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At first, I was a little embarrassed that I was overseeing too
many departments and having my hand in too many pies, which is a
typical scenario in a growth-oriented organization. But upon
further consideration, I realized that I shouldn’t decide my range
of control merely on the number of people who answer to me. I also
need to consider the quality of the departments I oversee. Just
because Mike, for example, oversees several large departments
doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s overwhelmed. If top-notch people
are leading them, they might require very little of his energy. The
key question is: How much maintenance does each responsibility
require? If Mike had a few smaller departments that weighed heavy
on his time and energy because of poor leadership, limited
resources, lousy organization, or conflict within the team, they
would occupy an inordinate share of his time and efforts.

Some suggest that leaders should have five to nine (preferably
no more than seven) people answering to them. A better rule of
thumb is to measure the quality of each leader and his or her
department. A leader overseeing nine well-organized and well-led
departments is not nearly as overwhelmed as a leader of three
poorly led or poorly structured ones.

In Exodus 18, Moses’ father-in-law suggested that Moses seek
people capable of overseeing groups of ten, fifty, one hundred, and
one thousand. The reason was that Moses was the “go-to” person for
the multitudes; everyone with a dispute came to him for resolution.
By identifying others with the capacity to lead groups of varying
sizes, Moses could devote his energy to resolving the most
difficult cases. This story demonstrates that people don’t share
equal capacities to lead. Some leaders can handle more than others
can. By the same token, more effort and skill is required to
oversee some departments than is needed for others.

Putting together a flowchart for your ministry is a good first
step in analyzing your range of control. But realize that
flowcharts can be misleading. As long as the departments you
oversee are well-led and functioning properly, you may not need to
redistribute areas of responsibility. If they aren’t running well,
you may want to restructure so that you are responsible for only
one to three areas. Do this analysis periodically to respond to the
inevitable fluctuations in your time and energy, as well as in the
people and departments you oversee. If things are going smoothly,
let them flow, regardless of what the flowchart suggests.


When deciding how much of an organization one person can manage
and lead well, remember that every situation is different. In order
to determine an appropriate range of control, you must consider the
person in charge, the dynamics within the department, the available
resources, and extenuating factors inside and outside of the
church. When the range becomes too burdensome, the church will bog
down and leaders risk becoming frustrated and burned out.


  • Is your range of control too broad, too narrow, or just right?
  • What are the dangers of a range of control that’s too
  • What are characteristics of a healthy range of control?
  • What should you consider when estimating the weight of a
    department or a responsibility?

Excerpted from Children’s Ministry Professional

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