The Relationship Model in Congregations

The Relationship Model

Question: If I finally get the co-pastor I need, how would the services that your consulting firm offers be of use and help to us?   I have surfed your website a little bit, but have not done so in depth.   A few words about that would be helpful.

Answer: Yes, the Relationship Model would benefit you immensely, not just the working relationship between you and your co-pastor but between both of you and the council and congregation.  It would also benefit you in strategic planning by focusing your energy on beneficiaries (elderly, single parents, divorced couples, youth, etc) and services (worship, counselling, discipleship, music, etc.)  No congregation can be all things to all people.  The people themselves should be expressing their needs and identifying their beneficiaries.  Usually congregations lump these two sides of the “grid” together without separating them first to define them (beneficiaries and services that is).  Then we also tend to confuse programs (the freedom of lay leaders and pastors to decide) and services (the strategic expression of need that is for the congregation to decide).  For example, worship is a strategic (what) service, but a Friday evening contemporary service for weekend campers is a tactical (how) program to deliver that service.  The beneficiary is families who go camping.

The biggest problem is how congregations default strategic issues to the pastor who often expects them to do just that.  So the congregation that is strong on foreign mission is likely the one who has a pastor born in China to missionaries.  The next pastor who was born to a musical family takes the congregation in a new direction.  It’s the congregation who should decide the strategic services, not the next pastor.  That’s how continuity is maintained and the right pastor chosen.

The Relationship Model does two things.  It structures the working relationships within the congregation – and there are many, e.g. voters’ assembly/council, council/pastor, council/committees, etc.  Each must have a Terms of Reference or Relationship Description that includes the five elements of a working relationship:  authority, limitations of authority, responsibility, expectations of responsibility and accountability.

The second thing it does is to produce a strategic plan which specific elements:  Values, Vision, Mission, Beneficiaries, Services, Priorities (of both), Indicators of Results, Strategic Goals, Critical Success Factors.

What this does is to produce very clear strategic director from congregation to pastor and immense freedom for the pastor within a defined strategic plan.  When in place it ends the frustration of not knowing what is expected of the pastor and of how much power he has or doesn’t have.  The same will be true of the relationship between pastor and assistant or between co-pastors and all other working relationships within the congregation.

For more of an introduction take a look at the eBook, Church Governance MattersWe can provide some inexpensive and effective support in helping your church board transition to governance with our Governance Manual Template and strategic planning.

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