There are a wide number of approaches to church government, from elder rule, deacon boards, Episcopal, Presbyterian, or congregational governance to name a few. Yet, most forms of government have two features that dominate the church’s structure: committees and majority rule.
The work of the church is usually assigned to a network of committees. Most committees do not actually engage in ministry, as much as they make decisions for others to implement or abide by, which are then brought before the church for wider approval.
The other dominate feature in the structure of most churches is some form of majority rule. Whether it is in the form of a monthly business meeting, or simply how a committee or board makes a final decision, the raw democracy of majority rule is the tool employed.
Even though committees and majority rule are deeply entrenched within the life of most churches, it’s interesting to note that none of the terms or models can be found in the Bible.
Problems with Committees. First, committees take people away from the front lines of actual ministry and move them to organizational matters, church business, or policy. By doing so, the best and brightest people often become bureaucrats or power brokers which can result in micro-management and organizational paralysis.
Second, committees separate authority from responsibility. In other words, the people sitting on committees have all the authority while the people doing the ministry have all the responsibility. This is a recipe for poor decision making, not to mention low morale. The individuals who are intimately involved in a particular ministry are the best qualified to make the day in, day out decisions regarding that ministry.
Misgivings about Majority Rule. Majority rule is deeply rooted in American democracy, and, as a result, has often been incorporated unthinkingly into the church. An over-enthusiasm for democratic principles can render a church impotent of actually doing anything.
The biggest misgiving about majority rule, and one that is far more serious, is that the Bible teaches the church is a family (Galatians 6:10; Hebrews 2:10-12; I Peter4:17) and should be cared for and led by the most mature members in the family - not the immature.
In most family households, the immature members (children) outnumber the mature members (parents). When my children were little, if we had voted on everything, my family would have had ice cream for dinner every night, no bed time, and would have lived at Disney World. But as the parents, my wife and I were the most mature so we had the authority to call the shots - to make the most important decisions that were best for family as a whole.
The church is a family too. As a result, it contains members who are at different levels of spiritual maturity. If every decision is made by the majority, instead of the most spiritually mature, then there is a very strong chance the majority could mislead the church. It’s foolish to give someone who has been saved for ten days and another who has been saved for ten years the power of the same vote!
PCC’s Self-Directed Ministry Teams. Since our beginning, PCC has used a structure of “ministry teams” to carry out our mission and ministries, as well as handling all the business of the church. Here’s an excerpt from our bylaws:
PCC is made up of a variety of ministry teams, with each team or ministry having its own leader, and each team is entrusted with the responsibility and authority to make any decisions that concern their particular area. The reason for this is simple: decision making authority is given to people who are actually doing the work because they can make a more “informed” decision than someone who is trying to control it from a distance.
It should be apparent that ministry teams make committees irrelevant.
At PCC a ministry team is merely a small group of people with a complimentary assortment of gifts and abilities who are committed to a particular ministry that supports the mission of our church. But for a team to function, the team must be self-directed, which means they own the process or the task at hand. Only when given the responsibility AND authority to follow through on a task can a team have the flexibility to be responsive to changing events and demands.
LET ME OFFER A FOOTBALL ILLUSTRATION: The coach and coaching staff train their teams - the offensive team, the defensive team, and special teams. Once the game begins however, the coaches are on the sidelines and the team is on the field. The coach can still call in plays from time-to-time, but once the ball is hiked and the play is in motion, the team is self-directed! They have to be self-directed because the nature of the game demands it. When the ball is handed to a runner, it is up to him to determine whether to cut left, right, or go up the middle. While the offensive coordinator may have designed the play, selected the players, assigned them roles, and even trained them, it is the players who are the implementers and who must have the freedom to make split-second decisions in light of the changing realities of their situation.
It takes trust for this kind of structure to operate in a church, but as everyone knows, good people don’t need rules to tell them to act responsibility, while bad people always find a way around them (no matter the structure). There is little doubt that mistakes will be made, but the gain for Christ through these self-directed ministry teams far outweighs any of the costs or concerns. Besides, each mistake only adds another experience to the team and increases its commitment to mutual accountability.
Here’s another excerpt from our bylaws:
Each team will be headed by an ordained pastor (elder), paid staff member, volunteer ministry director or leader, or any mix thereof. All the ministries of the church will come under the direction of ministry teams, and all the teams combined will fulfill the total scope of the ministry of Pace Community Church. Team members will be those persons who are spiritually gifted for the task and appointed by pastors.
Bureaucratic types, micro-managers, power brokers, and church controllers have always hated this system we use at PCC because they are given no decision-making authority unless they actually serve on a team, and even then, are limited to their area of ministry assignment. The people who are happiest and stay the longest are those who sacrificially serve with other like-minded servants (in an area of shared passion) and together accomplish things for Christ.
At this moment, PCC has more than sixteen self-directed ministry teams that are actively serving and providing the ministries of our church. All the teams combined involve about 140 team members. Wow! So if anyone wanted to “control the church” they would have to join all sixteen teams and gain control of each one - which is impossible. More importantly, this form of structure has served this church very well for years, and is a main reason for our success.
Building on past success, I’m glad to report that we are experiencing a new season of team building at PCC. 2013 is going to be a breakthrough year for us!
T.E.A.M. – Together Everyone Accomplishes More