Church staff members want to work together. And church leaders want free-flowing and open work environments. The pastor or other upline leaders offer accountability but with a hands-off approach. Ministry leaders independently set their course the way they feel God is leading.
While helpful in theory, this approach comes with both freedom and frustration. Silos form, and people become territorial without realizing it. Nobody intends for this to happen, but it is an unspoken conflict in most churches. Nobody wants to accuse anyone of seeking their interests when serving in the church.
If you are sensing levels of friction among your team or within your day-to-day processes, this independent approach may be part of the problem.
The word independent means "free from outside control" or "not dependent on another's authority." That doesn't sound like something you or your team is trying to create. Paul shared in 1 Corinthians 12 about how the body of Christ is like a human body, with each one doing its part.
Let me say â silos are common, and not just in churches. But they also are the opposite of what most organizations are trying to achieve. Here are three signs your team may be working in silos.
1. Volume: The Rising Tide
Churches usually have a lot going on, and ministries vie for the attention of your congregation, letting them know what's available. Maybe each of your departments is responsible for developing its own communications strategy, which includes reserving and scheduling marketing space. Their plans include promotion in the bulletin, video announcements, verbal mentions from the pastor, and email newsletter. It also means booking facilities. Coordinating rooms and resources becomes a "who gets the request in first" as the calendar fills.
To stand out from all the other messaging, ministries look for fresh and creative ways to present their activities. So, in their creative planning, they came up with displays, dramas, original videos, or even comedy to highlight their events. I am feeling the anxiety rise as I write this, and those responsible for implementing these communication plans for your church feel it, too! If your church is experiencing this, it may have silos.
2. Programming in a Vacuum
Budget season. I liked budgeting when I served as communications director for my church. At the turning of each calendar year, we would be gearing up for it. The time-consuming process lasted about three months. Each ministry would meet regularly to determine what they wanted to accomplish that year. And, of course, the preparation included a presentation to leadership requesting the required annual budget.
I always found it interesting that as each ministry presented their wants and desires, we never really came together to hear what others were planning and submitting. I was left wondering what others were doing. The executive pastor would take all these requests, work with the business manager, trying to make it all come together. They'd come back with cuts and/or approvals based on what others had requested. Then, it would go to the various teams and board for approval.
I remember thinking, "Who determines which request is more mission critical than another? Is one person making this decision?" You just trust and move forward in thanks for the funds for another year. While it seemed, most times, to work out in the end, I just felt like there was a better way.
Does your church plan its budget this way? If you do, it may have silos.
3. Managing the Disconnect
The two signs above lead to the third sign that your church may have silos. Do you spend a lot of time and energy keeping the ship steady and on course? Are there times you feel you are spread wide and thin? Managing silos is hard. It's almost like a large company having lots of small businesses to manage while attempting to maintain the overall objective. And remember, your congregation is one large group of people. Each ministry is speaking to segments of that same audience, but your church uses the same media channels for all of its communication. There is an elusive tipping point for information overload.
Each ministry at our church had its own mission statement. But while this sounds like a great idea, it inadvertently contributes to silos. Many times with a distinct mission comes an entire brand, with logos, colors, and more, which brings with it complexity. If your church feels like a complex, widespread organization, it may have silos.
Tearing Down Silos by Working Together
While independence depends on yourself, an interdependent model encourages people to be mutually dependent on one another. Tearing down silos in any organization takes time and commitment. It starts by knowing what they look like and how they form. Then, you can begin to address the behaviors that cultivate a mutually dependent management approach.
Renew your team's commitment to the overall mission of the church. It's why you exist. What would your community miss if you weren't in it? What difference is your church making? It should be a statement that is clear, simple, and memorable.
Then, have each ministry craft a statement that emulates this mission. For example, your church's purpose might be "to bring outsiders into the community of God." Then statements for ministries might begin like this: "Our mission is to bring ["kids" or "students" or "young adults"] who are outside into the community of God by...."
"Encourage your leaders to share what they envision in their ministry areas to support the mission."
After coming together around one mission, have your executive team share with your ministry leaders where it sees God leading your church to accomplish this mission.
Encourage your leaders to share what they envision in their ministry areas to support the mission. Plan each ministry's programming by creating a master calendar together. Finally, have each area put their budget together to fund these potential programs, events, and activities.
This process might seem a little overwhelming. But when the siloed approach begins to turn toward a more interdependent one, you will start to feel the unspoken tension and competition give way to partnership and working together â as one body with many parts.
If you feel your church works in silos, you're not alone. We'd love to have a conversation to see how we can help. Go to our calendar and schedule a time at no cost to you.
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Don Wambolt has over 25 years' experience in leading church communications. More