If you read yesterday’s post about generalists vs. specialists, you might have gotten discouraged. I get it, money doesn’t grow on trees. Most ministries are lucky to have one or two staff members, not teams of specialists that have the luxury of focusing on just one thing. Even at Gateway, I didn’t have teams of specialists. I really only had one. I had a Operations Director who oversaw all systems, processes, purchasing and facility/curriculum prep (I have the job description posted here). A few years later, I got a second specialist, but only by accident. We were making staff cuts and moving people around and I ended up transitioning a part-time Elementary Large Group Director to a full-time NextGen Arts Director (You can read about that role and download the job description here). To have the specialists we needed, we had to get creative with the roles.

Let me clarify something that may help bring proper context:

Just because they’re a specialists doesn’t mean they have to be full time.

You’d be surprised by how much a specialists can do in a relatively short amount of time. Honestly, it would probably take me 10 hours to edit and arrange the curriculum for our preschool and elementary environments. However, an education-minded, pinterest-power-using specialist could do it in half the time. Maybe even a third. Those kinds of specialists are often very employable for just 3-5 hours a week.

One of the most creative staffing solutions I’ve used over the past 3-5 years was through strategic collaboration with other ministry areas. We made tremendous progress in very specific areas by synchronizing with other ministries. In order for this to work, you have to champion collaboration for your church. Help create a culture where ministries work together and lean on each other for success. Check out these two examples:

Example One: Shared Creative Staff Role
Several years ago, I had begun the search for an Elementary Large Group Director. I had collaborated with our church Arts Director concerning the role/job description. A few weeks before I launched the search, he proposed an idea. He had a staff member that he could no longer afford. She had been helping produce a large Christmas production, but once Christmas was over, he wouldn’t have the funds to have her full-time. He really didn’t want to lose her and knew that she could be a great fit for the part time position I was looking to fill. We talked about what days/times he really needed her vs days/time I really needed her. We made the offer and it was a home run. Because my Elementary Large Group Director worked in both areas, we had access to resources/talent that we hand’t had access to before. She helped organize auditions several times a year and we often picked up people for elementary that weren’t quite ready for the main stage. Because of this connection between Elementary and the Arts, we produced and executed 3 large Family Experiences on the main stage for certain holidays. The Arts team was glad to have our help in creating amazing Family Experiences and our team was thrilled to have access to the opportunities/resources of the main stage.

Example Two: Aligning Common Goals Through Missions
Nearly ten years ago, I led a group of 4th and 5th graders (and their parents)  on a mission trip to Mexico. It was an amazing experience and I wanted it to become something we did for kids and students every year. There was only one problem – organizing a trip like this for 30-40 people was a LOT of work. About 3 years ago, my student pastor’s wife had been hired as the part time Global Director for Gateway. Essentially, she oversaw the handful of mission trips every year. She and her husband (my student pastor) had a lot of experience in putting together mission trips for students. Because she oversaw global, it made a lot of sense that she would help organize mission experience for NextGen. To take hundreds of kids/students on serving experiences during the summer aligned with both Global and Church strategies, so it made sense for this department to help make it happen. In the end, NextGen was responsible for recruiting leaders and promoting the trips and Global handled everything else. For the last 2-3 years, we’d take nearly 200 kids/leaders to nearly a dozen cities around the world. There’s no way I could have pulled this off or could have afforded a staff member to make it happen.

It’s very possible that there’s someone on your church staff that wants what you want. It’s possible that they can’t afford what they want and you can’t afford what you want, but together, you might be able to get what you need. It starts by clarifying your strategy, knowing exactly what your ministry needs. Understand what your non-negotiables are and where you’re headed. Once you are clear on these things, start talking to others outside your ministry. Collaborate with leadership and see how your church might be creative in getting where it needs to go as a church instead of everyone individually feeling stuck.


This post is part of a larger series on moving your ministry forward using the often neglected tool - the checklist. In this series, we unpack how a system of checklists can actually help us take our ministry to new levels. Plus, we want to share dozens of actual ministry checklists you and your team can implement right away. Click on the link below to explore this topic and pick up some helpful resources!