Leading Change, Ministry Starting
comments 15

Giving Away Your Ministry

tree plant“They only have 1 full-time equivalent staff member (that includes all staff, not just ministry staff) for every 150 people in attendance. Only about 35% of their budget is spent on staff expenses.”–from a post by Tony Morgan on how to expand the number of volunteers in your church or ministry.

Those seeking to start and grow a ministry can benefit from paying attention to the ratio of leaders (staff) to attendees/members. If there is a disproportional relationship between leaders and members (say 2 leaders for every 5 people) then chances are your ministry may be stagnating.

Tony elaborates on this statistic:

“Because they have very few staff, they are forced to empower volunteers to do the ministry. Almost 70% of their adults volunteer. That’s the highest percentage of adults volunteering of all the churches I’ve worked with.”

Leaders provide the most value when they are aligning and empowering others. When they start managing and doing most of the work of the ministry they eliminate room for others to participate/lead (without a title)/and grow.




  1. Great post -I totally agree.
    Dan Allan something similar when he was here this week:
    Every leader involved should indicate 10 students involved
    Realistically he said it’s usually 6-7

    Also echoing what you said, he said:
    “What am I as a leader paying the most attention to? It’s always tracking leaders”

    And for churches and college ministries alike, I don’t think it’s optional (though I do think it’s THE way to run a ministry). It’s a Biblical mandate – the Priesthood of Believers and every person a minister/priest.

    • Dan Allan says

      Brian–my thought has been that we, as leaders, need to pay attention to both metrics of growth. We want to see overall involvement growth and we want to see growth in the involvement per staff member. Our target here in St. Louis is to have 100 students involved for every on campus staff member. 150 doesn’t seem outrageous, but that would be a new frontier for us.

      Here is my human logic on this…If Jesus discipled 12 people, then a staff member can coach (on-going, week-to-week, direct interaction in either person or by phone) with 10 leaders. Each student leader (typically, though this could be a volunteer or faculty member–these categories are especially helpful for us at community colleges) would probably involve about 10 students. Therefore, each staff member would “involve” about 110 total students.

      Realistically, this never works so cleanly. New leaders don’t really have anyone involved for a period of time. Some student leaders don’t actually involve 10 students. Some students aren’t really involved with a leader. These students just come to a weekly meeting for a variety of reasons. And, some staff have greater or smaller “spans of care” because of giftings and capacity.

  2. Really interesting twist on something Malcolm Gladwell outlined in “The Tipping Point”, where an outdoor adventure company (North Face? Patagonia?) grows very similarly. Each office only houses 150 people, 1 manager per office.

    In field/campus ministry, would this equate to one team leader/150 students or 1 staff/150 students? Just for clarification’s sake.

    Also wanted to comment on and completely agree with Tim’s mention of the ratio of 1 staff/6-7 students. I remember being taught in the fire academy of a similar ratio of one team leader per 6-7 engines/trucks. I think the military uses that ratio as well, but I could be wrong.

    Another solid one, brotha.

    • hey drew thanks for adding that tipping point reference in. there’s also a book called tribal leadership that specifically addressed the 150 phenomena.

      i don’t know if the 1-150 directly translates to campus ministry. i would certainly say one Director for every 150 students. it would be interesting to look at ministries of 300/450/etc and explore what multiple directors would look like and add value.

      my gut is one staff for every 20 students, and one student leader for every 10. wondering what others would say out there.

  3. I’ll step in here and ask a clarifying question: “What type of students are we talking about here?” Are these students that have grown up in the church or ones that have recently become believers? Do you think that changes the equation?

    • i don’t know if that changes the equation. certainly if the vast majority of students grew up going to church then i would assume many would aspire/desire to be a leader.

      i look more at what stage (young, adolescent, mature) the movement is in as a determining factor in the ratio.

      typically young movements have a healthy ratio while mature ones tend to get log jammed w too many leaders. the larger a movement is the more “gravity” it has–making it harder and harder to focus on expansion and outreach, and easier and easier to default to management and inreach (which i’ll define as spending resources to improve the experience of the existing members).

  4. That’s an interesting thought Brian. On our campus we talk a lot about how things will have to change structurally as we grow. Staff have to act like Directors. Students have to act like staff. And MTL’s have to act like regional directors over multiple Campus Directors. I think one thing that’s been helpful in that has been breaking our campus into three sections and having student and staff directors over each area. Again – going toward your idea of multiple directors.

    What do you mean a staff for every 20 students? 20 students involved per staff? I’d say, it should be more like Dan said – 1 to 100 or 1 to 150. Which means staff should be coaching/discipling 10 students (who will each involve 10).

    Not to brag (but just for proof of concept!)- for the past year we’ve been at 1 to 150. We have 3 staff and an intern on campus. And around 600 involved.

    An idea for a future blogference- resurrecting good posts like this (and I just ran across one from McComas on ditching 1 on 1 discipleship from 2009!) and getting good discussion going. I think posts like this (and thinking hard about structuring ministry better – staff working smarter – which means pouring into 10 of the right people) would be really good for broader discussion and moving us forward as USCM.

    • that’s awesome that your movement has that ratio! proof that the philosophy can be lived out.

      for ministries under five years old i have a hard time w the 1 to 100 ratio–i like 1-20 for the first five years.

      if the culture and environment of the ministry is aligned (by and large) to the mission, vision and values then the 1 to 100/150 is good.

        • these comments reveal another high need–to help others distinguish the unique characteristics of a young, adolescent, and mature ministry–and why you need to do different things dependent on the stage you of your ministry.

          • I agree – you should blog on that. Or make it your next e-book.

            I read a book called the First 90 days when I first became a CD which helped me tremendously along similar lines. It says about the need to match Strategy to Situation:
            “Far too many new leaders don’t effectively diagnose their situations and tailor their strategies accordingly. Then, because they don’t understand the situation, they make unnecessary mistakes.”

            It breaks the business situation into 4 types:
            1. Start-up. In a start-up, you’ve got to assemble the capabilities (people, funding and technology) needed to get a new business, product or project off the ground.
            2. Turnaround. In a turnaround, you take on a unit or group that is in trouble and work to get it back on track. Both start-ups and turnarounds involve a lot of resource- intensive construction work — there isn’t much existing infrastructure and capacity for you to build on. To a significant degree, you get to start fresh, but both require that you start making tough calls early.
            3. Realignments. Your challenge is to revitalize a unit, product, process or project that is drifting into trouble. This requires that you reinvent the business.
            4. Sustaining success. In a sustaining-success situation, you’re responsible for preserving the vitality of a successful organization and taking it to the next level.

            Hmm. . . I’ll blog on that book maybe 🙂

            Do you have already-developed thoughts on how to
            1) Distinguish what stage you’re in
            2) What you need to do differently dependent on your stage?

            • heard a great distinction at sxswi.

              startups seek to EXPLORE a business/ministry model

              corporations seek to EXECUTE on a business/ministry model

              a huge miss is when staff who come from large ministries apply execution strategies and methods and exploration is required.

              if you are not consistently drawing the right leaders then chances are you are still in EXPLORE mode (or 1 & 2) in your example.

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