below, filled heaven with his gifts, filled earth with his gifts. He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christ’s followers in skilled servant work, working within Christ’s body, the church, until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ.

Just think: every staff member, leader and volunteer moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful! It sounds a bit like a panacea until you think through the application in today’s context. This is the very description of how to scale the work of the ministry, by equipping your people (volunteers) for doing the work of ministry.

Both people and technology can be scaled. That is, it’s possible to add more people and/or add more technology, but the point of diminishing returns happens a lot faster with people than it does with technology. Adding church staff positions is necessary, but releasing the actual work of the ministry to volunteers should be the first go-to option.How your church hires staff says a lot about how well your church prepares your volunteers to do the work of the ministry.

Scale Systems Before Adding Staff

Not only is adding staff expensive, the size of the staff is directly proportional to the complexity of relational care. It is far more affordable and generally easier to add more robust systems for sharing work than it is to divy up the work of connecting with volutneers, equipping them and raising up volunteer leaders and still expect consistent results from multiple staff.

True, more staff equates to more hours available for administrating the work, but I bet you can think of times when your staff’s “left hand” didn’t know what the “right hand” was doing. Right? That’s where scalable systems come into play, so that as you add better ways of organizing and sharing useful information, your staff will have both the time to invest in relationships and see healthier results from their work.

I’ve written about the three Systems necessary for every church before, so here’s the quick recap (or click here to read the whole thing):

Relational Responsibility System

The point of keeping up with ‘people information’ is to help facilitate relationships, so any tool that merely acts as a glorified Rolodex is only marginally useful.

Stewardship System

Being a steward is defined as a responsibility to take care of something belonging to someone else.

Communications System

Great communication ensures the right message is getting to the right people in the right way at the right time.

Add Staff for More Relational Connections

When your systems are running well and your staff is giving delegated authority to volunteer leaders, there comes a point where the number of direct reports becomes unmanageable. That’s a key indicator of a church’s need to add more staff, where the added bandwidth offers not more time for work to be done, but for more relationships to be built and grown.

Church staff, like the rest of the world, are still people, so they’ll have the tendency to give things away they don’t want to do and hold on to things they like to do. Part of the staff hiring strategy and leadership of the 3 Most Important Church Systems is in adding high-capacity individuals to help staff release the work to volunteers.

Clearly, there’s a bunch of administrative, back-office work that will take up time (and more time as the staff grows), but administration should be intentionally minimized as often as possible.

Ministry drives administration, not the other way around. Processes change to adapt to ministry. –Pastor Randy CochranFrisco Campus Pastor, Gateway Church

In your day-to-day work, remember the Ephesians 4 Five-fold ministry model and you’ll create a healthier, growing church!

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Anthony has worked in the secular world of A/V, the ministry world of church staff and the para-church ministry of three companies that serve the church space (Auxano, Fellowship Technologies and Worlds of Wow!). Today, his consultancy focuses on helping churches and para-church ministries leverage appropriate systems, processes and technologies for more effective ministry. Anthony leads out of his strengths of effectively caring for people, efficiently managing resources and enabling scalable growth. He has been consulting, teaching, writing and speaking to church and business leaders for nearly 20 years.