Advice to a New Elder: They Smell Like Sheep, Part 3

shepherd3We set up a Ministries Team a long time ago. We quickly learned several critical lessons the hard way.

1. The elders had trouble coordinating their work with the team’s. The elders were used to directly overseeing the church’s ministries. If they wanted to start a new adult class, they just did so.

The team had to meet with the elders to work things out. The elders decided they would not go around the team. The elders did not have to follow the team’s suggestions, but they had to hear the team’s thoughts before making a decision within the team’s charge. Otherwise, the team could not do its job.

2. The team struggled to do its job in the time allotted. One of the profound pleasures of the meetings was hearing from each member the victories God was giving their ministries. But the reports could take all afternoon, there was so much going on and people were so eager to learn what was going on. We had to set strict time limits.

3. Our eagerness to hear these reports told us that the rest of congregation was also starved for information about the work of the church’s ministries. We made a point of publishing very detailed minutes of the reports to the entire congregation so all could share in these celebrations.

4. Budgeting was a challenge. Although there was never as much money as everyone wanted, we were able to reach a balance of interests and leave the room feeling everyone had been treated fairly.

5. Prayer was essential. We often shared in chain prayers that took a lot of time but never wasted time.

6. Our team enjoyed their time together. Members would cut vacations short to attend the meetings. Several of the team members eventually became elders, and the Ministries Team proved a valuable training ground for the eldership.

7. However, you may have noticed that I speak in the past tense. The Ministries Team has evolved to the next phase of church growth. Growth led to several problems that have led to a modified structure still being invented.

A .First, monthly meetings were just not frequent enough to administer the church’s programs. The programs just kept growing and needing more and more oversight.

B. Second, more programs were administered by staff members. These programs were being managed daily.

C. Third, we hired an involvement minister, who was charged with many of the programs handled by the team. These ministries still had volunteer heads, but the involvement minister was working closely with each of them, meaning they didn’t need to meet to coordinate. The involvement minister kept things coordinated by staying in touch with them all.

D. Fourth, it became increasingly hard to fit all the church’s ministries into 12 departments. We really needed to expand the team, but expanding the team would ruin the group dynamics.

E. Fifth, the original vision statement of the church has been largely accomplished, and the new vision is not so much about expanding and improving our ministries as changing how we relate to our community and do church.

We are still working toward our next phase organizationally.

Charter Documents

The two charter documents of the team may be of interest to some readers, and so copies of them follow–

PROPOSAL FOR ORGANIZATION OF CHURCH MINISTRIES

We propose that a “Ministries Team” be created to —

1. Coordinate the work of all the Church’s ministries.

2. Reduce the time spent in meetings.

3. Streamline our increasingly complex programs.

4. Reduce the work load of the elders.

5. Increase the accountability of all ministries.

6. Stimulate goal setting and planning.

7. Improve congregational communication.

8. Establish an outreach vision for all the church’s ministries.

The Ministries Team would be composed of a leader or representative from each of 12 major ministry groups or departments, which would include all present and planned ministries. We feel that it is critical that the number of departments be kept to 12 or less, so that the representatives can work together as a closely knit team.

The Ministries Team would meet monthly or as often as proves necessary. The presiding elder for the quarter would also attend the meetings. All other elders and all deacons would be welcome to attend and participate in the meetings.

Thus, the elders would have regular and meaningful contact with the ministries through (a) a regular meeting with the department representatives as a group and (b) regular meetings by each elder liaison with his ministry teams and leaders.

A typical agenda for something like the following:

  • Departmental reports
  • Review of finances, budget
  • Report on new members, baptisms, drop outs, attendance
  • Consideration of issues put to the meeting by the elders, such as major financial and personnel commitments.
  • Outreach: consideration of outreach plans in effect and adoption of additional outreach efforts.

The proposal has several advantages:

a. All ministries of the church could be overseen by the elders through a single monthly meeting. Presently, a large percentage of the church’s ministries would not be represented at the elders, deacons, and ministries leaders meetings, even with 100% attendance.

b. The elders would have a convenient forum to assure that major financial and personnel decisions may be reviewed by all affected ministries before decisions are made. Thus, the purchase of a church bus, the hiring of an additional staff person, funding of a major mission campaign, any of which would significantly affect the availability of funds for other programs, could be considered by all departments at a single meeting, allowing the elders to have the input of all ministries before making a decision.

c. News and plans for all ministries could be communicated to the congregation by summarizing departmental reports given at the meetings.

The Ministries Team would operate under the following guidelines:

1. The Ministries Team would be charged to keep the church’s outreach vision at the forefront of all the church’s ministries.

2. The elders would retain ultimate authority in all areas and would have the authority to make any decision they feel appropriate. The Ministries Team would operate only under the mandate of the elders, which could be withdrawn at any time.

3. The elders would ask the Ministries Team to supervise the workings of the ministries and church business matters, leaving the elders with more time for prayer, teaching, doctrinal concerns, encouraging new members, and caring for individual spiritual needs. The elders would not have to decide how to get chairs set up for assemblies or who should get signs put on the building’s doors.

4. The elders would allow the Ministries Team to do its assigned task and hold the Team accountable for so doing. Questions dealing with ministry areas would be referred by the elders to the Ministry Team or to the appropriate ministry leader to be handled by the person the elders have charged with handling it.

5. Problems within a ministry area coming to the attention of the elders would be referred to the Ministry Team or ministry leader for solution. If the elders are not satisfied with the Ministry Team’s efforts, the elders could, of course, handle matters as they see fit.
It is suggested that the elders and department heads meet for a day to allow the elders to charge the department heads with their tasks and to plan outreach efforts for this year and later. This should be an at least annual event. Dedicating a full day to the task will allow the new structure to hit the ground running, rather than spending the next several months struggling to define its role.

The University Church is growing! May the Lord provide us with the wisdom to organize for the maximum return from our limited time and resources. This proposal is prayerfully submitted to the elders after countless hours of reflection and study by the Vision 2000 team. If the elders implement this proposal, the Vision 2000 team will have finished its mandate and its work will be taken over by the Ministries Team.

It is the best judgment of the Vision 2000 team that this is the most effective way to complete and continue to handle the issues the elders asked us to consider. We thank you for the opportunity to serve the Lord in this way. May God richly bless the University Church as we serve the King.

MANDATE FOR THE MINISTRIES TEAM

The elders charge the Ministries Team to assure that the mission and vision of the University Church are fulfilled through all its ministries. The Ministries Team will —

Assure that all ministries and members have an outreach mindset and that the University Church is known in the community as an outreach church by the year 2000.

Become familiar with the principles of church growth and management through study of resources and by attending seminars in these areas.

Assure that every ministry sets long-term and current-year goals that are accountable and attainable and that reflect the outreach vision of the church.

Hold one another accountable for performance of his or her ministry’s mandate and achievement of its goals.

Assure that the elders and all members of the church are kept continuously informed of the actions, goals, and achievements of the church’s ministries.

Assure regular congregational involvement in church goal setting and in reviewing the performance of the church’s ministries.Assist the elders in their work of equipping the saints by seeing to the training of another generation of church leaders and workers.

Function within the programs and budget approved by the elders. Any new program or new budget item or budget item increase must be approved by the elders before being implemented.

Coordinate the work of all ministries by working together to share and maximize the Lord’s return on the limited resources of the church:

  • Members, our all-volunteer army.
  • Leadership.
  • Time, by not overburdening the time of any segment of the church and by considerately scheduling church events.
  • Money — both the church’s general fund and the willingness of members to make special contributions.
  • Facilities — space, audio equipment, land, vehicles
  • Staff time.
  • Communications — announcements, bulletin space, mail outs.
  • Work together to plan future ministries and works of the church, such as—
    • Expansion of current programs.
    • Addition of new ministries.
    • Additional staff.
    • Improvements to the building.

Setting priorities requires keeping the church’s vision at the forefront while realistically weighing any good idea against other possibilities and the benefits that the Lord’s work would actually obtain from the proposal. With limited resources, deciding whether and when to take on an additional work requires that ideas be worked out by the proper ministry group, coordinated with other works through the Ministries Team, and then approved by the elders taking into account (but not bound by) the recommendations of the ministry group and the Ministries Team.

Profile photo of Jay Guin

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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4 Responses to Advice to a New Elder: They Smell Like Sheep, Part 3

  1. Christopher says:

    Off topic, Jay, but I wonder if you’ve ever defended the idea that not only can God do any one thing, but all things simultaneously?

  2. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Christopher,

    I don’t see the problem. I mean, why couldn’t God multitask? He exists outside of time as we experience time. Simultaneity seems to be easily achieved by such a Being. What am I missing?

  3. Christopher says:

    We cannot know one way or the other outside of revealed truth. But it solves the so-called problem of evil for me. Abraham had to reason somehow that God was not lying to him (or worse) by commanding him to sacrifice his son. We know that from the scriptures.

    Here’s the problem: we are told that if we see a brother in need but do nothing to help him, we haven’t love. How does that not also apply to God when he doesn’t answer a prayer for help? We know Daniel received an immediate answer to prayer but was not told that until 3 weeks later by an angel who was detained. The universe was created in 6 “days”. What hard, fast biblical case is there for saying God can do all things simultaneously? Can one even be made? The doctrine of eternal conscious torment in Hell is a perfect example of unexamined “truths” holding sway over people for centuries.

  4. laymond says:

    If God is capable of doing all things at once, why take six days , why not instantaneously ? I guess we will have to ask, if and when we meet him.

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