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Organizational Structure

There is no shortage of reading materials when it comes to church leadership and governance.  This is a topic that people like to write on because so many struggle through these issues.  I am no exception.  This May 20, I am celebrating the 5-year anniversary of restarting Valley Baptist Church.  We started with about 12 people with a vision and hope from God.  The ride has been amazing to say the least, but throughout the journey I have found that I have been stretched consistently as a leader.  Just when I think I have figured things out, everything has changed.  I guess this is just life.

Through this journey I have had great freedom to lead–for this I am thankful. Up to this point, I would describe our structure as “Pastor led, church affirmed.”  To assist the leading I have utilized a group of about 8 men that carry the title of “deacons” and a lady who carries the title of “treasurer.”  This structure is in place mainly because this was the structure (not the people) I inherited on paper.  The development was intentionally slow to grow trust with the church.  In June of 2009, I updated the constitution to expand and clarify some points, but not to radically alter the constitution. The main change was concerning the appointment of official leadership of the church.  Before it followed more of a congregational-led model whereas now leaders are appointed annually by the senior pastor and approved by the body at the annual meeting.  After five years, I feel like I am truly entering the season where I am free to lead the church.  There is trust.  I’m not going anywhere and the people know that I am here for them and am acting in the best interest of the church.

Here are some questions I have been wrestling through.  Where did your style of church governance come from?  A piece of paper, traditions, your denomination, or who knows?  Do you have a board?  Why?  Because business’ do?  I like asking a lot of questions and I find myself asking the all important question related to this subject, “What does the Bible have to say about this subject and how should it workout practically in my church?”

I’ve reached a point where I can no longer push the weight in a healthy manner.  If everyone showed up on a given Sunday, we would have about 150 people in attendance.  I cannot shepherd this many people alone, nor do I think we are done growing, so how do I lead the church into the next season?  From Scripture I am convinced the church is to be led through elders (along with a number of synonymous titles), with a leader amongst them, deacons that support, and a church of believers that fulfill the ministry.  The question is, “What does this look like practically for me in this setting in the coming years?”

How has this worked itself out in your ministry setting?  I would love to hear your input!

Here are some books that have encouraged me on this journey…

On Being a Pastor, Alistar Begg and Derek Prime

On Church Leadership, Mark Driscoll

Sticky Teams, Larry Osborne

The New Testament Deacon, Alexander Strauch

Saying it Well, Charles Swindoll

8 replies
  1. Tim Brown
    Tim Brown says:

    Thanks for this, Gunnar. These are issues we all have to struggle through and find a place to stand.

    Our eldership works like my marriage – I am the head of the house, but we walk in a mutuality. Mutual submission can function within hierarchy and headship doesn’t automatically eliminate mutuality.

    Reply
  2. Kellen Criswell
    Kellen Criswell says:

    Hey Gunnar. We are set up at Refuge identically to how you guys are at your church. Jesus is the Head of the church and ultimate Senior Pastor. Under Jesus are our pastor/elder/overseers who serve as the doctrine setting, vision guiding, and church disciplining authority. Amongst the elders I serve as the Lead Pastor and leader of the leaders. My job is to cast over-arching vision for the church. The other elders have responsibility to oversee and have vision for individual departments of church life that come together to accomplish the over-arching vision. Our state required board of directors consists/will consist of our pastoral leaders. Under the elders are deacons. Deacons are those who lead ministry departments but aren’t elders, and operate under the guidance of the overseeing elder(s) of their respective ministry. Under the deacons are teams of Christians simply using their spiritual gifts to play their part in the body of Christ. In our elder training/assessment process we utilize A Book You’ll Actually Read…on Church Leadership to explain our leadership structure. This is because we believe this book to be a simple and biblical description of God’s design for the church leadership pyramid: Jesus, Lead Pastor, Elders, Deacons, Christians.

    Reply
  3. Tim Brown
    Tim Brown says:

    Hi, Kellen – what is the name of the book you use for church leadership? Is it ‘On Church Leadership’?

    Reply
  4. Kellen Criswell
    Kellen Criswell says:

    Yes. It’s called “A Book You’ll Actually Read…on Church Leadership”. Its from a four part set by Mark Driscoll. The other three are: On the Old Testament, On the New Testament, and On Who is God. Its a good little series, but I’ve found On Church Leadership to be the best of the set. Its biblical, concise, and has lots of good practical pointers.

    Reply
  5. Peyton Jones
    Peyton Jones says:

    Hey Gunnar. Thanks for raising this important issue. We have Deacons as well because we’ve found that there are people who will serve the body, but aren’t quite ready to lead the body. It’s sad that we don’t actually utilize this role anymore…we must know more than the apostles…
    I’ve written a book about the roles laid out in Ephesians 4 and how it led to rapid first century expansion through church planting. I know that sounds like gobble-gook to read that last sentence, but the apostles utilized all 5 of those roles, and worked in mobile teams that facilitated rapid church planting. Paul’s ministry encompassed 30 years roughly, and he accomplished more than most of us ever will. The book is about that, and is called “Church Zero: Raising 1st Century Churches from the Ashes of 21st Century Church”. It’s being published in early 2013 by David C. Cook. To get sneak peaks of the content, hit my website.

    Reply

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