Functional Structures

The way a church is structured has a direct impact on its ministry effectiveness. Preacher and ministry leader Tom Skinner described the beginnings of an outreach program as 100% ministry. You are out in the community talking with people, praying with people, starting Bible studies, doing follow up. But over time a new reality creeps in – administration. The more people and groups and leaders that get involved, the more oversight and scheduling and management is required. Pretty soon, as the leader, you have very little involvement in ministry and all you are doing is what Skinner called “monster.”

Can you relate? I know I can. Administration is not bad; it’s necessary. But when churches get structured around oversight instead of around ministry, the gears can bind up and slow actual ministry to people to a crawl.

One EFCA church used to have what was called a “Church Council.” Every month all of the elders, all of the deacons and all of the ministry leaders were required to meet – nearly 30 people in a church of 250 – so that every team could provide a report and discussion could take place. It was exhausting. It was cumbersome. But it was encoded in the church’s constitution, so everyone had to attend and make their report.

A Natural Church Development survey revealed a primary weakness at this church was “functional structures.” They knew that the church council was slowing them down, but it took over a decade to actually change their structure to provide more freedom and flexibility for ministry.

I am very thankful that in my experiences in the EFCA the structures have been mostly flexible and empowering for leaders and ministry. Here is my current church constitution and bylaws for our church of around 200 people. And here is our ministry team structure. In short, the elders provide each ministry with a purpose statement and commission a leader to accomplish that purpose. There are no requirements for how the leader builds his or her team; no mandates for a certain number of meetings or team members. The leader has a purpose and checks in with the elders every year to clarify that purpose and request any needed prayerful support.

Our goal is to “equip the saints for the work of ministry” (Eph. 4:12) not to bog everyone down in unnecessary oversight meetings. Let’s unleash our people for ministry and do what we can to reduce administrative monsters!

Sample Church Constitution and By-Laws

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