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Herding Cats: Why church structure?

Meredith Mahon Morris May 9, 2012

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Every month, Lesley Baker shares a blog post with helpful tips and tricks for the cat herders on church staff.

This year at the Ideas to Impact Conference, I’ll be facilitating a session called Herding Cats: How to get your church staff to follow database policies. In preparation for that session I’d like to take the opportunity to maximize this month’s blog post for those who are attending the conference to give you a precursor to that session.  And for those who are not attending the conference, I still want to give you and your team an opportunity to consider these concepts and principles – they just may apply to your situation.

The problem

For the most part, churches tend to do a good job at having bylaws that spell out everything from their tenants of faith to membership requirements. However, for some odd reason churches tend to stop there as it pertains to structure. Everything else tends to not have as much emphasis and attention as the bylaws that the church was founded on.

This is, in fact, one of the most common themes I find in the churches I work with: the lack of basic structure. (Sound familiar to you?) Some staff I meet with struggle with how their database has been used and how there is no consistency. Fortunately, I can offer solid solutions to try to close those gaps. But the bigger challenge they are facing is much deeper than just how the database is being used or not being used.  The bigger problem at hand is a lack of church structure and standardization.

The solution

Structure and standardization is often viewed in church circles as constricting, when in fact it removes the limits and facilitates Kingdom growth to take place.  For those out there who have control issues you struggle with, I used to be there, let me just put this out there.  Structure and standardization is not intended to be used for power and control, it is not to be used for constricting, it is to be used a platform that all ministries under the umbrella of the church can operate from – one set way we do things for consistency purposes.

But thinking about the reality in churches, we all know that not everyone will embrace structure and standardization in the church. You may run into problems from both staff and existing volunteer leaders. But let’s face it, any time you introduce change of any kind we will face opposition from within. Let’s look at Moses for a moment. He faced opposition when he came down from Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments, so why do we think it’s so bad that we’ll face opposition or step on congregants’ toes or a volunteer leader’s toes if we change the way we’re doing things?  Just because it’s what we’ve always done it, doesn’t mean it’s effective or efficient and not worthy of evaluating and changing.

If you’re still uncomfortable with leading change just look at Jesus – he was a mover and shaker.  Remember the incident in the Temple?  I’m sure people were talking for days about how their table was turned upside down … thrown upside down!  The same is true in the church.  Don’t be afraid to turn some tables upside down to get some greater things right side up.

God is a God of order and as leaders of the store houses we been entrusted to shepherd His flock, we need to bring order to how we do church through the creation of policies, procedures, training, standardization and accountability. Then begin implementing these things not fearing man, but fearing what we risk or lose if we don’t implement change.

There’s so much more to this and in future posts I’ll elaborate more on this subject. In the meantime you can join me at the Ideas to Impact conference at the Herding Cats session.  Until we meet again here on the Community Site – go get geared up to be a mover and shaker in your area of influence.

Lesley Baker and the Implementation Team at ACS Technologies, a group of experienced pastors, ministers and church business administrators, are all passionate about helping churches reach their goals. Learn more about church consultations and other services our Implementation Team can provide here.

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