Making Decisions & Getting Things Done

How do decisions get made in our church? How do things get done? These are two very important questions and we’re working hard on making the answers very clear and appropriate to our identity as a church.


First of all, it’s important to know that we are a “congregational” church. This simply means that we value the voice and ministry of the people. We believe God has given each Christian the gift of the Holy Spirit and empowers each person with His presence and

guidance and with the ability minister to other people. Each Christian has the ability to directly communicate with God and to hear back from Him. Through the centuries, this has been known as the “Priesthood of Believers.” Therefore, we make decisions in community. Some decisions are made by the whole community. Some decisions are delegated to the smaller “membership” community. While, others are delegated to particular teams of people or even individuals such as a pastor or another staff member. Determining which decisions get made as a whole and which decisions get delegated are governed by our church’s Constitution and By-Laws. Our church’s Constitution and By-Laws are drafted and affirmed by the church’s membership. This means that the types of decisions that are delegated to smaller teams or individuals are agreed upon by the larger membership.

Furthermore, we believe each Christian has the ability to use his/her own unique gifts and abilities to fulfill what the Apostle Paul terms “the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18). As “Ambassadors of Christ,” we are all tasked with the primary mission of helping others become reconciled with God. We understand this to mean that the role of “minister” is not limited to those for whom serving the church is a vocation. Rather, the role of “minister” is to be played by every Christian in all areas of life in the church and in one’s vocation, family, friendships, and community both locally and perhaps globally. The role of the pastors and others employed vocationally by the church is to equip, support, teach, resource, mobilize, organize, etc. Christians for their spiritual growth as well as for their ministry in the world. Therefore, we like to “unleash the Church” for ministry in our community. We have many people engaged in all levels of our church’s ministries who are not employed by the church. These levels include performing simple tasks, working in teams on complex projects, leading and teaching both small and large groups of people, and providing guidance and leadership to the church as a whole.

Large & Complex

We’ve grown quite a bit over the years. We started as a small church from the 1930’s to the 1970’s. Then we became a medium sized church for much of the 1980’s through the early 2000’s. Now we’re a large church with a lot more people, ministries, and complexities. Each stage of growth requires a different organizational structure and process for making decisions and getting things done.

As a small church we had one pastor and maybe one or two other people as support staff. There weren’t many people and the numbers of ministries were fairly few. This made it easy to include just about everyone in making most decisions in one way or another. At that time, we operated by what’s known as the Three Board system. In this system, the membership delegated certain decisions to three boards, namely the Diaconate, the Trustees, and the Christian Education or Formation boards. This form of governance served us well for many years of great ministry. But, things changed and our church grew.

As a medium church we had a couple of pastors and a small handful of other people as support staff. We had more ministries developing which led to more complexities and the need for more communication between the areas of ministry for making decisions. At that time, we operated by what’s known as a Council system. Think of a wagon wheel with the perimeter connected to the center by spokes. Our church’s membership delegated certain responsibilities to the Council members. Each of them served as a representative for every area of ministry in the church. This system served us well for many years of ministry. But, things changed and our church grew even more.

Now, as a large church, we have several pastors, a number of directors and managers, and other part-time support staff. Our ministries are numerous and complex with many people who are engaged in so many forms of ministry both inside and outside the church. Plus, we have technologies, processes of communications, and decision-making protocol that have become much more complicated than before. Therefore, we’ve moved to what is called a Leadership Team form of governance.

The Leadership Team system of governance allows us to:

  • Create more Capacity in our System
    It decentralizes decision-making authority by dispersing it out among the various ministries and their own leadership whether that be lay people or staff.
  • Create more Opportunities for Doing Ministry
    While decision making is delegated to smaller teams of people or individuals, ministry-doing is distributed even more among all the people. They are “unleashed” for ministry.

Our Teams

We’ve identified three major teams in our church. They are:

  • The Leadership Team, consisting of the Lead Pastor and four elected members, empowers us by envisioning and guiding us to participate in god’s mission. This team is released from “managing ministry” and is asked to concentrate on big-picture leadership. To do so, it has the following four major priorities delegated to them: 1) Strategic Thinking, Vision Development, and Policy Formation, 2) Personnel Management 3) Financial Stewardship, and 4) Spiritual Leadership
  • The Staff Team empowers us by leading and equipping us to participate in God’s mission. Many day-to-day management decision are delegated to appropriate staff members, taking advantage of their training and experience. The primary task of the staff, however, is to provide leadership, counsel, encouragement, and training so that each of us can be the minister God has called us to be.
  • The Congregation Team actively participates in God’s mission through a variety of Ministry Teams, allowing us to participate in ministries for which we are gifted and passionate. Each of us has been called and gifted for a ministry on behalf of God’s Kingdom. This is a spiritual gifts-based system. There are three types of ministry teams.
    1. Alignment Teams work with the appropriate staff to guide and direct an area of ministry alignment (e.g., worship, children, students, etc.).
    2. Development Teams accomplish specific ministries within an area of ministry alignment (e.g., small groups, men’s ministry, middle school ministry, etc.)
    3. Unleashing Teams use our spiritual gifts and entrepreneurial passions to develop ministries that serve our church, our community, and our world. These are similar to what other churches do for their “missional” ministries.

The leadership team system of decision making and getting things done allows us to remain congregational, create more capacity for more ministries and all their complexities, and create more opportunities for new ministries.

Author: Jim Murphy

Associate Pastor | NextGen Ministries Covenant Church, Bemidji, MN

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