Working Lean: When a Small Staff Is Better

At first, it just doesn't make sense – but it's true. A small staff is often better than a large one.

Here at Life.Church, we've found that when a team or campus is slightly overstaffed, progress generally slows down. And when that same team or campus is slightly understaffed, we usually take more ground.

Counterintuitive? Yes. True? You bet.

There are a few reasons we think a smaller is better when it comes to staff:

  • When you have more staff members, their roles are often very clearly defined, which can lead to a widespread “that’s-not-my-job” mentality. Smaller staff teams are forced to work together, innovate, and multi-task. These small-staff traits create an air of unity, responsibility, pride, and collaboration in the team.
  • Bigger staffs take more time and energy to manage. Smaller staffs are agile. Agility is the key to timeliness, relevance, and efficiency in the church.
  • When more money goes to pay staff, less money goes to expand the ministry. With a smaller staff, fewer people are empowered to do bigger things with more resources.
  • When more people are paid, it’s easier to stop building volunteer leaders, which eventually weakens the foundation of the church. Volunteers are the lifeblood of ministry—the hands and feet of Christ in the neighborhoods, offices, and communities your reach.
  • Though not intentional, a larger team might not work as hard as they could. When more people are available to do a certain amount of work, they tend to slow down and wait on others to pick up the slack. It's just human nature. When your small, agile team is accountable for that same amount of work, they'll accomplish it responsibly and efficiently—also human nature.

Obviously there are exceptions to the "small staff" model, and being grossly understaffed for a long period of time is not healthy. But given the choice between slightly more than we need and slightly less than we (think we) need, we choose the leaner staff every time. 

What we've learned:

We call this small-staff philosophy "working lean." We've been working lean for more than a decade now, and we've seen growth in our teams and campuses, and a surge in the capacity of each team member to accomplish bigger projects than they ever thought possible. When grooming this lean staff, try to find candidates who are accomplished in a wide variety of disciplines, who have varied interests and backgrounds, and who are passionate about reaching people for Christ.

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