Administration,  Church,  Ministry

Towards a Healthy Church – The Five Levels of a Church

Over the past few weeks, I have spent time discussing the importance of the church having a vision statement, a mission statement, a calendar, systems, etc. If you are reading this article as your first on this blog site, you may think that I am advocating business principles over the Bible. Well, I am not, but as I have mentioned in several articles in this series, I do believe that all truth is God’s truth and the principles that businesses use work if they are true, not because a business developed it. As I wrote here, Moses, Paul, and, yes, Jesus had their own mission statements long before these types of statements became fashionable again late last century.

In last week’s post, I began to mention how systems can help us achieve our mission. One of the elements of a good system is proper use of a calendar (some might consider a calendar a system of its own). The calendar is important because it allows everyone to have an idea of what is happening in the church. Of course, a church of 30 people can see everything at a glance in a bulletin, but a church of 300 or 3000 (or more) must have something in place to track events, the use of space, the need for resources, etc. While these needs are true in smaller churches, the larger the scale, the more important it is to have good systems in place (including a calendar).

That may seem obvious, but a big part of the equation relates to the WHO. The church is, of course, a group of people, not a place or a building, and that makes the previous statement more evident, but the systems we develop are ultimately designed to help the WHO do WHAT is necessary. And most churches have four levels of WHO, which is the focus of this post.

The first level is the staff. The staff may not be the most influential level, but I include it first anyway. (This is not a question of whether the staff should be influential, but particularly in smaller churches, many times the church rallies around many people other than the pastor and/or staff. See the next part on those in leadership) The staff are responsible for administering the business of the church, but depending upon the church, this is rarely done alone. The staff are usually involved in the planning of the worship, the educational processes, the communication, general business functions (e.g. mail/email, etc), etc. The staff may include those who oversee various ministries, administrative people, custodial workers, or similar, but each of these individuals is truly meant to be a servant to the church. And because they are considered staff, most everyone at this level is a leader of some sort, which brings us to the next level.

The second level is the leadership of the church. The leadership of the church is not by title, but by authority. All churches have people who lead in a variety of ways. Some lead (or expect to) because of a title (e.g. pastor, chairman, deacon, etc.). Others lead by example. Still others lead by manipulations and/or threats. The challenge for a church to be healthy is to get all of the leaders onto the same page. This is possible, at least for a time, but is never easy to maintain. It is also difficult to get to this point as we see from the disciples’ reaction to Jesus (Mark 8.31-33; 9.30-32; 10.35-45) and their reaction to one another (see Mark 10.41.) But every church will have leaders, and most of the time they make themselves obvious (and sometimes for the wrong reasons). Once the disciples understood, however, they were fully “on the same page” from that point forward (i.e. after the resurrection).

The third level is all others who serve. The true church is the Body of Christ. As such, all members of that body are to serve. Of course, not everyone does, but if a part of Jesus’ mission was to serve (Mark 10.45), then we, as His body, should too. Serving others is certainly a part of loving others, and therefore loving God. For some individuals, service becomes an entry point to the church. While this approach may have been different in the past, many people now partner with churches to do some type of ministry (including mission trips) and, as a result, get plugged into that church, and sometimes give their life to Jesus while involved in a particular service. This scenario actually is similar to the description of the disciples. While the disciples responded to Jesus’ call to “Follow Me,” the reality is that although they learned that He was Messiah (Matthew 16.16), it was not until later that they were fully engaged in serving because of this fact.

The fourth level is all who are a part of the church in some way, but do not actively serve. Pareto’s Principle is that 20% are responsible for 80%. This principle has a basis in all parts of life, and that certainly includes the church. 20% of the people do 80% of the work. 20% of the people give 80% of the money. 20% of the people complain about 80% of the problems. Etc. But, most everyone who reads this was likely part of that 80% for longer than we care to admit. Thus, the individuals in this level, whether a church member or not, represent a valuable pool of potential – a pool that can change the dynamics of a church very quickly. Therefore, the leadership of the church (whether staff or not) need to nurture these individuals to make sure the change is positive for the person and for the church.

The fifth level is not actually a part of the church, but might be someday. Many people in the church fear this group for a variety of reasons. Some people in this group are hostile to the church, but most are generally ambivalent. As our culture (at least in the Northern and Western Hemispheres) moves further away from a basic understanding of God, Jesus, and the church, this group will become larger (it already has), but that will make true Christians stand out, providing an opportunity to serve this group and share the love of Christ without some of the baggage that currently exists. Ultimately, we must remember that we are called to be salt and light, and in doing so, this group will be among those who will glorify the Father in heaven (Matthew 5.16).

This length of this post begs me to stop for this week. However, having laid this foundation, I will continue the thought process next week and provide an introduction as to how systems can help connect the five levels allowing the church to become effective.

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