About 50 out of America’s 300,000 Protestant churches have attendances of 10,000 or higher. Leadership Network recently gathered a dozen executive pastors (or equivalent role) from those very large churches for a roundtable forum. These leaders have a front-line perspective on ministry. They raised a bunch of great issues as part of our conversation, including the following:
• New Staff: We went around the circle to ask what percent of each church’s staff were “home grown” – developed from within the congregation. Low was 78% and high was 95%. My sense is by the time a church passes 1,000 in attendance, it’s usually learned to draw most of its new hires from within. The main advantage is the “fit”: these people already know the church’s DNA and culture, and have a loyalty to it.
• Hiring: How do you know when to hire another staff member? Great question. I’d like to do a webinar on this in 2010. Whatever your congregation’s size, how does your church determine when it’s time to hire someone?
• Outside speaking: Staff members, especially in growing churches, tend to get invited to speak to various groups outside the church. Helping your staff and senior pastor evaluate those invitations can be tough. Saying “yes” to one thing always means saying “no” to investing your time in something else. How do these speaking opportunities contribute to your church's distinct mission and vision? How much time should a church leader spend speaking in contexts that contribute to the Kingdom of God in general, but lack any link to the church they’re serving?
• Multi-Site: The larger the church, the more likely it is to be multi-site, and the impetus is typically one of evangelism – creating more opportunities to make disciples of Jesus Christ. As one of the forum participants said, “Our campuses have forced us to re-evaluate our home base.”
• Form 990/990t: A small number of churches, typically larger congregations and those with several 501(c)(3) organizations such as community development corporations, voluntarily file IRS Form 990 knowing that it will then be available to the public. Other large churches, in anticipation that Form 990 might one day become required for churches with certain budget sizes, are framing their budgets in ways that parallel the categories specified by Form 990. They also note the circumstances that require Form 990-T (unrelated business income tax for exempt organizations), and are monitoring those as well. If you’d like more information, here’s a relevant Church Solutions magazine article written by attorney David Gibbs.
Our forum was part of an ongoing involvement we have with executive pastors. Earlier this year we did a huge survey of all-size churches and produced a fascinating illustrated report: “Inside the World of the Executive Pastors: Leadership Network’s 2009 Survey.” We’ve also done other posts on executive pastors, such as Dave Travis on the rising trend of an executive pastor team and Sherry Surratt on female executive pastors. I’ll be doing a workshop on “lean staffing” at the a February 2010 executive pastor conference run by our good friend David Fletcher.
Warren Bird, Ph.D., is Research Director at Leadership Network, and co-author of 21 books on various aspects of church health and innovation. Recent blog posts include: Looking for Lean Staff Churches, Downtown Churches: How Visible?, What Is Your Church Learning about Outreach?, What Are the Most Urgent Questions Tomorrow’s Church Must Face?, Nigerian-Based Church Comes to North America and Today’s Co-Pastor: A Slightly Growing Trend.