Sunday, September 03, 2006

Ministry -vs- Business Meetings

Can structure inhibit ministry?

That is a question that church planters often face. In order to provide a guiding document, and in order to protect our churches under corporate law, we must each develop a "Constitution and Bylaws." But the question is, "How detailed should such a document be?"

It has been my experience that our founding and organizing documents, if they are too detailed and defined, can actually serve to inhibit ministry in the church. But a more generalized document can serve to facilitate ministry.

Case in Point: A small disaster struck a small southern community. Several families were affected by the disaster. A couple of local churches immediately came to the aid of some of the families involved. They provided immediate financial assistance and "adopted" families in order to provide housing and care. However, the majority of the churches in the community could not provide such aid. Why? Because pastors and leaders were "hamstrung" by their constitutions and business procedures. They could not make any financial commitments without first "bringing it to the floor" in a churchwide business meeting. Some churches experienced an even more difficult time when their constitutions required the announcement of a special business meeting for such a purpose at least twice during regular church meetings prior to a special "called meeting." But by the time three weeks would roll around, the opportunity for ministry would be gone.

So, what should we do about our structures? How detailed should our church constitutions be? What must we do when our procedures, bylaws, and rules get in the way of ministry? How can Church Planters avoid these pitfalls?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It could be time to move away from the congregational form of church governement. Elder rule, church boards, and other forms of church polity are streamlining the way churches are able to do ministry in "real time." You make a great point in your blog about the cumbersome way churches have to function under long documents and the need to vote on every dime which is spent. Imagine a church polity that has streamlined decision making at every level with a dozen or so God-called, spirit-filled people making those decisions. Every type of polity has its own problems, however, with these types of governments, churches cease to fight over the color of the carpet and whether or not to put blinds in the nursery. They are able to mobilize in a matter of hours instead of weeks. Many of the fastest growing churches in the country have chosen this type of church government. What type of polity governs your church and what are your thoughts about elder rule?

8:45 PM  
Blogger Geoff Baggett said...

Our church is elder-led. Indeed, when we planted this church 4 1/2 years ago, we made a conscious decision not to have the actual office of "deacon" in our church due to the enormous misinderstanding of the role. We do have "deacons," but we do not call them such. Instead we call them "shepherds," and each leads a small group in our church.

We have two lay-elders who serve with me as the elder body. We will add more as men rise to that level of spiritual leadership. This body exists to lead in the spiritual direction of our church. Most ministry decisions are left in the hands of the various teams that lead our ministries. They consult us if necessary.

Thank goodness, we only have one "business meeting" a year, in December, to discuss and approve our budget for the coming year.

I believe that elder leadership is biblical, effective, and necessary in today's ministry environment. I believe that it is absolutely biblical for the more mature spiritual leaders to actually lead the church. I fear that, for far too long, we have placed the decision-making process in the hands of "spiritual infants" in so many of our churches ... thus the agendas, quarrels, and downright warfare that occurs within so much of church "business."

So, all in all, I am an avid proponent of elder leadership. Interestingly, I was taught this structure in a class at Southern Seminary.

6:23 PM  
Blogger Geoff Baggett said...

By the way ... are you Paul from Jonesboro?

6:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, It is Paul,from Jonesboro. I like your response to my post. I am going to copy it and have great hopes of using it in the future. I would be very interested in discussing this in greater detail sometime in the future.

6:43 PM  

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