Church Order, Let's Talk About...
Has Your Church Restructured Your Governance Model?
April 11, 2019
Updated April 12, 2019
6 comments 743 views
Hello Friends! Over the past couple of years, we've had diaconates reach out to us seeking ways they can do ministry better. Many are longing to do this in order to achieve better communication and more collaboration among ministries, as well as increased effectiveness in all areas of the church. One way some churches feel this can be accomplished is by revamping their governance structure - ie. the way their Church Council functions. It's no secret that some churches have gotten away from the "traditional" model and begun restructuring their Church Councils in new and exciting ways!
So! We want to hear what YOUR church has done!
Would you be willing to share it with us? If so, please comment below or on our Facebook page, or contact Tammy, our Eastern Canada Ministry Developer, directly—she'd love to hear from you! She can be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at 800-730-3490 x4304.
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Last year, we moved away from a lots system, where we found twice as many nominees as were needed, and we identified individuals who were gifted and willing to serve as elders and deacons and asked the congregation to approve them all, individually, by ballot. We also shifted all administrative business away from the council to and administrative committee and reduced the council agenda to two items, the growth of faith of the individuals of our church, and the development of a 4-step vision for our church as a whole. Everything on the council agenda needed to clearly relate to these two items, and nothing more. We also reduced the number of council meetings to 6 per year, meeting every other month, so that we wouldn't burn out our leaders. We have rediscovered an energy and passion for ministry as we made these changes, though we are still in a season of uncertainty as we adapt.
Thank you so much for sharing this Gary! We completely agree change can be hard and uncertain at times but usually necessary and ultimately for the better of everyone! Blessings as you continue on this journey.
In the 90's we had separated our Council into three groups: Shepherding Elders, Administrative Elders & Deacons, and Service Deacons. This resulted in a council of over 25 men, which was way too big of a group. Each component needed to have a liaison to the other groups and to various committees, yet the right hand never knew what the left hand was doing, and morale was suffering.
Last year we reduced our council to simply elders and deacons, and reduced each group to 5 men. They have longer terms which helps facilitate better relationships, especially between the elders and their district families. Because we don't have as many seats to fill, we can find guys who truly have a passion to serve in this way.
We also set up a board of trustees consisting of 4 people. This group handles all of the business functions of the church and is appointed by and reports to the Council. We are a complementarian church, so this group also gives the opportunity for women to serve in leadership. Having this group allows the elders and deacons to just concentrate on their core responsibilities of shepherding the congregation and serving them diaconally.
These changes have made a tremendous improvement in our operation, and in the morale and effectiveness of our leadership teams.
Here's a link to our flow chart:
Thank you for sharing this Chad! It was also helpful to hear where you came from; churches can definitely learn from the 'what not to do' or here is what we tried and what didn't work.
Last year we also changed our structure. Prior to the change we had a 25+ Council made up of Administrative Elders, Pastoral Elders and Deacons. It was a very ineffective and inefficient model.
We now have 8 Elders who make up our leadership board. We have deacons and pastoral care workers who do not serve on leadership board, they are only responsible for diaconal and pastoral ministries.
We base our thinking on Acts 6, where the Apostles (and their heirs the Elders) are responsible for ALL ministry in the church, but because they cannot manage all of that work by themselves they raise up qualified servants/helpers (diakonia) who are entrusted/authorized to do that work on behalf of the church. This applies not only to diaconal and pastoral ministry, but also to the equally important worship ministry, discipleship ministry, and every other ministry in the church. All our ministry leaders are diakonia (Ephesians 4) authorized and entrusted by the Elders for the work of the church.
Our Elders are our Directors, we meet 2x a month. Their main work is the big picture leadership - developing mission, vision, strategy, policy, as well as overseeing and reviewing the work of the staff and the ministry leaders. Our part and full time staff (Children & Youth Discipleship, Adult Discipleship, Worship, Fellowship and Outreach/Service) manage all the church's ministries assigned under them. They work with the Elders in developing mission, vision, strategy, policy, and are responsible for implementing them for the Elders, and reporting on how the work is going. I am one of the staff, primarily responsible for Adult Discipleship and leading the Staff Team. I see the staff as non-voting Elders (though that is not how they are viewed at the moment), along with myself, assigned to specific areas of ministry. We come to the Elders meetings whenever requested, but do not vote.
We are still working out the bugs, but ministry effectiveness and satisfaction have increased significantly. Attendance at our Elders meetings is almost 100%. Deacons are still voted in (a church order technicality) but our pastoral care workers are appointed, and serve open ended terms. People who said no to serving a term as Pastoral Elder easily agreed to serve open-ended terms as PCWs. My goal is to move in the same direction with the Deacons.
Some see this as a demotion for the Deacons. I see it as a promotion, allowing them to focus on what they are gifted, and love to do. All our ministries are equal and valuable - including benevolence, stewardship, worship, fellowship, etc, and so all of them are commissioned (ordained/appointed) equally. The Elders do not serve a greater role or 'office', they are the equippers for ministry.
Did anything ever come of this request? I am interested in hearing what kinds of systems are out there, and how (or if) they considered church order when creating the systems.
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