Lead Minister Roles for Growing the 200-500 church

Hello! I am continuing to blog through "Effective Staffing for Vital Churches," by Bill Easum and Bill Tenny-Brittian, which is a staffing guide for missional churches. Many churches want to grow. However, they fail to realize the transitions that must take for churches in order for this to happen. While having a culture of outreach and evangelism, as well as a dynamic worship service, is important to this growth, perhaps an even greater element is the transition that must take place in the role of the church leadership.

Way back in my early graduate class days, I can remember Dr. Don Vinzant talk about the different roles and skill sets needed for different size churches. If a church is to grow, the lead minister must be able to either have or develop the skill sets for the next size of church.

Today I want to highlight from Effective Staffing for Vital Churches" the role/skill set needed in a lead minister for a 200-500 member.

  • Takes vision casting to the next level
  • Devotes 40-50 percent of his time to unchurched and first time guests
  • Manages program staff
  • Sets clear expectations for staff
  • Holds staff accountable for expectations

Takes Vision Casting to the Next Level

In order for the church to grow, the lead minister must be an excellent vision caster. He needs to know where the church is going and paint a picture of what it will look like when it gets there. This should, of course, be a biblical vision based upon biblical values, that is contextualized for the church's context. For instance, just the desire to get bigger is not enough. Is this growth caused through swelling, or through evangelism? Is it growth that is caused by better retention and connecting with younger generations? How will this church be Christ to this particular community? Etc. This vision casting happens through sermons, bulletin, articles, website, etc.

Devotes 40-50 percent of his time to unchurched and first time guests

In a church of less than 200 members, this percentage is 70-80 percent! At the 200-500 member level, however, still nearly half of the lead minister's time should be devoted to this. He should be out in the community, meeting new people. He should be following up with visitors with visits and phone calls. But this is not just about him personally doing this. This is about him equipping others to perform this role. Half of his time is devoted towards helping the church to create a culture of constantly inviting and welcoming new people into the church. If the church is to continue growing in this size, (say, grow from 300 to 500), then this must be the lead minister's time devotion.

Manages program staff

This is a major area where churches transitioning from less than 200 members often get caught. In a church of less than 200, many ministries are small, and therefore easily managed. In a 200-500 member church, however, these ministries are much larger, and many become the responsibility of paid staff members. However, without a strong lead minister role, these ministries often become silos, going in different directions. There is a huge loss in synergy when this happens. A central person is needed to bring these ministries together.

The authors state that "it is always a mistake for any staff member to be responsible to a committee, and at this level they should report directly" to a lead minister. Otherwise, many triangulations happen and the focus is lost.

Sets clear expectations for staff, holds staff accountable for expectations
These expectations in this size of church include not just doing ministry, but equipping others to do ministry, helping to create the "invite" culture, and bringing in a certain number of new families (say, 10) each year. These expectations should be specific. The lead minister then has the role of communicating the "skills, time applications, and work values" needed in the position, help monitor the staff members' progress, and provide feedback on their progress.

All of this of course should be done in a loving, gentle, and kind way. But unless these roles are performed, the church will not either grow into this size church or grow within this size (say, growing from 300 to 500). Far too many churches wander forever in this size of church because people are simply hired to run ministries, not to lead and equip others, and they do not take of the culture of invite, invite, invite! This must be done throughout all of the ministers--youth, children's, worship, spiritual formation, college, etc. And it is the lead minister's job and responsibility to make sure that this happens. Of course, growing beyond 500 requires another shift and another skill set. But that is for another blog post!

What do you think of the author's ideas on what is needed to move a church to or through the 200-500 member size church?


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Comment by Ryan Waggoner on February 2, 2013 at 11:41am

I get what your saying but is it not the job of the elders to over see these things?  Is it not also the job of the congregation  to reach out to the un-churched / de-churched and visitors?  Is that not what being a disciple is?  IDK maybe I read into it to much or to little.

Comment by Stephen Philip Dampier on February 1, 2013 at 10:58am

I want to thank you for your comments and observations. We are in the process of making some changes. I am sure you recognise how hard this is in our fellowship. Not changing too fast or too slow is one of the balancing acts we face. I think accepting the role of the Holy Spirit is critical and to some extent that is a new concept for many coc members. We are now having to rethink our staff model and the above was very helpful to me personally.

Comment by James Nored on January 16, 2013 at 9:02pm

Thanks, dad. Equipping is indeed vital, as is empowering others.

Comment by Lynn S. Nored on January 16, 2013 at 11:58am

What is evident in all of these areas is the need for "equipping" i.e. training of others.  It is not enough to be an "individual performer".  Though leading by example is part of this, training others to lead is vital for growth.  Many "startups' in the business world fail to grow beyond a certain point for two reasons: a) the inability of the originator to "let go" b) the failure to train and empower others to do the tasks necessary for growth.  Elderships frequently do the same thing. they fail to empower and equip others in the various ministry/service areas.  

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