Most working adults can give at least one example of a time when getting things accomplished at work was slowed by bureaucracy and red tape. Multilevel decision making processes slow productivity and can be a source of frustration for workers who are simply trying to do their job.
A church’s internal structure is intended to clarify lines of authority and to support work process flow – while eliminating duplicate systems – not to slow things down. There are many different types of organizational structures that fit different business models. Occasionally, structures that have multi-level reporting relationships can slow the decision making process between the top and bottom of the organization.

Bureaucracy (administration characterized by excessive red tape and routine) hurts organizations when it creates bottlenecks in the decision making process – and ultimately work flow. This type of multi-layer decision making slows work processes which can have an impact on mission fulfillment.

Get Things Done By Removing Church Bureaucracy

Eliminating the Red Tape

1. Budget for Emergencies

It is important to have budget dollars available to purchase the necessary supplies and equipment that is needed to run the day-to-day church operation. This involves going through an annual budgeting process that includes planned equipment replacement. A budget should also include funds for those unexpected expenditures that are difficult to plan for.

For example, if an accounting clerk is working with an old computer that continually has technical problems; those issues will limit her ability to do her job. Now imagine that she is expending more of her time troubleshooting the computer issues, talking with tech support or just rebooting the computer. That time has been taken away from the tasks that she is responsible for. A decision to solve this computer problem should be quick and streamlined – particularly when the employee’s job impacts other areas of the church.


2. Empower Employees

Empower employees to make decisions about the way they perform their job responsibilities. This includes allowing them to make quick decisions about work processes that affect their ability to get the job done. For example, it has been decided that the worship center needs to be painted. The painting team has been assembled and is ready to go. However, the color of the paint needs to be decided by a governing committee. This delayed decision slows the process and impacts the team’s ability to get the job done. One approach to eliminating this type of red tape is to provide the team with a pre-determined color palate that they have the authority to choose from – which removes the bottleneck in the process.

Church leaders might want to consider delegating this type of controlled decision making to front line employees. Employees, who are empowered to make decisions about how work gets accomplished not only fulfill job assignments quicker, take pride in what they do but are ultimately more engaged. A goal that every church should have!


3. Set Spending Limits

With empowerment comes responsibility. Employees should feel empowered to make decisions – with predetermined boundaries and spending limits. Allow them to have the flexibility to move quickly on those things that slow the work process or impacts the customer (employee, volunteer or member) experience.

Allow front-line managers to make process and spending decisions – up to a certain dollar amount. This allows them to make quick decisions without going through a formal approval process.
For example, if the custodian is working with a piece of faulty carpet cleaning equipment, there should be a streamlined decision making process to allow for the replacement of the equipment in order to minimize the impact on the employee’s ability to get the job done. In this example, the custodian should be empowered to make a quick decision to rectify the situation – even if that means replacing the equipment.


4. Coach and Mentor

Allowing employees to make decisions does come with some risks. Permit employees to make mistakes and use errors in judgement as a learning opportunity.

  • Coach and mentor employees on the decision making process;
  • Help them understand the difference between a good and bad decision.

Do this by demonstrating the difference in outcomes between decision choices. For example, if the custodian has the authority to purchase a new carpet cleaner and does so without exploring the possibility of fixing the old, there needs to be clarification and coaching on other possible decision choices that could have saved the church money and resulted in the same outcome – a working carpet cleaner.

Managing employees comes with many teachable moments. Coach and mentor employees and teach them the proper way to expedite the decision making process and eliminate the red tape.
No one likes bureaucracy. And, organizations that make quick, wise decisions have a strategic competitive advantage. The secret is to have employees who understand the mission, are given the authority to get the job done and the understanding of doing things in the most efficient and cost effective way.

About The Author

Patricia Lotich is the founder of Smart Church Management, a site devoted to providing free articles, tools and resources for those managing a church operation. Patricia has ten years of Business Administration and Church Operations experience and has a driving passion to help churches fulfill their call by managing the resources God has given them – people, time and money. Follow Patricia on Twitter and Facebook

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