Organizing the Church

Scenario #1: We were all so excited to see ______________ join our church recently.  She was a breath of fresh air, full of excitement and creative ideas about the church’s _______________ ministry.  No sooner had she joined than she jumped in with both feet into active ministry.  Wouldn’t it be great to have a whole church full of people like her?

Scenario #2: I made the announcement from the pulpit for the fourth week in a row.  “Come on now people!  We need nursery workers!  It’s a really important ministry and we have to staff it well.  Some of you pew warmers need to get in gear and get doing something!”  After the service, one older saint approaches me and reluctantly agreed to work in the nursery saying “Someone’s gotta do it; might as well be me.”  Of course, we put her right in the weekly schedule with no questions asked, even though she was active in three other ministries in the church.

I don’t think either one of these scenarios are caricatures.  I have personally experienced them in various ministries in past years.  Actually, I believe them to be an all-too-common situation in our churches.  We utilize people in ministry based on their willingness to serve, however eager or reluctant they may be.  Many times, we activate them immediately without any interview or training or follow-up evaluation.  Does this please the Lord?

As I have recently become the senior pastor of a 47-year-old church on the east side of Indianapolis, I have been faced with the question of how to best organize the church.  This church is very active in ministry already, but I can see the need for purposeful change in organization.  As I began to think about this challenge, my mind immediately reflected back to the hundreds of churches I have visited during my travels on a music ensemble in college and on deputation with my missionary parents.  I began to think primarily in terms of how to structure the church pastoral staff to best accomplish this task.  Should I promote the idea of oversight by ages (children’s pastor, youth pastor, singles pastor, etc.) or by ministry (evangelism pastor, discipleship pastor, worship pastor, etc.)?  Should we organize the church so families are mostly split apart or mostly together?  Should we establish a ministry-wide curriculum that everyone goes through at the same time or should there be freedom and variety in the teaching ministry of the church?

As I was thinking through these scenarios, another one popped into head: “Should we organize the church by spiritual giftedness?”  At first, the idea seemed too simple, too biblical.  After all, I have never been a part of a church that organized in that way.  Sure, we preach 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12 and Ephesians 4, but to actually run a church that way?

Over time, I became convinced that it was the best and most biblical model.  So I began to discuss it with my leadership team.  I came to find out that our church had done a full study on the spiritual gifts back in the Spring and even had the congregation complete a spiritual gifts test.  But that was pretty much the extent of it.  In fact, as I contemplated my own history, I realized that’s about as far as any church had taken the concept that I had been in.

So, we’re doing it.

We are using an online spiritual gifts analysis (http://www.churchgrowth.org/analysis/intro.php) and are asking every member of our church to complete the analysis.  Then, on November 2nd, we are holding a ministry fair, not organized by various church ministries, but rather by spiritual gifts.  We plan to do a church-wide evaluation of ministry workers based on spiritual giftedness.  It will result in some people being activated to ministry for the very first time (“every member a minister”).  It will result in some people moving from one ministry to another.  It will result in many people needing equipping for a ministry they have not served in before.

There will be challenges.  Some people will need to be convinced.  They won’t want to move from an area that is easy for them or in which they have had long-term experience.  But perhaps they won’t have to either.  Another challenge will be the establishing of an intentional and ongoing equipping program so people will learn how to develop and use their gifts.  Another challenge will be the creation of new ministry opportunities to accommodate the concept of every member serving.  Hopefully, it will also alleviate the burden some of our members carry with working in too many ministries.  Going forward, it will be a part of our Heather Hills 101 class where new members and guests can learn their spiritual gifts and how they can be used in the church for the glory of God and good of others.

Frankly, I’m excited about it.  I understand it will require more management and oversight than perhaps ministry organization currently demands.  I understand it will require more time and instruction.  But isn’t this the way our church members SHOULD be serving?

I’d be really interested to know if other churches are doing anything similar and how they structure it in their own churches.  I’d be interested to know the roadblocks others have faced in similar situations.

I’ll tell you one thing though: I’m done with giving someone a ministry responsibility just because they’re a willing, warm body.  No more.

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6 responses to this post.

  1. Wow, that sounds very exciting, and challenging. I’ve never heard of a church organizing itself like this before. Please keep us updated on how it goes.

    Reply

  2. Brian,
    Just to see if I understand correctly, you will have different spiritual gifting groups led by pastors, such as a Pastor of Prayer? etc. If so, Have you decided how many different spiritual gifting groups you will have, and what they are. I think that would be one of the first challenges.

    Rusty

    Reply

  3. Not necessarily led by pastors, the leaders should be gifted in administration.

    We are working off a list of 9 gifts. I understand that 1 Cor. 12/Rom. 12 may not necessarily be a comprehensive listing of gifts, but it’s what we’re working off of. Also, we are not considering the sign gifts as relevant for today.

    Reply

  4. Thanks Brian, after actually taking the SGA linked in your post, I think I better understand. I’m assuming you are using the same 9 in the assessment. I guess my question is, will you still have the same type of groups/ministers as traditional churches such as childrens groups/ministers, youth groups/ministers, singles groups, young marrieds, etc.? For example, does this SG structure mean you will no longer have a youth minister? Just curious. It’s very interesting to think about.

    Reply

  5. Not to begin an extensive theological discussion but what do you do if some of your leadership doesn’t believe that spiritual gifts continue today?

    Reply

  6. Matt,

    ANY spiritual gifts? or only sign gifts?

    Reply

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