What is the ideal ratio of staff for different numbers of people in a congregation?
The key criteria for staff to congregant ratios is "Do you want to grow?"
The ratio of staff to congregation is informed by Arlen Routhage's insights around congregational size. He found that a congregation of 100-150 people is the maximum size that can be supported by one clergy. The book The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell says 150 is the maximum number of relationships a leader can maintain. It is something that is hard-wired into our brain.
Today people are attending worship less often and have less time to contribute as volunteers. A more realistic number in a congregation would be one staff for every 100 members.
I would suggest you think in multiples of 100. If you have 100 people (including children) you can likely manage with one staff person; 200 people would require 2 full time staffers.
If you want to grow, then the equation changes. A new program or ministry requires extra staff. If you have a congregation of 200 people and 2 full time staff and make the decision to introduce a Small Group Ministry or an additional worship, it would be our recommendation that you hire at least a part time person to manage that new ministry.
Can lay people help? Of course. The more involved they are, the less paid staff will be required. But be cautious. Lay volunteers are busy people, and need staff support. There is no free lunch.
We do know that evangelical churches that are growing continually add staff. Most main-line congregations tend to balance a tight budget by reducing staff, which begins a spiral downward into decline. You have to staff for growth, no ifs, ands, or buts about it.
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Congregational News January 2008 Vol. 14 No. 3
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