Smart people instinctively understand the dangers of entrusting our future to self-serving leaders who use our institutions, whether in the corporate or social sectors, to advance their own interests. – Jim Collins
Organizational “silos” is the term given to departments or ministries within your church that have a tendency to protect themselves, hoard and maintain resources for their own projects, and to place their own goals ahead of the larger vision of the church. Silos can happen in churches of all sizes and we need to keep an eye out for them at all times because they reduce our effectiveness as a ministry. There is a fine line between a “robust team culture” and a “siloed team” … often great teams can slowly creep into silos without even realizing it! Because of this nuance we need to carefully watch the development of the ministries within our church and challenge initial evidence that teams are becoming “siloed”. Here are a handful of areas I’ve seen that get me concerned that a department is “siloing” itself off from the rest of the church.
- Us vs. Them // Listen carefully to how your teams talk about the church … there is no “them” within your team only “us”. Leaders who constantly pit their team verses the rest of the organization aren’t helping the entire church move forward. Challenge this language if it moves from more than a functional reference to an ingrained perspective.
- Different Core Communication Tools // Does the team or department “need” their own business cards or letterhead that look different than the rest of the church? Does the team “need” their own web strategy to implement their ministry approach? It’s a small thing … but these tools are used to express what team we’re a part of. It would be like the offense on a football team having a different uniform than the defense … a sure sign that part of the team sees itself fundamentally different than the rest of the group.
- Office Placement // Has the team set itself up in a different office space far away from the rest of the team? Does the team insist on a different type of office configuration because of it’s “unique needs?” Sometimes one of the most obvious evidence of organization siloing is the physical space that the team takes up. Office space needs to work in function teams … but make sure that isn’t an excuse to build divisions across departments.
- Resistance to Church Wide Campaigns // When your church hosts a campaign designed to engage your entire community does this department push back on their ability to participate? Is there consistent excuses as to why efforts aimed at the entire church just don’t work for this ministry area? Does the team drag their feet when it comes to supporting these efforts?
- Robust Internal Communication & Little External Communication // Does the team have an incredible ability to communicate with it’s own team members about it’s goals and aspirations while at the same time the rest of the church is in the dark about what is happening in that department?
- Special Deals // Does this team always seem to be getting “special deals” in the way things are done with their department? Do they get to skirt around systems and policies to make stuff happen unlike any other area in the church? Do they get undue special treatment?
Managing multiple departments or ministries within your church is like parenting multiple children. You’d never parent your kids’ uniformly but there has to be equity in the way you treat them or resentment will begin to rise up. How have you seen “silos” develop in your church? We’d love to hear about it in the comments section!