Why is the theme of partnership in the Structure and Leadership Task Force (SALT) report so vital to the administration of the CRCNA denominational ministries?
In any large and complex organization, such as the CRCNA denomination, there is a built-in tension between the tendency to centralize ministry decision-making and the felt need to decentralize. Experts in organizational theory describe the search for balance between these two tendencies as polarity management.
The existing organizational model of the CRCNA had focused for 30 years or more on centralizing all ministry functions in the CRCNA offices in Grand Rapids, Michigan. To date, a single Executive Director leads the entire CRCNA organization. A satellite office existed in Burlington, Ontario, which housed a number of administrative and ministry functions, but it ultimately reported to leadership in Grand Rapids.
A centralized model of leadership tends to focus on a “cookie cutter” approach as it addresses administrative and ministry needs, functions and programs. While this generally works for single-purpose, small organizations, it creates more problems than it solves in large, multi-purpose, ministry organizations such as the CRCNA.
The “partnership” model was developed because it is effective in large, diverse, and complex organizations. While some functions still need to be centralized, it identifies administrative and ministry functions that can be decentralized.
The SALT report recommends the formation of a Canada Office that is overseen by the Canada Board of Directors and led by an Executive Director who reports to the Canada Board. The Canada Office is responsible to Synod and the Council of Delegates to design and operate all Christian Reformed ministry programs for Canada.
The SALT report, in its recommendations, seeks to decentralize most decision-making while preserving only those functions that require centralized decision-making.
The most effective ministry programs are those that are designed to address the unique needs of the population(s) served. Geographical, cultural, linguistic, and ethnicity are some of the considerations that are part of the design of effective ministry programs. The creation of effective ministry programs relies on there being healthy partnerships between boards and leaders for communication, collaboration, and trust are indispensable to the implementation of SALT’s partnership model.
Rev. Frederic Koning is a retired CRC Pastor and Medical Ethicist. He served as the Reporter for the Structure and Leadership Task Force (SALT), and co-facilitator of the SALT Steering Committee and the Joint Ministry Agreement Task Force.
Dr. Lloyd Vanderkwaak is a retired CEO and has conducted research on the governance partnership in nonprofit organizations. He served as a co-facilitator of the SALT Steering Committee and the Joint Ministry Agreement Task Force.