Encouraging Teams in Ministry

Guidelines for Fractals

Fractals are a simple organizational concept that allows people to easily become connected to the congregation in doing ministry and mission.  The concept allows for many different kinds of roles in ministry and mission; therefore, we have the opportunity for people to match different skills and capacities to various roles.

The term Fractal comes from observations of nature.  From rocks to humans, the basic building blocks of nature are often simple repeating structures which when put together allow for very complex and different entities.  Many churches have used this concept with great results in organizing ministries.  The basic building block is a small work group unusually consisting of five people: a leader and four others.  We can repeat this simple structure as many times as we wish until we have organized ourselves to get the job done.  In forming Fractals, we make no distinction between paid staff and members who donate their time.

Forming a Fractal

To form a fractal, there needs to be a job or task that needs to get done!  Note that these are not advisory groups, they are work groups that carry responsibility for the Church’s ministry and mission.

Step 1:  Designate a leader and define a written purpose for the Fractal. The job of the leader of a Fractal is to equip of others for ministry.  They need to dedicate themselves to building up and knowing well each member of the Fractal, and to be committed to the success of each person in the Fractal.

Step 2:  Divide the task into 4 responsibilities.

Step 3:  For each responsibility, decide what skills and capacity are needed to lead and perform each responsibility.  Keep in mind that to do each of the four responsibilities, each one of them might create another Fractal to do the work depending on the scope of  that responsibility.  Therefore, leadership might be a key needed skill as well.

Step 4:  Decide whom we should ask to take on each of the four responsibilities.  Check with the volunteer coordinator or rector if you are considering asking someone to lead a responsibility within a fractal.  We want to keep track of that, and also be sure we are not overloading anyone.

Leading a Fractal

The primary role of the Fractal leader is to equip and support others in doing God’s work in ministry and mission, and to see that the job gets done.  Consider that the work team of five is really also a small group.  Fractals should meet regularly and there should be a time set aside for prayer and discussion.  A Fractal meeting might be a good time for a daily devotion or other study.  One of the most important elements of a Fractal’s success is the relationships that are formed in the group and the support that is provided to each other.

As your Fractal forms as a team, you should review the written purpose statement for the Fractal, and write down what you intend to accomplish.

Day-to-day, the Fractal is responsible for doing the assigned ministry.  Everyone should be respectful of their role.  All suggestions, corrections, etc. should go through, not around the Fractal structure.  However, prayer, blessing, praise, and support are welcome from anyone at any time!

Building more Fractals

As the ministry grows, we need to be careful that we do not burn out or overload the responsibilities of the Fractal.  One way to respond to growth is to form new Fractals around any one or all of the four responsibilities of the original Fractal.  The person who has one of the four responsibilities of the original Fractal then becomes the leader of a new Fractal that then shares the responsibility.  As ministries grow, more and more Fractals are formed. The organization grows downward, continuously sub-dividing the work, always maintaining a manageable workload for each fractal, and always maintaining accountability for getting the job done.  Further, more and more people act in the role of equipping others to lead and do ministry.

Note:  Fractals are a way of providing leadership of ministry and mission.  It is not necessarily the case that a large group of people doing ministry must all divide itself into Fractals.

The DNA of Fractals

Fractals can be formed quickly around an event such as a picnic in the park, and then dissolve until next year, or they may be on-going as they lead a continuing part of our ministry. A well running Church is a living organism, and Fractals give a simple way for the organization to grow and change in support of the living Church.  Like living cells, there is a repeating pattern of the organization (Fractals) that uses a common pattern or DNA:

1.    The pattern of dividing the job into four parts.

2.    The role of the leader: equipping others in ministry and mission.

3.    The regular process for prayer and study together.

4.    The care and support of each fractal member as one would in a small group.

5.    Team accountability for getting the job done with written plans.

6.    The way fractals spawn new fractals by further subdividing the work as the ministry grows.


DRW 8/22/06

Edited DAM 8/24/06



One thought on “Encouraging Teams in Ministry”

  1. Nice David. I’ve always thought of fractals as stiff, rigid crystal-like structures, pretty to look at, not as living organisms and social groups. Thanks for this new mindset, a great way to accomplish ministries.

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