In this past year if we have learned nothing else, we have learned that things can change and they can change on a dime. In order to keep up with change and make both timely and strategic decisions, we must have streamlined structure that is accountable to the mission and vision and in alignment with the core values. If our structure is too complex, we will not be timely. If our structure is not accountable to the mission and vision, we will make decisions based on personal preference and the path of least resistance. If we make decisions not in alignment with our core values, we will likely cause conflict in the greater congregation. If we don’t leverage our assets towards alignment with the mission and vision, then we are not leading with accountability.
All the pieces must fit together. But it all starts with first having a structure that is simple. Younger generations are not wiling to work in cumbersome structures that are riddled with complex layers and time-consuming processes that make no sense. Furthermore, younger generations are already suspicious of institutions, so without accountability there is little hope for engaging younger generations’ voices at the table of institutional life. And, without those younger voices at the table, institutions will grow ever more contextually irrelevant.
Too often our churches make decisions based on maintaining our internal relationships with one another over our faithfulness and responsibility to the mission of making disciples. Those sitting at the leadership tables have traditionally been taught or learned by experience that leadership in the church is translated to mean day-to-day management. When the leadership (i.e., board/council) is managing, it results in absolutely no one seeing to the governance role and responsibilities. At its most basic function, governance is seeing not only to the fiduciary responsibilities, but it is also about the generative, strategic, and accountability functions. In other words, the governance role is about making sure the organization is on task with its main function and purpose. For the church, that means are we continuously making disciple-making disciples who are transforming the world? The leadership (board/council) is to keep their eye on the missional ball to make sure the church is about their mission and formulating course corrections as needed. The leadership is accountable to Christ in leading the church in its disciple-making purpose. When leaders on the board/council are instead managing, then no one is governing. And this is how so many churches have found themselves in decline.
The board governs. Pastors lead. Staff and Ministry Team Leaders manage (i.e., identify, recruit, equip, and deploy people for ministry). The congregation does the ministry. It is that simple! But when we have too many tied up in administrative committees (like many churches do) trying to manage, there is no one to do the most important and impactful work – the ministry!
If your church is struggling with complex structure, too much management without governance, or no accountable leadership, check out our third expanded edition of Mission Possible: A Simple Structure for Missional Effectiveness. It is a resource that will identify the pros and cons, take you from discerning if simplified, accountable structure is right for your congregation, provide equipping tools, and into implementing during your first year. It is a how-to guide from consideration to the go-to reference for the veteran. Check it out at Market Square Publishing.