Most churches are organized on a hierarchial model. The flow chart is typically top-down, with the Senior Pastor at the top of the pyramid. Under him is the Associate Pastor, the Director of Business Affairs and Staff Supervisors. At the next level are the departmental leaders and volunteers. A hundred of these charts are simultaneously different and the yet the same.
This model is not only hierarchial, it is also departmental. The typical church hires as its second full-time person a youth pastor or a worship/music pastor. Additional staff will focus on children’s ministries, family development, seniors, singles – and more. Somewhere along the line, staff might be hired to supervise discipleship. Occasionally, but rarely, a congregation will employ a pastor of evangelism. Almost unheard of, until recent years, was the employment of a full-time director of prayer ministries. Dennis Fuqua, director of Prayer Summits International says the number of prayer coordinators leading congregational prayer efforts has doubled in the last ten years, although that number is still small. We rejoice at the number of churches that have hired a prayer coordinator or director of prayer ministries. Our hearts are made glad by the awakening to prayer and the need to be intentional. But there is still something disturbing. The continued use of an old and ineffective heirarchial and departmental management model will serve to isolate the impact of prayer ministries by segregating it into a department.
The Church – A Social Structure or a Spiritual Mission?
Allow me to be argumentative for a moment – to make a point about the character and nature of the New Testament Church, contrasted by the cultural models in America today. Where in Scripture are we commanded to hire a youth pastor? Okay, we recognize the need to focus on the next generation and to support parents in the rearing of their children. But so often, youth ministry degenerates into an odd assortment of youth activities – anything to keep youth busy and out of trouble. And parents, consciously or unconsciously, allow the church to do the discipleship they are called to do (Deuteronomy 6:1-4; Ephesians 6:1-3).
No one is against youth ministry – nor am I! My concern is that we are locked into a model of ministry, a style of church, that is not fulfilling the mandate of Christ! And we are a generation away from losing the culture war and seeing a nation that was founded with a godly, Christian heritage, become utterly pagan! So isn’t it time to take a hard look at what we are doing, and why we do things the way we do them?
Allow me to continue! Where does the Bible tell us to enter into a Senior Adult Ministry? To buy a bus for their trips? Care for the seniors, for the generation that sacrificed to build the church – that is a good thing! It is a part of honoring “father and mother” – I suppose. And what about the Singles Ministry? Yes, so many are divorced, hurt and rejected – and there is a Biblical basis for ministry to wounded people. We should care. We must minister. So what about women’s ministries? Or, Men’s ministries? Where are these departmental ministries we so highly value in the American Church – where are they found in Scripture?
The Seniors take trips – not a bad thing. The Singles conduct socials – wonderful get-togethers. The Women make their annual tea a whopping success. The Men have an annual golf tournament that is first-rate in the community. And the Children put on a great musical – almost every year. All of these are fine things. But they are not central to the mandate of the Church.
Christ did not die in order for us to have the best Christmas pageant in town. Nor yet, the best record of any men’s softball team in the Church league. These things are parallel to godly purposes at best, and completely peripheral in some cases. I fearfully suggest that we are well on our way toward reforming the church into a Christian social club.
If we are not careful, all of our departmental activities will degenerate into wonderful and enriching social activities conducted in an atmosphere of Christian grace. And while we will have a full and demanding schedule with a building that is well utilized, we will not be accomplishing the Biblically stated mission of the Church. We will not be the culture changing instrument of God that pushes back the darkness and calls men into the light of God, changing communities one person at a time. We are called to be a house of prayer for the nations! To love God passionately, and our neighbor as ourselves. To preach the gospel to the ends of the earth, until everyone has heard. To make disciples of the nations. This is our mandate.
No one is against the annual Senior trip. Or the youth retreat. Everyone loves the children’s musicals. These are good things, but they do not represent the essence of the call, the mission and purpose of the Church.
A Matrix Approach
We must not allow good activities to displace the mission, the very purpose for which we were established. Does this mean that the various departments and ministries should be abandoned? No! Here is what must change. These departments represent ministry to people. What we are missing is mission – or ministry through people.
Prayer, evangelism and discipleship – cannot be departments. These areas represent our essence, the reason we exist. A new model is required. A matrix model which demands teaming. The model is one in which prayer, evangelism and discipleship are not treated as departments. Prayer, for example, must penetrate every department in the church. As should evangelism training and mobilization – and discipleship. The youth must become praying youth, taught to evangelize, mentored in discipling others. So should all the departments.
The pastor must become the servant of all – modeling humility and prayer. He must lead by example. Elders must be chosen on the basis of how they integrate into their lives the principles of prayer, evangelism, and discipleship evidenced by a family that honors Christ. Two different types of pastors must stand with the Senior Pastor. One would be a supervision pastor over the departmental leaders. The other would be a pastor of mission and vision providing direction to the pastors of prayer, evangelism and discipleship.
The pastors of mission and vision work with each department leader creating a team that resources the department goals in the areas of prayer, evangelism and discipleship. Thus no leader is all things to his department. The matrix model demands that no department be isolated from the central purpose of the church. Each department has both a leader and also a leadership team. Working with the pastors of mission and vision, each departmental pastor-leader develops a process aimed at fulfilling the mandate of Christ given to the Church.
Ministry To People and Through People
Think then, not only about ministry to people in various groupings – children, youth, men and women, singles and families. Think about ministry through people. We must train and mobilize the church to accomplish the God-given mission of the Church. Prayer drives that mission.
Prayer cannot be a department, a mere ministry. It should not be competing with other departments for personnel and volunteers. It will need specifically dedicated volunteers, but one of its primary roles will be to mobilize people for mission in every department.
If the church only has ministries to people – activities, fellowship, edification events – then the entire focus is upon growing the Church inwardly which is never healthy. It makes the church about meeting our needs. It creates a self-serving people who look to an imperfect church to do for them what only a perfect Christ can do in a daily prayer and devotional relationship with Him.
The church needs ministry to people. But it also must minister through people to those outside the Church. In this missional aspect, the Church must become community focused, praying and caring for the lost. This will never happen if prayer and evangelism are isolated as departmental ministries. A carnal people will stream to ministries designed around them and their needs, and avoid ministries that call for change and sacrifice. Your organizational structure must militate against that trend, mobilizing every member to fulfill the mandate. The purpose for the church – a house of prayer for the nations – must be pervasive. We are to collectively glorify Christ and bring our communities, over which we are praying, face-to-face with the reality of Who He is, to the end that they know Him. To be a member of the church and not engage in these functions is unthinkable.