You Probably Need to Hire More People Than You Think

My wife and I were talking about gardening the other day. We had driven by some nice flowers that the city we were in had planted and was watering, and my wife commented on how planting those flowers (and others throughout the city) meant they also had to have people to take care of them. Someone needed to water them, obviously, but also do many other things–plant them initially, keep them weeded (an ongoing thing, apparently), fertilize them if desired, and so forth.

I thought that was interesting, because I’ve always taken those nice flower displays for granted. Turns out my wife had a job in college taking care of the flowers on our campus, so she knows all about it.

Which leads to the most interesting thing for me: It took a team of 7 people to keep the flowers planted, watered, weeded, fertilized, and in order on our campus. The university we went to had about 15,000 people, so the campus wasn’t super small, but it wasn’t incredibly large, either.

The reason this is interesting to me is because I’m just the type of person who would have been crazy enough to put “water flowers” in my repeating task list every other day and “fertilize flowers” every 6 weeks and think he could take care of the flowers all by himself. But in reality, it took a team of seven people.

I know that the standard notion is that most organizations have too many people. Or, that seems to be the standard notion at least among some consultants and executives. My thinking is the opposite of this, especially when it comes to ministries.

Caring for the flowers on a college campus, or for a city, is super important. If it takes seven people simply to do that, how much more should ministries make sure they have enough people devoted to their all-important task of teaching and spreading biblical truth?

Seven people for an internet team, for example, probably sounds like a lot for most ministries. But if my college that served 15,000 students had seven people taking care of its flowers, how much more important do you think it is for a ministry that serves 3 million people a month (or many more) to have a team of 7 expert, knowledgable people tend to its website and make it the best it can possibly be?

And so forth with every other area of ministry.

Enough with overworking people, or skimping on having the necessary people for the work of the ministry. If this is the most important work in the world, let’s act like it.

“But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more cloth you, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 6:30).

“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:37-38).

  • Loren Pinilis

    What are your thoughts on this when the area of ministry is something that, for instance, provides for the poor? The more people you hire, the less money that is available for feeding and clothing people.
    I know the correct answer would be to hire just what you need to do the job well and no more. If you could quantify the results from employees, it would be a no-brainer to graph it and pick the point where you’re serving the most people in the best way. I think anyone approaching this issue would obviously desire to maximize their results, so it’s not a difference of intention or motivation – but in the practical idea on how to do this. My thought would be that there are no pat answers and every situation will have to be prayerfully discerned with godly wisdom.

    What are your thoughts?

    On a slightly related note, what are your thoughts on organizations using their resources to get more resources? In other words, what do you think about an organization using 1%, 5%, 10%, 20%, or 40% of their money funding mailers or campaigns to solicit more donations? Is this across the board acceptable or unacceptable? Is there a certain percentage point where you feel it crosses a line?

  • Matt Heerema


    I think, to your first point, you answer your own question. If you have an ineffective Web site, you will not be as effective. You’re right that it takes careful thought, planning, and measurement, to find the line point of maximum effectiveness. I think Matt’s point is that many people just race to the conclusion that “saving money” by reducing head-counts is inherently a cost-saving measure. It may not actually be in the big picture.

  • Nora Ortiz Fredrick

    Loren, as a stewardship educator and nonprofit fundraiser, I like to remind leaders that it takes money to raise money. The nonprofit standard is that fundraising costs should never exceed 25% of $$ raised and most highly effective organizations range between 15% and 20%. Churches are slight different because the costs are blurred. Does the weekly newsletter to church members that has a stewardship message count as a fundraising cost?

    Remember, too, that the difference between stewardship and development (nonprofit fundraising) is that development cultivates donors, while stewardship cultivates disciples. Even in our resourcing effort, our mission to make disciples must remain central.

  • Curtis

    Bad analogy. There is a enormous difference between skilled and unskilled labor. Also, caring for a flower is not scalable. The amount of work to care for one flower must be multiplied 1000 times in order to care for 1000 flowers. However, the amount of work to maintain a website is the same if one person uses it or if 1000 people use it.