One of the great advantages of a small church is the chance for greater intimacy and fellowship. People can get to know everyone, or almost everyone. And the staff can meet, mingle and work together regularly.
But people are still people.
Every church has cliques – we sometimes call them people-groups. That's all silos are, after all. They're just a new name for cliques. But sometimes calling an old problem by a new name can help us see things in a new way. You may not like to believe your church has cliques. But it might have silos.
In my church, for instance, every department shares the same rooms, so everyone has to learn to set up, tear down and respect that someone else will use "their" room after they leave.In a small church, silos are less about separation by departments or buildings and more about personalities and emotions. While big churches have to fight the tendency to separate because they never see each other, small churches may have to fight the tendency to separate because we see too much of each other.
When I first arrived over 22 years ago, the church had some massive silos with very high, thick walls. The church, youth group and preschool all shared the same space, but there was no crossover between the three. Literally. No one in the preschool or youth group attended the church – except for the youth pastor. And none of the church people knew what was happening in their preschool or youth group.
Each department saw the room they used as "their" room. Petty arguments were common.
Over the years, we chipped away at the silo walls. It started with a sit-down, come-to-Jesus meeting with leaders in which I established a zero-tolerance rule for territorialism. Every ministry was required to leave the room better than they found it. And we spent whatever time was necessary at weekly staff meetings ironing out better communication and coordinating systems.
It wasn't fast or easy, but it worked. In the last 15 years I can count on one hand the number of times I've had to moderate an argument between departments over facility use. But that's only because we still meet regularly and guard rigorously against allowing silos to re-form. If we don't pay attention to them, they'll sprout like weeds. And those weeds will choke out and kill an otherwise healthy church.