How Structure Can Impede Progress at Your Church

Don't continue to cling to structure for structure's sake. (Rawpixel/

I once received a question about a post entitled "7 Enemies of Organizational Health". One of those "enemies" I listed as "structure." The person's question was, "Are you referring to micromanagement?" He went on to say that we need structure to prevent organizational chaos.

I answered.

Well, yes and no. Micromanagement is an impediment to organizational health, but I simply meant structure. Let me attempt to explain.

I do agree we need some structure, but not for structure's sake—for progress' sake. And there is a difference.

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I see it as similar to the concept of grace, freedom and the law. We don't need laws if we are bound by grace. Grace is actually a higher standard than the law. But we have to have an established order in our world for progress. It is a wicked world, and we could never get anything done without some sense of structure.

In an organizational sense, think about it, if we all did the right thing, we wouldn't need structure. But structure allows for progress. When structure becomes a problem—when it gets in the way—and the kind of structure I was referring to in my post is when a well-meaning structure impedes progress.

Consider this example:

Imagine a rule that says everyone has to be in the church office from 8 to 5. So, because I want to respect authority, I obey the structure and am dutifully at my desk from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The fact is, however, that I work best at 6 a.m. out of the office. Sticking to the structure in this case would limit my ability to be at my best. At the same time, because I'm following the structure, I may not go to the emergency hospital visit at midnight. After all, office hours are over by then.

I would personally rather have an understanding that people need to get their work done. They need to have clear goals (they helped develop) that stretch them and moves the organization forward. They need to be held accountable for reaching them, but once they are established, we can allow the individual to figure out how to accomplish them.

Or one more:

What if there was a rule which says no one can serve on a committee in your church until they've been in the church a year? (This one is a real scenario with churches I've known.) What if one of the committees was the garden committee—which includes, in part, pulling weeds?

What if someone shows up at the church ready to pull weeds—but not yet ready to join the church? What if them serving is what connects them to the church? (Theoretically someone could actually come to know Christ only after they've pulled weeds in the church.)

I personally would rather save the "committee" slots for jobs help by people who've been there for a while, but let newcomers serve where they are equipped to do—based on the time they've been there. (So I'd get rid of the garden committee.)

The bottom line is that structure should enhance, not impede, progress.

Structure should never get in the way of accomplishing what God plants in your heart to accomplish.

Ron Edmondson is the CEO of Leadership Network. Previously, he was a pastor, revitalizing two churches and planting two churches. He is passionate about planting churches, but also helping established churches thrive. I love assisting pastors and those in ministry think through leadership, strategy and life. My specialty is organizational leadership.

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