24 Jul '09
Identifying and Removing Hidden Barriers to Growth
They are often hidden and not obvious but all ministries face barriers to growth that if not identified and removed will cause the ministry to plateau in its effectiveness.
One of those barriers is the leadership style, activities and priorities of the senior leader who is operating the same way they did when the organization was smaller. Since I blogged on this issue last week, two leaders have raised their hand and said, that is me - help me figure out how to lead differently so that I am not the barrier to growth.
Leaders and how they lead are responsible for much plateaued leadership. This is why it is very rare for a church to get much larger than 1,000 if it gets that far. As leaders continue to lead as they did when the church was 500, they effectively plateau the church unless changes are made.
Another barrier can be staff who were effective when the church was smaller but do not have the capacity to lead in their area as the Church grows. For instance, the larger the Church the more critical it is for staff to multiply themselves by training others and working through them. Some staff do that wonderfully. Some staff are always individual producers and cannot multiply themselves. Thus they become a barrier to growth in their area and when one area of ministry plateaus it causes other ministries to do so as well.
Ministry complexity can become a barrier to growth. Here is a counter intuitive observation. The larger the organization the more simple it must become if it is going to continue to grow. Growing ministries often go the other direction toward greater complexity. But complexity is difficult for leaders and members to get their hands around and the very complexity causes confusion, makes it hard to manage and diffuses ministry energy.
Another hidden barrier is either a lack of missional focus and clarity or confusing missional focus and lack of clarity. Again, the larger the organization the more critical it is for staff and volunteers to be clear on who they are, where they are going, how they are going to get there and what the end result of their ministry should be. Without this focus and clarity, ministries silo into their own orbit, people do what is right in their own eyes and ministry focus is hugely diffused.
Church governance that does not reflect its size if a common barrier to growth. Multiple boards, unempowered leaders, too many decisions that must go to the congregation are all barriers to growth because it simply takes too much time and energy to get anything done and the lack of permission granting leadership structures frustrates and takes precious time away from other leadership priorities.
A final hidden barrier to growth is the quality of congregational leadership on their senior board. I spoke recently to a pastor of a church of 1,200 whose leadership board is endlessly wrangling over petty issues, has no focus, wants to manage the staff and ministry, does not empower the senior pastor, cannot provide adequate direction and is not candid with the congregation. Here is a church that will never grow until the group is traded out for a group of leaders who know how to lead and are willing to do so.