Testimony Governance Model: Walnut Grove Lutheran Church

Board Governance Model Testimony RelationshipModel.com

In November 2011, a Transforming for Missions consultation team identified governance issues as the greatest challenge that our congregation faces as we seek to more fully engage with the mission of Jesus Christ to seek and to save the lost.  This finding was consistent with the experience of our leadership group because we recognized that governance was an issue and, over the preceding couple of years, we had tried modifying our existing governance structure to try to resolve it, but without success. After the consultation report was adopted by the congregation, a Governance Committee was struck and charged with the task of developing a new governance model.  After looking at various models and noting their strengths, weaknesses and applicability to our congregation, the Governance Committee chose the Relationship Model as the best governance model for our congregation.  With coaching and resources from Les Stahlke, the Governance Committee developed drafts of a Governance Manual for our leadership group and a revised Constitution and Bylaws for the congregation.  In the spring of 2013, our leadership group adopted the Relationship Model as our governance model and the congregation approved the revised Constitution and Bylaws.  Our new Governing Board has read Church Governance Matters by Les Stahlke and we are presently transitioning to the new model.

As the Governance Committee did their work, they identified that our new governance model needed to accomplish three things:  There needs to be a clear understanding of how authority flows within the congregation.  There needs to be a clear delineation between governance and management.  And there needs to be clarity about roles and responsibilities.  We recommended the Relationship Model to our leadership group because it does all these things.  In addition, the Relationship Model incorporates the aspect of relationship, which is very important in any congregation and particularly so, it seems to me, in ours.  The relationship values of affirmation, involvement and servant leadership are often lacking in governance models that have been adapted from the corporate world.  In the Relationship Model, authority is always balanced with limits and responsibility always comes with expectations.  Also, accountability is always mutual.  The person giving authority, responsibility and resources is accountable to provide those things to the person receiving them with affirmation, involvement and servant leadership.  The person receiving authority, responsibility and resources is responsible to person giving them for their performance and for complying with the limitations and expectations that they have been given.

I highly recommend the Relationship Model to any church that finds herself bumping up against the same governance issues over and over again.  The Model is adaptable to various denominational and cultural contexts.  The Model is a significant paradigm shift from what many of us are used to but it is a shift well worth making because it will help churches to more fully engage with Christ’s mission and more fruitfulness is likely to result.  If you think about it, any healthy relationship has the same principles and values as this Model and those same principles and values are present in the way that God relates to us.  It is God’s love that moves us.

God’s peace and joy,
James Paulgaard
Lead Pastor, Walnut Grove Lutheran Church, Langley BC
August 25, 2013

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