O is for Organization

See yesterday’s post for the intro to this little series.Carsten Holler (2003)

Just as the 21st Century Church requires a fresh emphasis on our neighborhoods, 21st Century Church also requires a different way of being organized from the congregations we once knew.  Sadly, most of our churches are organized exactly the same way our grandparents’ churches were organized:

  • There’s the preacher who is often the de facto Professional Christian.
  • There are elders and/or deacons who may or may not be spiritual leaders, but they are always power players (or so they believe.)
  • There’s a dependence on members who don’t have paid employment which means that any stay-at-home-mom and all the retirees are expected to fulfill all the volunteer jobs.
  • There’s an organist and/or a choir director.
  • There’s a church secretary who actually runs everything.

In “contemporary churches” a Worship Leader may have been added in the 1980s.

The problem with this kind of church organization is that it fulfills neither the needs of a postmodern spiritual community nor the Biblical guidance on how spiritual communities are called to exist:

  • The pastor is far more than a preacher who delivers “good sermons.” The most effective pastors today are entrepreneurial vision casters who equip and coach the rest of the staff so that they connect people to a higher purpose and inspire the people to make an impact throughout the neighborhood.
  • The elders/deacons are servant leaders.  They are spiritually grounded and willing to create a community that welcomes all people.  They track spiritual transformation.  They work well together – not always agreeing but leaving each decision-making meeting as one unit for the sake of the Reign of God.
  • The anxiety over not having enough volunteers (unlike the 1950s when churches enjoyed the time and talent of many stay-at-home moms) is negligible because even busy people are committed to offering what they can with their eyes on being the church (not going to church.)
  • Music is varied and moving – regardless of what kind of instruments are used.  Maybe there are no instruments except for human voices. But there’s a clear understanding that music is about praising God rather than personal performance.  Music leaders express joy because that’s their authentic feeling.
  • The administrative support could be a business director, a volunteer coordinator, a building supervisor, and/or a communications leader.

Most of all the organization of a thriving church today . . .

  1. Is relentlessly innovative
  2. Always asks “why?” (and not just “what” and “how” – as in “Why are we doing this?”)
  3. Is passionate for growth even if it means dismantling tired ways of doing ministry.
  4. Puts itself in the shoes of those who are not yet among them. Recognizes that everything (from the signage to the prayer list) needs to be guest-friendly.
  5. Evaluates everything lovingly and fearlessly from the performance of paid staff and volunteers alike to every meeting, class, program, and event – so that it can be better next time.  God deserves our best.

The 21st Century Church is organized for a relational community rather than an attractional community.  It takes a bit of adapting, but we can do this.

Image is relational art (with lots of light bulbs) by Carsten Holler

7 responses to “O is for Organization

  1. Jan, I rarely comment on a post, but I wanted you to know how much I look forward to each of them. Blessings on your continued work with faith communities.


  2. What’s your favorite example of this kind of church organization?


  3. Pingback: This Week’s Links « Timothy Siburg

  4. Excellent critique! As our new pastor takes the helm, we hope to become more of a community beyond our church walls, a congregation that focuses on services and, with humility, carries our Christian values out to those who can benefit, and are in need.


  5. Pingback: elder or not? | Bookgirl

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