By Justin Rossow
Any governance structure we adopt as a congregation should facilitate our mission of reaching God’s lost people and deepening the discipleship walk of those already a part of our faith journey. The key roles and key relationships in any structure describe how we get that job done.
In St. Luke’s proposed bylaw changes, the congregational members are the ones who are engaged in the primary work of reaching and discipling people. They own the vision and direction. They set the boundaries. They hold the ultimate authority. And they delegate some of that authority to lay leaders and staff so that the mission of the church can move forward effectively.
Here is an overview of the roles and relationships in the proposed governance structure.
1. The Congregation
Primary role: Mission and Ministry.
Jesus is working on and through every individual in our faith family. Each of us, as we follow Jesus, will also find ourselves being sent by Jesus and used by Jesus to engage others, as we reach new people with the Gospel and care for those already in our congregation.
The congregation owns the vision and direction of our mission and ministry, and the congregation sets boundaries on what we will do (and won’t do) in order to enact that vision.
The congregation not only owns the mission, they exercise ultimate accountability and support. They provide support through their generosity with time and money. They provide accountability by affirming vision and direction, annually approving a budget and ministry plans in line with that vision, and annually electing the Spiritual Leadership Council, whom they empower to govern the congregation on their behalf.
The Congregation also affirms the Board of Elders annually and reserves the right to call the Senior Pastor and any other Staff who are eligible for a call.
2. The Spiritual Leadership Council
Primary role: Governance.
In order to facilitate mission and ministry, the congregation authorizes the Spiritual Leadership Council (SLC) to provide direct accountability and support for the Senior Pastor.
Through the SLC, the congregation establishes moral, doctrinal, legal, and budget boundaries within which the Senior Pastor and Staff are authorized to work. The congregation also participates in and approves the vision and direction of the mission.
On behalf of the congregation, the SLC holds the Senior Pastor accountable for staying within the boundaries set by the congregation and moving forward in line with the vision and direction approved by the congregation.
Both the Senior Pastor and the Staff resource the congregation in the implementation of mission and ministry. They are authorized to make decisions in line with the vision and direction of the congregation and within the parameters set by the congregation.
The Senior Pastor is directly accountable to the SLC and the SLC is directly accountable to the congregation.
3. The Senior Pastor
Primary role: Leadership.
In order to facilitate mission and ministry, the congregation authorizes the Senior Pastor to be the custodian and caretaker of the vision and direction of the congregation. The Senior Pastor leads the staff as they equip congregational members for mission and ministry.
The Senior Pastor is authorized to lead the congregation in developing vision and setting direction. He is asked to collaborate with lay leaders and staff to promote health and vitality in the congregation. His primary discipling relationships are with staff and lay leaders as they disciple the broader congregation in reaching up, reaching in, and reaching out.
The Staff is directly accountable to the Senior Pastor and the Senior Pastor is directly accountable to the SLC. Only the Congregation can extend a Call to the Senior Pastor.
4. The Staff
Primary role: Management.
In order to facilitate mission and ministry, the congregation authorizes the Staff to fulfill their role of equipping, coordinating, discipling. The Staff will include both professional and lay leaders, paid and volunteer, who are invested in developing congregation members in their faith and faithfulness. The congregation carries out ministry, but the coordination and development of that ministry is facilitated by the work of the Senior Pastor and Staff.
The members of the congregation are equipped by the Staff, and the Staff is directly accountable to the Senior Pastor. Only the Congregation can extend a Call to eligible staff members.
Primary Role: Care.
As an extension of the Pastoral Office, the Elders are authorized by the congregation to provide care. They pray for the congregation and staff. They make hospital and home visits in partnership with the Staff. They serve in public worship and care individually for the Staff, including the Senior Pastor.
The Elders also exercise theological oversight of the congregation. They review and discuss theology with the Senior Pastor and Staff, and help the congregation think theologically about vision and direction. The Elders also support the SLC in the theological oversight of the Senior Pastor.
The Elders are directly accountable to the Congregation, who elects the Board of Elders annually. The Elders are equipped for care by the Senior Pastor and Staff.
In the governance model embodied in the proposed bylaws, the Congregation holds the ultimate authority for mission, ministry, vision, and direction. In order to move forward, the Congregation authorizes both lay leaders and ministry staff to make decisions, facilitate ministry, shape vision, and equip members for outreach and discipleship.
The ultimate goal is a vibrant and healthy congregation that is able to move forward together, evaluate how effective we have been in our ministry, and make the changes necessary to continue to join Jesus on His mission to reach and grow more and more disciples, all to His praise and glory. Any congregational structure is merely a means to this end: that more and more people would know and follow Jesus more and more.
More of a visual learner? Walk through the governance structure roles and relationships in the video below.