By Allen Quist & Tim Robnett
A decade ago, I (Tim) walked into a second-story office for the Galesburg, Illinois, evangelistic festival with Dan Owens. Dan was not organizing the mass evangelism event, but was concerned that much needed to be accomplished to prepare for his forthcoming crusade. A local businessman had given the invitation for Dan to come. Even with a passion for the lost in his city, this dear businessman lacked the administrative gifts necessary to carry out the mission. He had a dream, but no skill to carry out the dream. It was comical to walk into such a situation and realize the only hope was for God to act.
There was no apparent organization or structure, so the Luis Palau Association contributed a very seasoned administrator to help. But frankly, it was God working through the faith of one man more than any of our team’s abilities. Yes, the Spirit of God does move often in mysterious ways. However, routinely God works through the gifted people in his church.
Paul left Titus in Crete to “straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you” (Titus 1:5). The exhortation implies that Titus had unfinished business to attend to— a work that Paul had started. Titus had to correct what was wrong and solve problems—basically, giving order and structure to a chaotic situation. He appointed men to continue maintaining the orderliness of church life. Paul taught the church in Corinth that God had given the gift of administration to some to strengthen the church in her need for order and direction. Paul’s list of gifts to the church included leadership. God calls those who lead the church to do so with diligence (see Rom. 12:8). The gift of leadership means that someone stands in front to point the way.
Structure is to the organization what a skeleton is to the body. An emaciated body lacks muscle, making the skeleton blatantly obvious. An obese body camouflages any skeleton, while placing extreme pressure on the skeletal system. A healthy body shows the flesh and bone in balanced proportions. The church or Christian organization that has structure and organization in balance with vision and resources will experience effectiveness and efficiency. When the organization continues to debate roles, priorities, and regularly seeks to “reorganize,” then the management process is out of balance.
Relational conflicts within the church often come because people are confused or frustrated. When leaders neglect organizational structure, the ministry environment feels unsafe and confusing. Overstructured ministries often restrict new people and new ideas from being welcomed. How can you know if the structure of your ministry or church is healthy? Look for the signs.
When people are properly organized, they become efficient and effective in accomplishing the tasks required of them. Properly structured churches find that people work together and accomplish given tasks with a sense of ease and harmony. The Luis Palau Association has a top-notch volunteer program. Dozens of volunteers give thousands of hours each year to assist the Palau Association in accomplishing a number of major ministries. One very time-consuming ministry is the direct mail ministry. The volunteers prepare and send out thousands of mailings every year. What makes this a successful program? The volunteer coordinator does a great job of organizing people: they explain tasks clearly, make sure resources are readily available, provide refreshments, a well-lit and clean environment welcomes the volunteers, they are contacted well in advance, and public recognition encourages them to keep up their commitment to the team.
When people feel appreciated, they will give the extra hour, drive the extra mile, and work in less than ideal situations. Ministry is not just about tasks, but about people who desire to be productive and appreciated for their efforts. When the system is in place to demonstrate value to people for their efforts, they will go out of their way to accomplish the tasks set before them. When people feel welcomed and wanted, the air is abuzz with conversations and people’s faces have pleasant expressions. People are valued because the supervisors tell them so. They are rewarded with affirming words and public recognition for service and achievements. Service awards demonstrate that people are valued by the organization. Public acknowledgments for work well done, sacrifices made, and innovative ideas contribute to a team excelling in all they do.
When crisis comes to the individual team member, the reaction of the other team members demonstrates the value of the individual to the team. A dear friend just recently commented to me (Tim) that when his wife faced a health crisis, the people where he worked extended much grace and support to him and his wife. Why? Because they highly value people and relationships. What did that bring to my friend? Safety and security in a time of great stress and pain. The institutional value—that people are important—brought strength and hope at a critical time. God’s love needs arms to hug and shoulders to lean on. Do you highly value people?
Proper organization promotes the solution of problems of all shapes and sizes. Healthy structures within the organization promote excellent communication and collaboration in problem solving. Organizations with ten members or ten thousand members are healthy when they can solve all types of problems. To have a healthy structure, you need clear and positive lines of communication. Nothing is more frustrating in an organizational environment than when you do not know who to ask to give you an answer for your problem. However, when there are clear roles and responsibilities that outline who relates to whom, for what reasons, and with ample resources, then a healthy environment of grace promotes wholesome relationships and productive people.
Recently, I (Tim) was looking for an updated résumé of a leader in our organization. The department that formerly handled such matters no longer existed. What was handled under one department now existed under various departments. So one phone call led to another, some in the office, others across the nation. But, at the end of the day, no one knew who was responsible for what. Eventually my questions were answered and I got the résumé, but at the cost of far too many hours.
In contrast, when people know where to go and who to ask in solving problems, both the individuals and the team within the organization excel.
By communication, we mean verbal and written, short- and long-term, in the office and on the road, in private and in public. Communication is to relationships what blood is to the body says our friend Bobb Biehl. Without clear, regular, emotionally connected communications between all members of the team, confusion and conflict will flourish.
Healthy communication will promote relationships being built, problems being solved, and projects getting accomplished. With healthy communication, people are happier and healthier.
Poor communication causes a breakdown in relationships. When relationships deteriorate, people lose trust and become defensive. People become more prone to hiding their feelings, ideas, and contributions to solving problems. Eventually the covering-up of feelings will explode in inappropriate outbursts of anger, bitterness, and accusations. Unhealthy words will cultivate feelings of resentment and bitterness. A cycle of guilt will promote critical attitudes, and a spirit of judgment will invade the organization.
However, when leaders welcome the communication of feelings and ideas, successes and failures, hopes and sorrows, people will flourish in their interpersonal relationships. The team will feel good about itself. People will express creativity and hope for the future. Everyone will do better. The team will be productive.
Leaders have a unique role in formulating how the vision will be accomplished. Chapter 13 dealt with planning. Planning and structure (organization) require consistent interaction. You could develop structure before, at the same time as, or after planning. The important reality is that these two components of organizational leadership must work together.
One of the key steps in developing the plan is defining how your ministry will be structured in order to fulfill the vision. One of these first steps is to determine the five to seven areas on which the ministry will be focused. What are the major areas of ministry? What specific groupings will we create to build team ministries?
Typically, a church may divide the responsibilities along the lines of topic or age groups (life phases). For example, a church my have children’s ministry, youth ministry, adult ministry, worship, missions, and administration. There could also be a structure that looks something like this: worship, outreach, education, missions, and administration. Obviously there are subgroupings under each major focus, but age-groupings or topical groupings are the typical way of structuring ministry.
The parachurch or missions organization could adopt a geographical or topical approach to structure, depending on what the leadership decided was important. We recommend no more than five to seven major divisions (departments) in an organization.
Once we decide upon the basic format or structure, then we must ask a number of key questions. Let us consider a few of these key questions:
What tools would you need to answer the question “How will the ministry be structured?” First would be an organizational chart. This chart attempts to put into a graphic format the relationships and responsibilities of those serving in ministry. The most basic function of an organization chart is to answer the question “What is the big picture?” How will the major areas of the ministry be organized? What focuses of ministry will we continue to work on for years to come?
The organizational chart can also answer the question “Who is responsible for what?” It puts into graphic format the personnel who will be involved. Along with the major focus of the ministry, the organizational chart will have names attached to each specific ministry.
Several factors can contribute to your understanding of the health of your organization. As you look at the organizational chart, ask yourself these questions:
If you can answer yes to any of these questions, then you are heading for an unhealthy outcome.
Another tool for addressing the “who” question is having clear job descriptions for each person. This is applicable not only to paid positions, but also to volunteers working in the church. One church calls the form for the volunteers a ministry focus sheet. This allows the ministry leader to outline, discuss, and evaluate each person constructively.
Leaders facilitate healthy relationships when we become a student of people’s personalities, spiritual gifts, relationship experiences, and ministry histories. Tools that help assess a person’s personality style will enhance understanding of behaviors, reactions, relationships, and commitments to tasks and people. Role Preference, DISC, Meyers/Briggs, and TJTA are some of the tools that can assist in this analysis. Seeking to understand others before understanding self comes as a maxim from Stephen Covey. The leader who applies this maxim through thoughtful and systematic application to the organization will find people far more eager to serve when they are understood for who they really are.
Tools, however, can never replace time spent in developing healthy and productive relationships. As Allen shared earlier, quality time comes only as a by-product of quantity of time. Therefore, to know and nurture healthy ministry relationships, teams must spend time together in a variety of contexts. Ministry only in the office setting limits one’s knowledge and respect for others. Spending social time brings a greater level of appreciation for a person’s wholeness.
I (Tim) loved working with our office administrator, Freda, some years ago at Palm Springs Baptist Church. She was multitalented and blessed with a passionate heart for God and people. But to see Freda in the context of her home was a real eye opener. During my visit with her and her husband, I learned that not only was Freda skilled in relationships, but she was also very gifted as an artist, expressing herself in a multitude of creative crafts.
Freda’s maturity and breadth of life experience brought real life wisdom into our staff meetings. She understood practical things such as how long it would take to accomplish a specific task. She had the grace and wisdom to ask, “Pastor, can I involve some of the ladies in the church to help me send out the church newsletter?” This insight not only helped us complete a task on time, but it also gave meaningful ministry for a handful of older women who enjoyed the social side of their work.
In Latin, radical means “at the root.” At the root of much confusion in the life of the church lies the neglect of considering the working of the Holy Spirit in the administration of the church. This confusion and disorganization comes from several sources.
Those gifted by the Spirit with administrative gifts should be recognized and positioned to use their giftedness to serve the church. How can this be done?
Allowing those gifted by the Spirit to organize and manage the church or parachurch organization can be tremendously freeing. Pastors and church boards need to identify and release people with these gifts. The church will find a healthier and happier experience of ministry when this happens.
Luis Palau is a dynamic, highly effective evangelist. Creative ideas and big visions never cease for Luis. On launching his own ministry in 1977, Luis saw a continual stream of employees come and go until he released the major administrative duties of the ministry over to David Jones, now CFO and VP of administration. David has the ability to filter and prioritize the vision. He understands process and clarifies roles and relationships. He recognizes the need for resources to accomplish the multitude of projects. All in all, the Holy Spirit has gifted David as an administrator in areas that Luis is not. When a team of individuals with unique gifts (of the Holy Spirit) came around Luis Palau, his ministry began to flourish. The Spirit of God works through people and structure to multiply ministries.