Posts Tagged ‘silo thinking’

Blowing up silos is dangerous work! Relationships are threatened, church revenues may be threatened, and serious discontentment among certain subgroups of a congregation may result.  Let’s talk about ways to get rid of silos and try to avoid stepping on any landmines.

If you as a church leader see silos, if you as a member see silos, what can be done?

  • Decide if the fallout is worth it or not. I once heard about a deacon who would not give up the keys to the sound board at church—because he ran the sound board. That was his kingdom.  So is this little kingdom here worth the destruction that comes from blowing it up?  Good question! And there is no single right answer. In this particular case, the worship minister could not practice and the praise team could not rehearse unless it was convenient for this deacon with the keys to the sound board. So, very concretely, the effective worship of the entire congregation was held hostage by the sound board deacon.  The damage to the whole church was greater than the damage of losing this one family, so he was forced to give the keys up! 
  • Don’t destroy without having something better to replace it with.  I know of one congregation where one brother has been in charge of foreign missions for decades! He has done a very good job and served the church well, but his vision has not grown with the congregation, so now he is sometimes out of step with the whole church—but he doesn’t know it.  When someone has enough courage to tell him to give up control, there certainly needs to be a plan and people in place that will serve the church better than the good brother alone was doing! Blowing up silos is not the conclusion of the matter, just the means to a better end.
  • Know the difference between a battle and a war. Leading a rebellion against the elders because you can’t understand why they meet privately and you believe them to have silo mentality might succeed in forcing them out, but the damage done could destroy the whole congregation.  Breaking up the foreign mission committee because they refuse to give up their kingdom  might cost the church a family or two, but probably will not destroy the congregation—especially if there is something better to replace it with.  Destroying the congregation is losing the war; losing a couple of families is painful, but probably only losing a battle.
  • Address the challenges holistically, rather than particularly. Instead of announcing that the foreign missions committee is ruining the whole church because they dominate the church budgeting process, perhaps stepping back and looking at the whole budgeting process and addressing its inadequacies would be more productive.  Instead of painting a bull’s eye on one silo, why not look at the vision of the church as a whole and ask all subgroups to define themselves within that vision. Those that resist or have a hard time will be addressed by all those groups who define themselves or successfully re-defined themselves within the vision of the whole church. 
  • Take a long-term view.  So you think the long-term chair of the missions committee has too much control and not enough accountability. It is reasonable to think that it will not be a quick fix! You are going to have to be patient, working for peace as well as change. God is longsuffering, not willing any should perish but that all chairmen should come to repentance.  You can be longsuffering and patient as well.
  • Relieve fears. We said some people can’t give up control because they are afraid of what they will lose, for instance, like prestige, control, respect, and relationships.  Try alleviating some of those fears as part of the process. Honor people for what they have done. Assure them of relationships and respect. Celebrate the change in status, rather than the demise of the little king.
  • Act in love. If you sense hard feelings or disrespect in yourself towards that person or that subgroup, stop and examine your own heart before you do one more thing.
  • Don’t be afraid.

Christians are called to be peacemakers, so I do believe in living at peace with all people as much as it depends on me. I do know, though, that little kings and little queens of church territories are sitting on little thrones that don’t belong to them and that diminish the ability of the church to function fully and gloriously as the family of God or the body of Christ.

We must never allow other thrones inside the church than the throne of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! 

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Never building silos is easier than removing silos! I have heard preachers who tell about the first two years at their new congregation, all they did was break down the doors to silos and little kingdoms that had grown up over the years in that particular congregation.  My fear is that they are only the surviving preachers, i.e., the ones who can still talk about it;  the others who are not talking were not victorious in their battles with silos.

If you are planting a church, or if you have had a catastrophic event or truly phenomenal leadership that allows your church to reorganize completely, then here are a few suggestions for you to avoid building a missions silo:

  • Work on the mission and vision for the whole church before you start parsing that vision into sub-visions.  Discovering the big picture for a church is the result of lots of people praying together, talking together, praying together, searching the word together—and praying together.  Beware at this stage of the individuals who seem to have a single agenda or a single focus with no real interest in the other areas.  Help them either come back to working as part of the whole body or ask them to wait to speak until the vision for the whole is received.
  • Use a non-corporate metaphor for building your congregation’s organization.  I myself love the family metaphor, but there are others you might choose like the physical body or the tree and branches.  Using a different metaphor opens the conversation to different possibilities.
  • Build rotation into your model.  Nobody gets to be appointed to any position or becomes a member of any committee for life! Everybody understands that they are serving a defined term as elder, chairman, ministry leader, or committee member.  The term is not based on performance. You can’t run for re-election and get another term. Everybody steps down or away for some specified period of time before they can perform those same duties again for another term.
  • Build accountability into your model.  Nobody gets to be anything without being accountable to someone!  The hardest question here is to whom the elders will be accountable, both individually and collectively.  Without too much explanation, let me suggest that individually the elders need to be accountable to one another; collectively, they should be accountable to the flock they serve. 
  • Do budgets as representatives of the whole church, not as representatives of particular subgroups!  Try to remove any sense of competition for funds.
  • Do not idolize efficiency!  God did not call us to efficiency, but to faithfulness.  He is patient and longsuffering.  He tells us to wait on Him. Those are not instructions for efficiency, but rather for following in His steps. That’s where we want to be.
  • Don’t be afraid.  It’s God’s church, not yours! He is very much in control; you are not! Trust Him!

Tomorrow, look for the last post in this series on what to do if you find silos all around you!

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Last week, we asked ourselves questions to discover whether or not the mission committee at our church works in a silo—that is, works independently of the main streams of church leadership and other primary activities of the local congregation.  Here’s the link if you missed that post:  Does No One Understand the Mission Committee: There Might Be A Reason

Before we explore remedies, let’s look at possible causes of silo organization.  If we can identify causes, then, I believe, we can do more than just address symptoms! We can cure the disease, not just manage it.

  • Silo organization can result by defaulting rather than strategic thinking. Since many larger corporations are organized by departments/divisions, each with its own budget and budget manager, those brothers who organize the church leadership into separate committees are just imitating what they have done at work.  There are other models to consider, for instance, the model of the physical body or perhaps the family.
  • Silo organization becomes a greater temptation as size of the church grows! The larger the church, the more difficult it becomes to gather input from multiple sources,  or to get diverse groups together, or to include larger numbers of people in decision-making processes, so the “natural” tendency is to opt for efficiency, moving decision-making into smaller, more specialized groups—the genesis of silos for many churches!!
  • Silo organization is often the result of the worship of specialization. I’m actually all for people learning lots about missions and using that experience and information for the good of the kingdom, BUT, I have seen mission committees dominated by the ex-missionary or the missions professor or the member who attended the last missions workshop, all to the detriment of the kingdom because no one knows so much that they can’t learn from someone else! No one’s experience is universal! No one set of mission principles works in every circumstance!
  • Silo organization may occur because of the budgeting process. If your budget is broken down into categories like local ministry, adult education, foreign missions, benevolence, building and grounds, then it is very easy to make two mistakes:  organizing your committees according to budget categories and assigning full responsibility for that portion of the budget to that one committee. 
  • Silo organization can happen with power players who want control of a fiefdom! If one person has to approve all the decisions; if only one person can sign the checks; if the meetings are just rubber stamping what one person wants to do; if one person sets the agenda for every meeting; if even one or two of these things are true, you are probably a member of a little kingdom within the church, no matter how benevolent the dictator is.
  • Silo organization often exists because of fear! While fear apparently is very real in industry because of job security issues, I tend to think that at church fear may be over loss of influence or loss of a sense of purpose, maybe even loss of relationships with certain missionaries. 
  • Silo organization can simply be a church tradition. Oops—the way we have always done it . . . . Surely I don’t even need to comment on that.

All of these First Causes are so common that I’m pretty sure many of you are saying, “Of course we do that. How else could it be done?” 

If you are a church leader and feel like there is always a little tension with the mission committee,

or if you are a mission committee member and feel like church leaders are always sticking their fingers into your business, or that they don’t understand how important this committee is;

If you are a minister and are frustrated by the lack of synergy and/or cohesiveness between the working leadership groups in your congregation, or

If you sense an allegiance anywhere in your congregation to a sub-group over the good of the whole,

look for silos, look for those who love silos—and I’ll finish this thought next time with some suggestions for actions to take to both avoid and remove silos.

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The term silo effect is pretty popular in business and organizational circles.  You also hear about silo vision and silo thinking.  All of these phrases derive from agricultural storage silos, typically with each individual silo housing a particular kind of grain.

The assumption in anything silo is that each unit is segmented in such a way that there is little to no communication or exchange between the two silos.  When this happens in an organization you might see two departments which are, in fact, interdependent, but which have separate goals and are working in a counterproductive way—but they don’t know it, because they don’t talk to each other.

Your church may be a collection of silos!  Many are!  The elders are one silo, the minister and his staff are another, the benevolence group are another—and the mission committee is almost always its own silo!

Let’s just talk about mission committees.  Let me ask a few leading questions, and you be the judge as to whether your mission committee works in a silo:

  1. Does your committee include and people from other important church areas: elders, ministers, youth, adult education, women’s ministry?
  2. Does your committee make foreign mission decisions as part of the process of making local mission decisions? Local benevolence decisions?  Local youth decisions?
  3. Is your committee invited to participate in the vision-setting meetings of the church leaders? (Budget meetings don’t count! Planning a budget is not the same as setting the vision.)
  4. How many of your missionaries or mission points can the average member of your church name?
  5. How many weeks per year is your mission work mentioned from the pulpit?

So what happens when several different committees of the church work independently of each other? I mean they may have different goals, different processes, different timetables, and different organizational styles!  Is this the picture of a body working in harmony?

Read I Corinthians 12 from The Message and tell me if silos are good for the body of Christ?

 12-13You can easily enough see how this kind of thing works by looking no further than your own body. Your body has many parts—limbs, organs, cells—but no matter how many parts you can name, you’re still one body. It’s exactly the same with Christ. By means of his one Spirit, we all said good-bye to our partial and piecemeal lives. We each used to independently call our own shots, but then we entered into a large and integrated life in which he has the final say in everything.

 14-18I want you to think about how all this makes you more significant, not less. A body isn’t just a single part blown up into something huge. It’s all the different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together. If Foot said, “I’m not elegant like Hand, embellished with rings; I guess I don’t belong to this body,” would that make it so? If Ear said, “I’m not beautiful like Eye, limpid and expressive; I don’t deserve a place on the head,” would you want to remove it from the body? If the body was all eye, how could it hear? If all ear, how could it smell? As it is, we see that God has carefully placed each part of the body right where he wanted it.

 25-26The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance.

 27-31You are Christ’s body—that’s who you are! You must never forget this. Only as you accept your part of that body does your “part” mean anything.

Next I’ll offer you some suggestions for remedying the problem of a silo mission committee.  In the meantime, start making your own list!

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