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Church Structure

Christophe Ferron

2. That is why good structure is fluid and flexible, adapting to “daily bread” needs. Rigid, bureaucratic models like in the military or industries where workers do the same basic set of things day after day, do not function very well in the church. To begin with, we utilize lots of volunteers, who will get left off such flow charts precisely because they are not “consistent.” And, churches do so many different kinds of things each week—CM, crisis counseling, bulletins and worship practice—and such a variety of things each year—Harvest Festivals, jail outreaches, mission teams, etc. It is impossible that the same few people are the best ones for all those jobs!

3. Good structures recognize that position is not as meaningful as involvement. A titled position does not mean that the person holding the title can orr should be that involved in the actual work that must be done. Going back to the example of a Junior High event, the ideal scenario would be for the Youth Pastor to arrange things (time, information, etc.) to find and involve someone else in finding the drivers. Without intentional arrangements, pastors fall into the same trap as Moses, assuming there is no alternative to doing everything themselves. Who else and how else can I get other people involved in this project is a question that will make you a better administrator.

4. Since churches’ programs are mostly short-lived activities, good structure will maximize the use of small workgroups, differing combinations of personnel with changed roles from the last project. For instance, the Youth Pastor and the dad who organized the drivers for the Junior High event might both be part of a team planning the Father/Son fishing derby; as a married man with a son, the dad probably knows more about what and how to plan than the single youth pastor does—for this event. And if they’re smart, they will invite a mom or two to get in on the planning too. Our question is Who can think about this project better than I can, and who has knowledge that I lack?

5. You’ve heard the saying, “Doing things right is not as important as doing right things.” I do not think it has to be an either/or choice, but if we grasp the priority expressed by the statement, I would put it this way about structure: “Avoiding mistakes is not as important as empowering people enough to make mistakes.” Good structure increases overall productivity by pushing the decision-making power to the front most positions in the organization, not by restricting the power to a few individuals at the top. The whole point of having designated areas of responsibility is to release people to maximize their decision-making and minimize their permission-asking. As I told a staff person last week,”I’d rather have you pray/think about and then make a decision—even if it turns out to be the wrong one—rather than await my decision about things for which you are responsible.”

6. As obvious as it sounds, the whole point of administration and structure is to better enable a church to accomplish its purposes in/with the lives of its people. Thus, the structure must match the goals of the church. Let’s take cell groups. We emphasize cell groups in our church because one of our goals is to keep encouraging people toward ministry leadership roles. That is also why our cell groups are structured to have apprentice leaders, and why we have lay leaders overseeing clusters of cell groups, and yet another layer of lay leaders (two couples) who minister to those cluster leaders. If your church’s main assignment is to gather the flock to listen to teaching, cell groups would be counter-productive. Thus, good administrators ask the question: What does our planned-for structure communicate to people? (Have you noticed that people watch what we do much more than they listen to what we say?)

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Category: Ministry, Winter 2020

About the Author: Daniel A. Brown, PhD, planted The Coastlands, a church near Santa Cruz, California, serving as Senior Pastor for 22 years. Daniel has authored four books and numerous articles, but he is best-known for the sorts of resources that help local church leaders excel in their spiritual assignment. For more about Daniel Brown, see his ministry resources website: CTW. Facebook. Twitter.

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