Monday, May 12, 2014

4 Guiding Questions for Effective VisionTeam Governance

The answer to the question "Who Runs the Church ?" is not the same for all. Within congregationalism, the answer is partly the congregation, partly the board, and partly the staff. However, even there the question remains, what part does each "run".

I have been a student and practitioner of church governance since 1992. Along the way I have learned from others and my own experience. I have also developed convictions and consulting services to help others assess and transition their governance practices. I refer to this area of my consulting as VisionTeam because ultimately this is not just an organizational endeavor. It is about the effectiveness of the church as it seeks to embody its mission in its context. Because it is that important, I have developed 4 guiding questions to help the church ensure that its governance is missionally effective. The 4 questions are as follows:

1. Has our church outgrown our current form of governance?

Implied in this first question is that after your polity (congregational vs. presbyterian vs. elder rule vs. episcopal), size is the greatest factor that should inform your structure and role definition. Church size brings with it more staff, more complexity, more volume of ministry, the need for a faster pace of decision-making, and a shift in who should make which decisions when.

2. To what degree is our governance informed by our vision and strategies?

If you are trying to go somewhere (vision) in a certain way (strategies) that makes a difference in your governance practices. I maintain that after church size, your vision and strategies should be the next major factor influencing your governance practices. Stated another way, every board should ask if the current governance model is in the way of or helping you get to your vision.

3. Does our governance structure balance biblical authority with a culture of participation?

We live in a culture that demands that leaders involve them in the direction and traction of the church. They want to make input. They have ideas. At the same time, if we are true to our Bibles, we need to honor the direction-giving dimension of leadership authority. The cultural demand for participation can too easily dilute the purposes of God. In addition, some aspects of church direction are philosophical, and it is destabilizing to allow new philosophical approaches to be introduced without strategic filtering. Therefore, the governance model has to simultaneously listen with servant leadership ears, and yet be directive with conviction about God's direction for His church. This has implications for leadership development (and involvement) practices and structure.

4. Are we aware of other governance models and the path to implementation?

If it is time for a change, we need to be open to and learn other models. At the same time, we need to be realistic about the implementation path. This one has "change leadership" written all over it. For that reason, we sometimes avoid it because change takes work. However, the starting place is knowing what the change is and then prayerfully, persistently seeking the preferable future.

I hope these 4 questions prompt your own thinking in the best interest of God's church.

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