The Organised Church (Part 2): Critical Components of Church Organisation

In Part 1 I wrote about the need for pastors and church leaders to seriously look into the organisational aspect of the church. It is my observation that churches that fail to organise themselves well, despite the fact that they may be solidly founded on sound theology and/or pray a lot, disadvantage themselves,

The New Testament-mention of the spiritual gift of administration (1 Cor 12:28) underscores the importance for good organisation in the church. What’s the point of the gift if the Lord did not think that effective administration (organisation) of the church is necessary and important? The meaning of the root word in Greek for the gift of administration is connected to the work of a shipmaster or captain. The job then, of the person with this gift is to help steer or lead the church (or a ministry). If he is not the leader of the church, then his job is to assist the leader to develop strategies, organise the people and implement the process.

Broadly speaking, there are three critical components in the organisation of a church: structures, systems and processes.

  1. Structures

These refer to the organisational structures of the church, such as the leadership, departments, ministries, small groups and communications. (This list is not meant to be exhaustive. Similarly for the lists in “Systems” and “Processes” below.)

Let me flesh out a couple of examples to help you understand what I mean.

The leadership structure concerns matters like the lines of authority and communication; which is often presented in the form of an organisational chart. It also asks questions like: Who leads the leadership team? What is the role of the pastor and the chairman respectively? How is the pastor accountable to the church board? Is the church effectively led by one person or by a team?

In the broader context of the church it asks: What is the role of the congregation in making decisions? What kind of decisions does the congregation make?

With regards to the small groups structure: How is the ministry structured? Are the group leaders accountable to the pastor or to a small group ministry head? If there are a large number of small groups does the church divide them into areas (or zones)? Within each small group, are mature Christians assigned to care for younger believers?

  1. Systems

These refer to the working systems of the church, such as the financial, leadership, small group, worship service and assimilation of new people .

The first thing you probably noticed is that I have included leadership and small group here, even though I had already mentioned them under “structures”. That is because they (and others) are systems in the body of the church that must be properly structured.

Under “systems”, however, we ask a different set of questions. For the small group ministry the focus here is on the workings of the system. We want to know: What level of importance does the church place on the small group ministry? (Is everyone expected to be part of a small group? Is participation in a small group a pre-requisite for membership in the church?) Is the nature, purpose and programme of the small groups standardised or does each group have autonomy? Is attendance monitored? Are small group leaders expected to send in monthly or quarterly reports? Are small groups expected to multiply within a certain period? What is the church’s philosophy of small group ministry?

With regards to finances we are concerned about the efficient and effective collection of the members’ tithes and offering, proper recording of the collection, accounting of income and expenditure, and not just the proper use of church funds but their purposeful use to advance the Kingdom.

We ask the questions: How is the money apportioned? Does the church have a budget? What’s the financial and accounting policy of the church? How is the money collected (physically at worship services and/or bank transfers and/or credit card payments)? What is the procedure to count and record the collection?  Who can authorise a payment and what is the quantum? What policies are in place to ensure the purposeful use of church funds?

  1. Processes

These refer to the steps taken to accomplish an objective, such as the assimilation of new people, discipleship, and ministry and leadership development.

For example, pastors tell me that they want to make disciples, but when I ask them how they are making disciples, they cannot articulate it—either they don’t have a process in place or it’s so vague they cannot tell you. Every church needs to have a discipleship process. If you don’t have one you may start with Rick Warren’s “baseball diamond” found in his book, The Purpose Driven Church.

Disciple making, leadership development (read, raising up next generation leaders for succession planning) cannot be left ad hoc! Neither can we leave the assimilation of new people to chance. That’s the reason many would-be-additions to the church fall through the cracks. Every church needs well thought-out and workable processes for things like these.

Every church needs to be well organised. This will happen when pastors and church leaders do what is necessary to ensure that their church’s structures, systems and processes are efficient and effective. There is no one size-fits all because of the differences in the make-up of our churches. Start with the Bible. Study your own church. Learn from other churches. Get the leadership team to read and discuss one or more relevant books on the matter, and implement what is helpful. This is the road to the administrative health of your church.

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