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Structure vs Flexibility

Jun 16 2015

Structures, much like the laws that govern a nation, are needed in our organizations in order to keep things both in order and moving forward. We can sometimes get caught up in structure and forget about our freedom to be flexible, our ability to change the laws. Pastor Brian recently shared at one of our staff meetings, “the structure serves you, you don’t serve it.”

Sometimes we can treat structures like first born children. After years of being with them, raising them up and teaching them; we can be reluctant to let them go. Changing structure can be similar in that, although we need them, we may need to treat them differently and allow the seasons of life to adapt them to still move forward.

At Hillsong Church, we took Connect Groups on this journey. When we first started growing as a church we needed small groups to keep church personal. Pastor Brian always reminds us, “We are a small church with a lot of people”. We created order around Connect Groups to ensure everybody was on the same page.

Over time however, what was once providing standardization and a means of organisation started to prohibit growth in our church. Not everyone could give up one night a week. Not everyone could have people over their home, especially if they lived in a smaller or shared home. These seemingly small factors started to limit people from joining or starting new connect groups.

Looking at this structure, my wife Julia decided to look at Connect groups through a new lense. Who said Connect Groups had to meet one night a week? Who made the rule that Connect Groups need to run in someone’s home? Who said that Connect Groups had to go on all night?

Originally, WE DID! But unlike legalistic laws, we chose to be flexible with structure and be adaptable to the culture of today. This year, at Hillsong Church, we pioneered the new concept: 1 hour Connect Groups.

Now Connect Groups could:

1. Meet anywhere – homes, workplaces, cafés or even schools.

2. Meet at any time – at night, in the morning before work or school, or even over lunch break.

3. Have a defined start and end time, focused on the Word. (This is to respect people’s available time and allow more people to attend in their busy schedules.)

These changes have since addressed the many challenges that people had for starting and joining a Connect Group. We created flexibility in the times and locations, and only placed 3 simple restrictions on them:

1. Biblical (Be in the Word)

2. Small (Only have 5-8 people, so everyone is involved and feels included)

3. Short (1 hour only, to respect people’s time)

A few simple changes in structure meant that our Connect Groups did not just grow, but grow rapidly across our church! Sometimes all it takes is breaking out of a mould to keep your church moving forward and people finding their place.

Structures are created to take us to an end point but often we lose sight of the fact that the end point is our goal, not to maintain the structure itself.

The goal of the Law given to the Israelites was to give them structure for a life well-lived, but it proved unable to do what it was meant to do: make people holy. Jesus didn’t come to abolish the law, but to fulfil it, and he did so by changing up the structure.

No more dietary restrictions; instead changing what comes out of the mouth.

No more temple veils; instead being filled with the Holy Spirit.

No more purifying sacrifices, instead just the one final sacrifice.

If we are unwilling to change the structure when we’re not meeting our end goal, that end goal will only move further and further away. If instead we focus on our end objective, we must be willing to adapt. Jesus changed up structures and restrictions because He had an end goal of holiness and heart transformation. That much, has never changed.


This thought was originally shared at a Hillsong Leadership Network Google Hangout.

Network Members can access the Connect Group Leaders manual our team uses to train our potential new Connect Group Leaders.

Click to find out more about the benefits of Hillsong Leadership Network