Part 1: Doing Staff Reorganizations Well

Editor's Note: Paul Clark, the Operations Pastor at Fairhaven Church in Ohio and a Contributing Editor to Your Church, recently underwent a major staff reorganization, and reflected on the changes through his blog, http://visionmeetsreality.org. Starting today, and continuing for the next three weeks, we'll run a four-part series, "Doing Staff Reorganizations Well," which details what Fairhaven learned and improved by evaluating its staff structure. Regardless of size, we think every church can learn from many, if not all, of Fairhaven's lessons.

At Fairhaven Church, we recently implemented a staff reorganization that we started working on last fall. The organizational structure we had when I came almost eight years ago was traditional, with the Lead Pastor overseeing about 10 direct reports. Leadership, mentoring, and oversight was limited to what he could do, given his own workload and time constraints. The joke was that it had been years since he had ventured into certain ministry areas of the church, even though those ministry leads reported directly to him.

When David Smith became the Lead Pastor, he reorganized, adding an Executive Team so that he could pour himself into four other guys, who would then provide leadership, mentoring, and oversight to the rest of the staff. It's a model that's worked well for us for most of the last five years.

Last fall, David and I stole away for a day and asked ourselves this question: "What organizational changes do we need to make in order to be an effective staff serving a church of 6,000?" Our current attendance is about 4,500. We filled an 8-foot whiteboard several times as we worked to answer that question. We took an honest look at what we do well, what we struggle with, and how well we are positioned to respond to the growth God is giving us. We worked through staffing and organizational issues down to a micro-level. It was an exciting day.

After a process of explanation and approval that involved the Personnel Committee and the current Executive Team, we presented our organizational restructuring to the staff. We noted that the church has grown quickly over the last few years and that many new staff have been added to respond to the growth in ministries. Although the staff continues to be healthy and the ministries are effective, we nevertheless identified some important organizational goals as we considered who we want to be in the future:

1. Greater flexibility through less formality and fewer departments;

2. Gift-based leadership: getting the right people on the right teams;

3. Better communication between ministries;

4. Flatter vs. hierarchical organization: to reduce silos and improve teamwork.

We explained what these goals would look like in real life:

1. We'll become less dependent on titles and departments as the structure for making decisions and executing vision;

2. We'll become more strategic in our thinking and planning by getting the right people around the table for shaping vision and executing decisions;

3. We'll work more effectively across ministry lines;

4. We'll have more effective communication between ministry teams;

5. We'll involve more people in the flow of information and decisions;

6. We'll push more details and implementation to the ministry level, improving coordination, communication, and solutions.

We then presented four steps to the reorganization. We believe these steps will help us achieve the goals above. All the steps are equally as important, although the first two may seem less significant:

Step One: Dissolution of the Executive Team

During the past seven years, we have been led by the Executive Team, which is comprised of four Executive Pastors and the Lead Pastor. This group of five shaped the vision and led the staff. Virtually every major initiative started with the Executive Team and every other staff pastor or ministry leader reported to an Executive Pastor. The most significant vision plans that had shaped Fairhaven Church for the past five years originated with the Executive Team. Yet, during the January 2010 Executive Team retreat, the collective decision was made to dissolve the team and voluntarily relinquish the title, "Executive Pastor." There will no longer be Executive Pastors at Fairhaven. That's no small decision for a group of senior-level pastors to give up their ascribed status and titles.

The reason this was important is organizational. A hierarchy of titles creates a hierarchy of power. Sometimes that power is legitimate and sometimes it isn't. Having an Executive Team comprised of four guys with the title, "Executive," created an unnecessary and sometimes problematic power structure that got in the way of real collaboration, teamwork and collegiality—especially across ministry teams. Some of the staff, over time, began to view the "Executive" hierarchy as negative. The next generation of staff members want participation, a voice, and flexibility in reporting and power structures. Though the Executive Team was extremely productive, we concluded it had run its course.

Next week, Paul addresses "Step Two: Establishing a New Title Structure."

This content is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is published with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. "From a Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations."

Due to the nature of the U.S. legal system, laws and regulations constantly change. The editors encourage readers to carefully search the site for all content related to the topic of interest and consult qualified local counsel to verify the status of specific statutes, laws, regulations, and precedential court holdings.

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