Dr. Paul Borden
Rocky Mountain Church Network
Taken from Growing Healthy Churches August 2014 E-Newsletter
All organizational structures are only as good as the people who are a part of their make-up. We have all seen times when democracy has worked well and when it has worked poorly. The same is true for more authoritarian designs as well. Structure in churches is no different. Working with a variety of denominations demonstrates that each one’s polity has its merits and each has its drawbacks. Yet it is amazing that when denominations or congregations are in trouble (in decline, on a plateau or filled with conflict) people think that changing the structure is the best way to deal with the situation. However, such is not the case.
Whenever we work with a congregation that is facing difficulty we first deal with the mission and the vision. If people cannot agree on the same organizational purpose and the same goal, structure is irrelevant. Once the issues of purpose and achievement are settled, then it is often necessary to deal with structure. After all the purpose for structure is to help any organization achieve its mission and vision in the most efficient and effective ways possible.
Too often when congregations work on structure they focus on one of the traditional ways denominations have said structure should be formed. These forms are usually referred to as polity. Yet all of the polities are based on exegetical and theological assumptions derived from Biblical passages, often influenced by the historical times in which the polities were developed.
Since the Bible does not lay out a picture of an overall polity for The Church it might be better to think of structures in relation to overarching key issues. The first is governance. This issue forces us to wrestle with authority. As one thinks through authority one is then forced to wrestle with both responsibility and accountability. The governance issue also leads one to determine who makes the final decisions and how they are made.
After dealing with governance, people need to think of the differences and similarities between leadership as a behavior and the role of those in leadership positions (which are often identified with authority). The two do not always go together, either in theory or practice.
One other issue that must be considered by congregations is the difference between position (the role one has in the organization) and gifting, particularly as it relates to both leadership and authority.
The goal is to then develop a structure that both fits what the Bible is clear about in its teachings and the effective implementation of the mission and vision. Always remembering that any organization is only as good as the people who lead and have authority.[/text_output][/vc_column][/vc_row]