Wednesday, September 07, 2005

How Many Staff?

The last question on the RMC advertisement for the new Tithe Reversion Policy was "How many staff members does your church need?" We've visited this topic briefly before (see this article), but now's a good time to bring it up again. How many staff members does your church need?

This is a serious issue, because it's one the local church can do little or nothing about. A local church can remodel or beautify its campus. A local church can start new ministries and groups. A local church can decide how much evangelism and outreach it does. A local church can determine how much it wants to spend on advertising. A local church can implement a discipleship track and assimilation process. But a church cannot hire additional pastoral staff. Somehow the conference retains control over that one puzzle piece.

Does your conference know anything about staffing for church growth? Or do they just have a staffing policy that says your church has to have $400,000 in tithe per year before they add additional staff? You should call and ask them what their staffing formulas look like. You might be surprised.

So, back to our original question: "How many staff members does your church need?"

To answer this question, we go to a great book on church growth: When NOT to Build by Ray Bowman and Eddy Hall. This book contains an entire section on "inadequate staffing" (starting on page 53 and going to page 59). Allow me to give you some excerpts (all emphasis mine):

Lack of space wasn't keeping this church from growing. So what was? The greatest immediate barrier was inadequate staffing. This church, with a staff consisting of a solo pastor and a secretary, was averaging about 175 in attendance. For years attendance had fluctuated between 150 and 190. A decade earlier, though, attendance had regularly run between 200 and 250. What made the difference? More than anything else, it was staffing. During those years when more than 200 were attending, they had a part-time associate staff member in addition to the pastor.

The pastor of this church was stretched way too thin and he knew it. His hands were full just trying to maintain the status quo; he had no time or energy left to lead the congregation in reaching out to the community. This church will continue to fluctuate between 150 and 190 in attendance until they expand their staff. Only then will their staff have the time to move beyond maintenance mode to lead the congregation in reaching out...

How can you tell if your church is understaffed? We use as a rule of thumb a ratio of one pastoral/program staff member for every 150 in average worship attendance, with the provision that staff must be hired ahead of growth. This means, for example, that when a church with a solo pastor reaches or approaches 150 in average attendance, it is time to add a second pastoral or program staff member, either part-time or full-time, so the church can continue to grow beyond 150. Depending on the leadership style of the solo pastor, the point at which a second staff member is needed may be anywhere between 125 and 175. A church with two full-time pastoral/program staff members should consider adding a third staff member as the church approaches 300 in attendance, and so on...

How much support staff does a church need? The basic guideline we use is that a church needs one full time support staff person for every two pastoral/program staff members. A church with four full-time pastors or program directors should have two full-time support staff...

The section goes on to talk about how it's a mistake for the second staff member to be a youth pastor, etc... You really should get the book.

Does your conference know anything about staffing for growth? Are they willing to staff ahead of growth? Again, the formula looks like this:

  • 1 pastoral staff for 0-150 in attendance
  • 2 pastoral staff for 151-300 in attendance
  • 1 full-time support staff for every 2 pastors
Why won't the conference staff your church this way? You should ask them.