Thursday, October 20, 2011

Avoid Becoming a Federation of Sub-ministries

Several years ago I visited a large church to meet with some of the leaders.  I wanted to learn from their experiences and pick up ideas.  I learned a lot, but there were a few things that really bothered me:
  • Some of the staff and other key leaders went weeks without seeing others on staff.
  • Most had no idea what was happening in the church outside of their own departments.
  • None of the staff members I talked to had a clear understanding of the vision of the church or how they fit into it.
  • I heard a lot of envious comments about budget allocation, room usages, and staff hires.

In my opinion, this was not a unified church.  It was a federation of sub-ministries.  These were separate ministries coexisting in one location.  Each had its own agenda and goals, and none had anything to do with the overall mission of the church.  To talk with the staff was like hearing a sales pitch six different CEOs of separate companies.  There was no cohesiveness, unity, shared purpose, or common mission.  They were pulling in opposite directions and against each other.  No wonder there was so much tension.

We experienced the very same thing at PCC.  It is what led to our ten year hiccup about four years ago.  In addition to our core ministries we had Celebrate Recovery, about twenty small groups with each one choosing their own curriculum (some of which was contrary to our church’s position), small group leaders who were taking up offerings, prayer groups that turned into gossip groups, and a variety of theologies floating around, just to name a few.  Minsitry leaders were showing signs of resistance and discontent with this church, while at the same time using it as a platform for their own agenda.  We had turned into a coalition of fragmented groups.  Each one believed they were autonomous and operated as an independent ministry silo.   It was horrible.  I fixed it.  It cost me.  It cost me a lot.  But we are better for it now.  And it won’t happen again.

This is not God’s idea of a church.  God’s idea involves community, affinity, and togetherness.  A church is a group of people gathered around a common cause and a shared goal.  For us at PCC, it is to accomplish the Great Commission and the Greatest Commandment.

But it isn’t easy to stay unified.  It takes intentional focus and hard work.  Sometimes you even have to fight for it. One of my main responsibilities at PCC is to be the guardian of our mission.  I do everything I can to prevent mission drift from setting in and trying to keep this church on course.  Here are some tips we use for staying unified:
  • We maintain a common budget according to the purposes of our church, funding only its authorized ministries.
  • We do not allow department fundraising.
  • We schedule events, meetings, or parties to allow the entire staff or leadership group to be together for face time and fun.
  • We constantly tell stories of life change to keep everyone focused.
  • We end ineffective ministries and dismiss ineffective staff or leaders.
  • We schedule room usage according to ministry priority, not on a first come first serve” basis.
  • We hire staff according to ministry priority.
  • We let squeaky wheels squeak.

It is very, very hard to keep a growing church unified and on the same page.  However, it is even harder and more painful to revive a church that has drifted off course into a federation of sub-ministries. 

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