Dear Church Family,
Many of you may be aware that this is my second “go-round” as your president of the Board of Trustees. This church is very important to me, and I wanted to be an active participant in the continued mission of our congregation. But I must tell you – the experience is much different from my first term. Allow me to explain…
During the time of my first tenure - we had no sanctuary or classrooms, we had less than 100 members, we only had one staff member (the extension minister), and everybody knew everybody. We were renting space for our worship, so we had no need to worry about “building and grounds”; and we were in the middle of a capital campaign to construct our current church facility. During this time our church organizational structure worked. This style of leadership was responsive to the needs of our congregation, due to the fact that essentially every decision came directly to the Board of Trustees. Now move forward to our present situation… we have a sanctuary which stays very busy all week long (including a preschool program during the day), our membership has ballooned, we have increased our staffing substantially, and our budget and financial affairs have become much more complex. We have a thriving satellite gathering in Salisbury, and have had to look at creative solutions to the good problem of not having enough seating capacity due to our growth. As a result of all of these aforementioned changes, I am finding that our leadership structure frequently struggles to meet the challenges of our current times. As our church has evolved over time, our organizational structure has tried to evolve in kind. Tweaking bylaws and making subtle adjustments has helped, but we continue to see that major changes are needed to unleash the potential of our talented congregation.
The Board of Trustees, joined by the co-chairs of the Salisbury Gathering Steering Committee, met recently for an all-day retreat to address this concern. We identified a number of problems with our current organizational structure. They included:
- Lack of clarity with regard to the leadership roles
- Lack of efficiency due to multiple layers of decision-making
- Unclear channels of communication
- Policies and procedures not clear and/or not followed
- Lack of empowerment for our volunteers due to a cumbersome structure
During our conversation, we recognized that these issues could often hamper productivity, frustrate well-intended volunteers, and discourage some from participating as a church leader. We also acknowledged that our current structure does not fully take advantage of our church staff.
Thanks to Karl Hesse, last year’s president, the Board has been discussing this issue for almost a year now. During this time, we have explored other styles of church organizational structure that would better fit our managerial needs and provide better clarity and efficiency. During our retreat in November, the Board unanimously endorsed the movement to adopt a structure called “Policy-styled Governance”. While we looked at various options, we chose the “Hotchkiss Model”, as it seemed to be the best fit for churches and other non-profits (as opposed to for-profit organizations). This model has a number of advantages over our current model:
- It clearly defines leadership roles and related policies.
- It empowers staff and lay-leaders to make the decisions related to those clearly defined roles.
- It distinguishes the “operation” of the church from the “ministry” of the church.
- It frees-up the Board to look more deeply into the “mission-work” of the church.
Needless to say – this undertaking will be lengthy, comprehensive, and encompassing. Rest assured that we will be seeking input from all congregants, and especially those individuals currently in leadership roles. This issue will definitely be on the next Business and Operations Council and Shared Ministry Team meetings, as we seek guidance as to what seems to be working well, and what areas we need to change to be the best we can be. You can look forward to more updates as we move forward. In the meantime, feel free to contact me directly if questions or suggestions come to mind. My email address is email@example.com.
I am enthusiastic about this process. While it may take years to complete, the goal of empowering our talented leaders to better serve our church mission is exciting. I look forward to walking this journey alongside each of you as we craft a model of decision-making that untaps the true potential of our beloved church community.