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Keep It Simple... For Christ's Sake

Simplified, Accountable Leadership Structure

in the United Methodist Church

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.

 


Planning Workbook  This 30 page workbook, created by the Center for Vitality in partnership with the Cabinet, will take your team through every step of discussing and creating a new leadership structure in your church.  This 10-step book contains diagrams of administrative structures, a sample agenda, a questions for your board to use for discussion along the journey. This workbook is based primarily upon the work of Kay Kotan (author of the simplified structure book Mission Possible) and also uses information found in Dan Hotchkiss’s excellent Governance and Ministry). 

Center for Vitality Workbook


General Information This quick summary guides church leaders as they consider shifting from the standard United Methodist Church’s structure that include an Administrative Board, Council on Ministries, Finance Committee, Board of Trustees, and S/PPRC, to a new “Leadership Council” or “Single Board” alternative structure comprised of anywhere from 9-15 members.  Different roles and guidelines are explained.

Simplified Structure FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) This short list of FAQs answers common questions that United Methodist leaders have about the simplified or “single board” administrative structure.

Step by Step: Moving Toward Simplified Structure A short seven-step list for congregational leaders contemplating changing to simplified structure. This single-page list is perfect to introduce the topic of transition.

Basic Resources 


Sample Agenda (annotated) for your Board 

Create an Leadership Council agenda based on the L3 (Loving, Learning, and Leading) model used throughout the Arkansas Conference.  This sample agenda is built primarily upon the work of Kay Kotan (author of the simplified structure book Mission Possible) and also uses information found in Dan Hotchkiss’s excellent Governance and Ministry).  The sample agenda also provides a suggested list of items to include in a board’s “Leadership Packet.”

MONTHLY Agenda


Annual Timelines

Staff/Pastor Parish Committee (S/PPRC) Annual Timeline  

This timeline shares expectations for the appointment/assessment cycle and suggested topics of discussion for a full year of monthly Staff/Pastor Parish Relations Committee meetings.  Whether your simplified structure single-board serves as the congregation’s S/PPRC or you decide to keep a separate S/PPRC, your board will need to consider the Arkansas Conference due dates and the workload of the S/PPRC as you design your yearly schedule and content of meetings.  More S/PPRC resources can be found at http://vitality.arumc.org/sprc-tool-kit/ .


Videos From Kay Kotan

Six Training Videos from Kay Kotan

 Kay Kotan, a layperson and the Director of Congregational Development from the Susquehanna (Pennsylvania) Annual Conference has created an 25 minute overview video and six training videos that you can stream online or download for viewing during meetings.  Before you move toward the model, it is suggested that you forward the overview video to all your current board members.


Presentation Tools


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.

Paperback Order

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Recommended Reading list

  • Mission Possible: Structuring Your Church for Missional Effectiveness 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! Let's 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.

  • Leadership and Organization for Fruitful Congregations, by Stephan Ross, a long-time pastor in the Oregon-Idaho Conference and currently the Director of the Vital Church Project.
  • Hotchkiss Governance & Ministry
  • Discipleship Ministries Webinar on Creating a Single Board Leadership Structure.  Also includes sample Guiding Principles
  • Susan Beaumont, Inside the Large Congregation 
  • Kay Kotan & Bob Farr’s 10 Prescriptions for a Healthy Church
  • Article from the Texas Annual Conference sharing the value of single board governance (February 2016)