This post is part of a series looking at healthy principles for a church organisational structure that works. Links to other posts in the series can be found at the end of the article.
If you are starting or planting a church, you have the blessing and benefit of having a clean slate to begin with. You don’t inherit any mission, vision, values, culture, structure or issues! The Apostle Paul himself said in his letter to the Romans that he didn’t want to ‘build on someone else’s foundation.’ Whilst the immediate context is linked to preaching the gospel, I think what Paul was saying was that he valued the principle of not needing to dig up or undo anyone else’s work – he wanted to work on unbroken ground, so to speak.
Not everyone has that privilege. Perhaps you inherited a church, either internally because you were the successor on the established team, or you are an external successor who has been invited or hired in. You may have things in place and some you want to keep, some you aren’t sure, and some you definitely don’t want to!
Whether you have an existing structure or nothing currently exists, this series will look at essential steps to sequentially put in place to ensure you have a church that has organisational alignment and health from the beginning of your tenure.
When I talk about structure, I’m talking about the framework. ‘Structure’ is the people, programs, and processes of your church. Another way of explaining structure is the who (your staff and volunteers), the what (your events and activities) and the how (your policies and systems). Your church structure answers the key question ‘what is your church building?’
Convictions about Church Organisational Structure
Some convictions I have regarding church structure are:
- A healthy church has a structure that helps the church steward a culture and builds in a way that will see success.
- Healthy church culture is derived from values implicit and explicit in a clearly defined vision and mission.
- Vision needs to be prophetic, in the sense of showing His heart and shaped by His words. That can take the form of prophetic words, aspirations or shared passions in the hearts of the leadership team.
- The mission needs to be a fundamentally apostolic call to a people or a place, derived from the Great Commission, so the church is in no doubt what exactly God is calling them to do.
- Church strategy is simply activities that fulfill the mission, advance the vision, create the culture and develop the structure.
If these five aspects line up, you have organisational alignment – all aspects of the church have a shared, unified and focus aim. We can measure this through what I call the church organisational health. If the church is weak in organisational health, then one or more of these aspects will be ineffective or in opposition to what your stated purpose is.
Purpose of Church Organisational Structure
An effective church organisational structure that works is the one that helps and doesn’t hinder your efforts. Many churches have an established structure, but it isn’t fit for purpose. The structure is meant to serve your vision and culture so it needs to be organic and dynamic, ready to change when God does a new thing. Unfortunately, it can be the case that we have established a church structure that worked well in the previous season of the church, but it now no longer helps. In fact, it could even hinder God’s agenda because of its inflexibility. Without intending to, we can become ‘structure first’ in our thinking and quench the Spirit’s work that He is wanting to do through us.
Our structure needs to be like a wineskin, which is flexible according to the wine inside it. Wineskins can stretch according to the need, but make no mistake – the wineskin served the purpose of the wine, and not the other way round. That is why we need to consider our church structure only after we have determined our mission, vision, and core values.
A church organisational structure that works brings a number of things:
- It provides a mission-centric framework.
- It focuses the use of resources towards the vision.
- It creates space for culture to grow.
- It changes in line with strategic development.
If the structure is unhealthy or ineffective, resources will not be maximised, or the church will be program-driven, process-led, or politically-led instead of being mission-led.
Developing Healthy Church Organisational Structure
To begin building a healthy church organisational structure that works, I recommend a process which I’ll underline here. The other posts in this series form the practical steps I recommend taking.
This post is part of a series on Healthy Principles For Church Organisational Structure. You can see links to the others posts in this series here.
- What constitutes a healthy church organisational structure?
- Be clear on the difference between mission and vision
- Develop a mission statement
- Develop a vision statement
- Develop a core values statement
- Develop a leadership structure
To find out the current health of your church in these areas, I have developed a free church health assessment. You can take it by clicking here.