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6 Subtle Signs of Organizational Silos in Your Church

6 Subtle Signs of Organizational Silos in Your Church

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

church_silosOrganizational “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!


  1. These are spot-on!

    Something I’ve found helpful in dealing with departmental silos is frequently pointing out how Dept A depends on Dept B to accomplish it’s goals. When your whole team starts to see how they’re interconnected, it starts to bring those walls down. It also helps to set the tone at the top – never speak poorly of one department to another and take issues directly to a department leader instead of intervening on your own.

    • Love it! That’s a great practical tip. Thanks so much!

      Have a great day!

      – Rich

      • Thanks Rich, And thanks Deborah, This is great stuff. I see this being used as a springboard for broader discussion in a growing church, or any organization.

  2. What about needed functional layers? I think they can sometimes “look” like silos to an inexperienced church leader who may react and sabotage a needed development… A healthy technical support team and tech support infrastructure for example:
    In my understanding, proper members of a tech team will have deeper, more explicit, technical knowledge needed to solve problems and develop new solutions in support of the overall ministry. Also by example and because of this deeper technical nature; Tech team members may be granted a deeper technical authority than given to those “at a higher level” with a lighter, more tacit “operational” knowledge or function… Such “special” authority, if protected, can help over all consistency, reduce chaos and maintain stability & efficiency, But it can look like tech team members are getting a “special deal”. How do you deal with that or explain it to inexperienced leadership. Indeed it may be easy for tech members or other ministry members to forget the big picture so that needs to be watched, but not throw out the “baby with the bathwater”.
    – Anyway does any of that make sense? Or have I gone wrong somewhere. ?


  3. I am always leery of organizations where large portions of ministry systems and processes reside within a specific department. An example (and a give away proving silos exist) would be the church’s assimilation process. Leaving that entirely up to a single department is ripe for failure and a sure sign silos exist. Of course there will be some teams that support all ministry departments (matrix style) such as IT or possibly administrative support. But a good way to dig into this is to map out your processes and systems by major steps and then look at the departments involved.


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