Skip to content
Need some Easter Sermon inspiration? Check out our Easter Sermon Collection Learn more
Go back


Five Ways to Know You Are Structured for Growth

Pastor Rick shared these practical reasons during his weekly webcast for pastors involved in 40 Days in the Word. You can hear the whole message at

In order to keep growing, you have to have a biblical statement, a biblical strategy, and a biblical structure.

Every building has a structure. Without the right structure, the building will fall over. With the right structure, the building will stand a long time. Unfortunately, most churches are structured around events or programs instead of processes. Programs and events eventually die out; processes go on and on and on.

At Saddleback, we bring people into membership, build them up to maturity, train them for their ministry, and send them out on their mission. That’s a process we’ve been doing for 32 years. Every year, we don’t have to wonder, “What are we going to do next year?” Programs and events change, but the systemic, sequential development of discipleship just keeps on going.

A lot of churches will have a process for one or two years, and then they’ll stop. To be a purpose driven church, you have to keep doing the same thing Jesus taught us to do over and over again, and you have to have a structure for it.

All living organisms have a structure. Did you know that no animal grows above seven inches without a skeleton? Without the proper skeleton, your church will not grow beyond its current rate. As the growth changes, the structure has to change to let the growth happen. Until you get a bigger pot for a root-bound plant, it’s not going to grow anymore.

In order to keep growing, you have to have a biblical statement, a biblical strategy, and a biblical structure. Luke 5:37 says that you can’t put “new wine into old wineskins.” If you have new wine or new growth, you have to have a new structure. If you’re going to have growth during 40 Days in the Word, you’re going to have to be structured for it, or you’re going to lose it all.

Structure is also what usually keeps churches from growing past 200 people. The kind of structure we had at Saddleback when we had 15 people was not the structure we used when we had 50 people. The kind of structure we had when we had 50 people didn’t work when we had 95. And, even, what worked at 20,000 didn’t work at 22,000. We are constantly changing structure. Peter Drucker once told me that an organization needs to change its structure every time it grows 45 to 47 percent. During the first 10 years of Saddleback, we actually grew 47 or 48 percent every year, which meant that every year we were revising how we made decisions, how we structured our team, and how we did small groups.

How do you know you’re structure isn’t working? There are three telltale signs:

  • Plateaued growth. Structure does not cause growth, but it does limit it. It controls the rate and the size of growth. Changing your structure will not cause you to grow; it will allow you to grow.
  • Internal conflict. It is a sign that you have outgrown your structure.
  • Discouraged leadership. When people get discouraged, it often means the structure is not allowing them to be creative.

The number one hurt I’ve discovered among pastors is the conflict that comes from inadequate structure. They get tired of fighting the bureaucracy. It drains their enthusiasm, and it kills their vision. This is very dangerous territory — you don’t just go out and change your structure. You have to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves. Minor changes are major victories.

There are five levels of church renewal and change:

  1. Personal Renewal. When God wants to work in a church, it always starts with the heart, and it always starts with the leader. 40 Days in the Word is about personal renewal. It’s when Jesus becomes real to you again and you fall in love with him all over again.
  2. Relational Renewal. First you get right with God, and then you get right with each other. There are two ways you know a church has had relational renewal: The singing gets better because people like each other better and they are genuinely worshipping. Also, people stay longer after the service because they just want to hang out and talk with each other.
  3. Missional Renewal. Many times a church will grow after the first two renewals, and then growth hits a plateau because they never reach missional renewal. This is when you discover the purpose for your life and your church family. Once you reach this point, you cannot keep a church from growing.
  4. Structural Renewal. As the church continues to grow, it will realize that it cannot put new wine in old wineskins.
  5. Cultural Renewal. When the first four renewals line up, the church starts impacting its community, and this is cultural renewal. I think we would all agree that America needs cultural renewal. You know that the sun is setting on a culture when small men cast long shadows. But cultural renewal will not happen without personal, relational, missional, and structural renewal.

Related Posts

Subscribe to Rick Warren's Ministry Toolbox

Weekly Email for Pastors and Church Leaders

    We care about your data. Read our privacy policy.

    Pastor Rick Warren smiling