Simplified Structure

Vital and fruitful churches must be governed and led in new ways today so that Christ’s mission for us can be fulfilled!  The disciple-making mission which Christ has given us is too important to let bureaucratic redundancies distract us from our work.  For the sake of Christ’s mission and our mission fields, many churches are discovering that there are simpler ways to provide governance and strategic direction, so that the congregation can be unleashed for ministry.

A simplified single board structure makes it possible for your church to better focus on leadership equipping, missional alignment, and your next steps in ministry.  Meanwhile, removing bureaucratic redundancies allows more members to spend their time in service as disciples who make disciples.  By consolidating administrative functions into a single board, disciples can focus on using their spiritual gifts and passions for ministry to contribute to the vitality of the congregation as it seeks to reach the mission field.

This method of simplifying your church’s administrative leadership and governance is allowed by¶247.2 of the 2016 Discipline of the UMC :

The charge conference, the district superintendent, and the pastor, when a pastor has been appointed (see ¶ 205.4), shall organize and administer the pastoral charge and churches according to the policies and plans herein set forth. When the membership size, program scope, mission resources, or other circumstances so require, the charge conference may, in consultation with and upon the approval of the district superintendent, modify the organizational plans, provided that the provisions of ¶ 243 are observed.

 

Downloadable Resources

General Information

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Sample Agenda (annotated) for your Board

ARUMC PowerPoint Presentation (Utilized in Center for Vitality Workshops)

Discipleship Ministries NOW Ministry Leadership Models PowerPoint

Article from The Texas Conference UMC, “Single Board Model of Governance Brings Benefits to Congregations of all Sizes,” February 11, 2016

Kay Kotan PowerPoint on Simplified Structure and Accountable Leadership

 

Sample Congregational Guiding Principles

Mason UMC, Ohio

Christ UMC

Corvallis FUMC

Roseburg FUMC

Southport UMC

Note:  These samples of congregational guiding principles are provided for information and inspiration.  The Center for Vitality and the ARUMC do not necessarily approve or endorse particular language or components, or the Disciplinary interpretation utilized in the creation of these out-of-state examples.

 

Keep it Simple, for Christ’s Sake

An Ecclesiastical Parable by Rev. Blake Bradford, D.Min.
A version is included in the Introduction of Kay Kotan’s Mission Possible 

It almost seemed like the system was designed to make sure ministry would not happen.  A member had an idea:  What if we converted our annual Easter Egg Hunt, a nice little gathering of our church membership’s families, into an opportunity to meet more of the neighborhood, bless the families of the community, and perhaps get contact information that might be followed-up on as an act of evangelism.  A ministry team was formed.  The idea continued to hatch, and a cookout and kid’s fair was dreamed up and planned by the team.  A member who was a grocer pledged to donate the food.  The leader of the children’s ministry and the pastor were fully on board, and so was the Church Council, but a change to our normal way of doing things required some permissions, to make sure no one would get upset.  The Church Council wanted to make sure that the other committees of the church would not get upset by an usurpation of their power.  First, the Trustees would need to get involved, since the idea included using the Church’s front lawn at the center of town.  Then the team would need approval of the finance committee, to approve shifting of the budgeted children’s ministry funds from one line item to another.  After those two committees met and each approved the plan, the Council would make its final determination.  It is too bad that the series of scheduled meetings would require that the idea for an Easter event would receive its final approval in June!

Meetings are not ministry!  The system of committee-based checks and balances that was suited for the days of mid-twentieth century Christendom is no longer an effective way to mobilize the people-power and resources of the Church in our twenty-first century interconnected world in which the church no longer is at the center of community life.  We need a nimble structure that can respond to fresh ideas and approaches to ministry.  We United Methodists can, at times, get distracted by our desire for consensus and lose sight of our actual mission.  Leaders (lay and clergy alike) need to be allowed and empowered to lead.  Meetings need to actually matter, and operate as moments for accountability and missional alignment.

A simplified single board structure makes it possible for your church to better focus on leadership equipping, missional alignment, and your next steps in ministry.  Meanwhile, removing bureaucratic redundancies allows more members to spend their time in service as disciples who make disciples.  By consolidating administrative functions into a single board, disciples can focus on using their spiritual gifts and passions for ministry to contribute to the vitality of the congregation as it seeks to reach the mission field.

So, let’s imagine another story: A member is blessed with a great idea to connect to the community during the Easter season.  A ministry team engages with the idea and improves upon it, getting volunteers lined up and a donation from a member.  Staff rearrange their budgets under existing authority they have been given.  Because the change involves a huge cultural shift in the way the church has historically experienced the Easter season, the pastor asks the simplified structure Council to consider the change.  Since the change fits into the mission, vision, and evangelistic goals of the congregation, the Council celebrates the new idea and commends the ministry team leading the effort.  Eight weeks later, at the new Community Egg Hunt and Cook-out, dozens of guests experience the relational hospitality of the congregation, and contact information is collected at an Easter Bunny Photo Booth for follow-up.  New friendships are created and new disciples begin their journey through the ministry of the church.

It is for the sake of Christ and his mission that our congregations exist.  By simplifying our church structures, we creating an environment where ministry can thrive.  Vital and fruitful churches must be governed and led in new ways today so that Christ’s mission for us can be fulfilled!  The disciple-making mission which Christ has given us is too important to let bureaucratic redundancies distract us from our work.  For the sake of Christ’s mission and our mission fields, many churches are discovering that there are simpler ways to provide governance and strategic direction, so that the congregation can be unleashed for ministry.

 


Frequently Asked Questions

Which positions can combined for one person on the Board to hold?

Most all positions can be combined as long as the minimum number are elected. The Lay Leader, Lay Delegate, PPR Chair and Trustee Chair must be designated, but could all be the same Nominations Committee should remain separate.

How many should be on the board?

Minimum 9 and up to 15

Does the Pastor have a vote?

No

Can family members serve together on the Board?

Per the Book of Discipline, family members cannot serve on the Board together (the board must utilize the qualifying Disciplinary requirements of each of its component committees). If it cannot be avoided, the family members may need to excuse themselves from the room or not vote on issues with potential conflict of interest. Staff and family of staff cannot serve on the Board.

Should staff (paid and unpaid) serve on the Board?

No. The board serves as the congregation’s SPRC/PPRC.

Who should take notes at the meeting?

Someone can be assigned or elected to take notes that is not on the Board. That person could be elected from the existing members of the Board, a person recruited outside the Board to take notes (needs to be excluded from PPR conversations) or person who is an addition to the Board with the sole responsibility of taking notes.

Are the Financial Secretary and Treasurer required to be on the Board?

No, but they can be. A best practice is for them not to be on the Board. Additionally, a congregational attorney or chancellor cannot be on the board as a voting member due to legal ethics.

Which position on the Board serves as the liaison to the District Superintendent for SPRC purposes?

It is recommended that the Board Chair serves as the PPR liaison to the DS.

Are there still three-year terms and classes?

Yes. One third of the Board will roll off each year.

How long can a person serve on the Board? Can they roll from three years as Trustee specialist to three years as a Finance specialist?

Board members serve a three-year term. Since all specialists are also serving as PPR, Trustees and Finance, it is recommended they roll off after each three-year term. The Lay Leader and Lay Delegate are exempt from the three-year term. After being off the Board for a year, the person can roll back onto the Board if elected.

Is the Board self-nominating?

No. There is still a requirement that there be a separate Committee on Nominations and Leadership Development to nominate the Board Members to the Charge Conference each year.

Are UMM, UMW, and UMYF representatives required to be on the Board?

If the church has these chartered groups, a member of that group can serve on the Board as elected by their chartering group. It is not a requirement, and the congregation can decide the composition of their board as part of their rules. The group may also decide not to elect a representative.

How many have to be present to take an official vote? What requires an official vote?

A quorum is described as whoever is present at a duly called or scheduled meeting. Simple majority of those attending rules.

How is the Trustee Chair elected or appointed as required by the corporate resolution?

At the first meeting at the beginning of each new year, the Board will elect a Trustee Chair to satisfy the corporate resolution requirement. It is recommended the Board Chair serve as the Trustee Chair.

If a church moves to the simplified structure (aka single board), how does ministry happen?

Even though the re-structuring occurs, Ministry Teams are still needed and in place. Fewer people on the Board means more people are available to do ministry. Simplifying structure is the combining of the four administrative teams of the Council, Trustees, Finance and PPR Committees. Some communication channels between ministry teams and the board should be created.

Do I need approval from my DS to move to the simplified structure?

Yes!!!! A letter from the pastor requesting to move to simplified structure to the DS is the first step. In the letter, state the missional purpose of moving to this structure. Your existing church council and the nominating committee should work together to implement the transition, always keeping your DS in the loop.  A Charge Conference will also be required.

 

 


 

Recommended Resources:

These books provide excellent tools for congregations seeking to live into a simplified structure with accountable leadership.

The Center for Vitality does keep a limited number of copies of Mission Possible in stock at the conference office for use in workshops and introductory training events.  Contact the Center for information.

 

Mission Possible

by Kay Kotan

Does your church struggle with timely decisions aligned with the church’s mission? Do you have a desire to structure your church to be more nimble, relevant, and faithful in reaching new people? If so, you have come to the right place! Meetings are not ministry! Lets get back to doing ministry. In this book aimed at United Methodists, Kotan provides practical, field-tested steps and processes to simplify your church structure allowing more people to be in ministry. Too often churches simplify their structure by only having fewer people gather at the meeting table. But real simplification and accountable leadership that allows ministry to occur takes adaptive change. Kay walks you through both the technical and adaptive changes to simplify your structure for missional effectiveness. You will find everything you need for a solid start including: discerning and preparing for the change, how to structure, sample agenda, leadership covenant, guiding principles, and communication strategies.

PURCHASE:  Kindle E-Book    Paperback

 


 

Leadership and Organization for Fruitful Congregations

by Stephen Ross

Written by a United Methodist, this book will help leaders in medium-sized mainline Protestant congregations to structure their congregations in ways designed to make better use of leadership. Many congregations are limited in their ability to focus on mission and to include new and emerging leaders by unnecessarily cumbersome committee structures. This book draws on the best practices of non-profit governance and applies them especially for mainline congregations.

PURCHASE:   Kindle E-Book

"Creating vital congregations that make disciples of Jesus Christ,who make disciples equipped to transform lives, communities and the world."

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