What Makes Romeo Different?

differentWe’ve had a lot of visitors lately and I’ve gotten this question a couple of times… I’ve been to a lot of churches, why does this one feel different? This was a reminder to me of just how different we do church at Romeo.

I don’t mean musical style or programs that we offer… though that is very different from a traditional church… I mean that we are different in how staffing works.

Let me share the two typical ways churches are run.

Traditional church staff = The senior pastor calls all the shots. He hires and fires to his specifications associate level staff. Practically speaking, he both gets all the stuff done and he is lord over the church’s programs.

Contemporary church staff = There are ministry directors who run their own departments. Each department head, “Pastor of Students” or “Pastor of Music” or “children’s director” all report to the senior pastor but they are pretty much lord over their departmental domain. Generally, 90% or more of their time is invested in their department and they compete for people, resources, and money to each grow their own ministry. The other 10% of their time is either voluntarily or involuntarily spent helping in “general” church ministry stuff.

I dislike both of those models. They are good but not geared at “whole church” ministry. In other words, participants in the youth program don’t typically regard the children’s director or senior pastor or music pastor as their spiritual leaders. Their allegiance is to the youth pastor… and that’s bad for the long-term health of the church. Likewise, the department heads are always seen as replaceable if their particular department fails. This is simple-minded since it’s not fair to judge the adult music program when music hasn’t been fostered in children and youth. Just like it isn’t fair to blame poor Sunday school attendance on the pastor’s preaching. In a small to medium-sized church a departmental-style or a traditional “pastor-ruled” method actually acts as a growth limiter. The growth of the church is limited by the capacities and talents of either the senior pastor or the individual department heads. That makes hiring nearly impossible. Each department is looking for a person who can do everything! No wonder people fail. Expectations are completely unrealistic.

In the past, Romeo has used both of those structures. And both didn’t work out too well long-term. At least not in my opinion.

That’s how we now come to the question, “What makes Romeo so different?” I call our structure a “holistic ministry staffing.”

Holistic church staffing = This starts with an understanding that a diverse staff team makes for a well-rounded and healthy church ministry. Instead of basing a staff member’s ministry around an age-group— each staff member’s ministry is based around their giftedness. For me, I’m the tech/video/internet guy on top of my love and desire to reach students. So about 50% of my time goes to non-student ministries with the goal of making each ministry area excellent in what I am strong at. The same is true with all the other areas of our church. Also unique to our set-up is the expectation that each staff member contributes to the other areas… this shocks people who work in the other two methods! That’s why you’ll see our pastor be a big part of kids ministry and the children’s director adds a lot of administration to all of the other church ministries. From our perspective, this methodology gets the most bang for our staffing buck. Likewise, our hope is that every staff member is regarded as a spiritual leader of the whole church. Of course, we all are subordinates of the pastor… but that doesn’t mean we all don’t work together any less. Just like I’m interested in making Sunday morning services the best we can possibly be, the other staff people pitch in to make students or music or children’s ministry the best we can.

I know this is unconventional. But for us it works. Moreover, I think this style of staffing is where most church staff’s need to work towards.

How does this start? It starts with brave senior staff and leadership teams who are comfortable in their skin. By admitting that there are things you aren’t great at you can focus more of your time at what you are good at.
From there… it’s mostly a matter of submitting oneself to the greater good of the ministry over your personal preferences.

Why didn’t you talk about lay leadership and volunteers? Next time.

By Adam McLane

Kristen and Adam live in Ahwahnee, California.

2 comments

  1. So I vote that you should upload the video of Jimmy singing grin again gang onto youtube when you get a chance because I can’t find a good version anywhere online.

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