Governance Matters Book – Church Edition

Church Governance Matters Book
Finally!  One model of governance, leadership and management for churches built on a foundation of biblical values and common sense.  This book puts the pieces together with clarity and conviction.

Church Governance Matters is an extensive 368 pages of practical application built on a solid conceptual framework.  It covers everything you need to know to build a solid governing church board.  The book includes a study of governance in the first century church and an overview of governance in the twenty centuries between then and now.

Table of Contents



Part One – The Relationship Model™ – The Operating System

1.  The Trouble with Churches

• Unclear Church Structures

• Lack of Accountability

• Size Outgrows Structure

2. It’s About Power

• Reclaiming a Broken Word

• Why “Power” and not “Love”

• The Ways People Use Power

• The Seven Deadly Sin

• The Connection Between Power and the Seven Deadly Sins

3. Relationship – The Original Design

• Affirmation

• Involvement

• Servant Leadership

• Authority (with Limitations)

• Responsibility (with Expectations)

• Accountability

4. A Church is Like a Tree

5. Relationship Processes – Primary

• Communication

• Conflict Resolution

• Decision-making

6. Relationship Processes – Secondary

• Planning

• Delegating

• Monitoring and Measuring

Part Two – The Applications: Church Governance, Leadership and Management

7. Mission Impossible?

• Bible Translations

• God’s Will and Our Freedom

• Theology and Culture

• The Flow of Authority: Clergy and Laity

• Terminology and Definitions

8. New Testament Church Governance

• A Church Emerges – The Way

• Building Blocks of Structure

• The Role of the Apostles

• The Role of the Elders

• The Role of the Deacons

• What About Pastors and Bishops?

• Who are Luke, Barnabas, Timothy and Titus

• Timeless Elements of the New Testament Church

• Call of the Spirit (with Gifts)

• Call of the Church (Laying on of Hands)

9. 20 Centuries of Church Governance

• Fast Forward

• The Reformation:  Episcopal, Presbyterian, Congregational, Brethren

• Post Reformation Governance

• The Flow of Authority

• The Continuum of Denominations

10.  Making Paradigm Shifts

• Governance and Management

• Clergy and Laity

• Spiritual and Strategic Authority

• Elders and Deacons

• Local, Regional, National Structures Brand p 124

11. Designing the Tree Trunk (Governance Structure)

• Board/Members Relationship

• Board Chair/Board Relationship

• Committee/Board Relationship

• Board Member/Board Relationship

12. Strategic Planning

• Strategic and Tactical

• Five Key Inputs

• Five Key Outputs

13. Delegating Authority and Responsibility

• The Corporation Trap

• Leadership – Shall It Be One or Two (Two Options)

• The Role of the Senior Pastor

• Senior Pastor Competencies

14. Monitoring and Measuring

• Monitoring Risk

• Monitoring Relationships

• Measuring Outcomes

15. The Pastor as Leader and Manager

• Leadership and Culture

• The Pastor and Strategic Planning

• The Pastor and Delegation

• Monitoring and Measuring

16.  Members as Managers and Workers

• Tactical Planning

• Staff vs. Volunteers

• Wearing Several Hats

• The Resource of Volunteers

17. Leadership at the Treetop

• The power of volunteerism

• The fruits of empowerment

Epilogue – Keeping the Tree Green and the Fruit Ripe

Part Three – Appendices

Appendix A – Definition of Terms

Appendix B – Governance Manual Table of Contents

Appendix C – Table of Competencies





To my surprise most of the clients who read my first book, Governance Matters, were leaders of churches. (60% of my clients are churches.) That surprised me, because that book was written for faith-based not-for-profit organizations. It seems that the need for an understanding of governance in churches is even greater than in charities. In any case, there are a lot of both—about 1.5 million churches and charities in North America alone.

The challenge of supporting churches with governance is more complicated because of the significant differences in governance among denominations. You are well aware that many Christian denominations are named after their form of governance. You will recognize your own form of governance in the list below. I deal with this challenge in more detail in Chapter 7, but I should at least mention it before we get started. The five primary types of church governance are:

• episcopal

• presbyterian

• congregational

• brethren

• state church.

It means that this book may be more helpful to some than to others. But here’s the surprise in store for you no matter what your denomination.

The Relationship Model™ of church governance is a combination of an operating system (like Windows™) and applications like governance, leadership, and management.

The operating system of values, structure and process is applicable to every Christian regardless of denominational orientation. In fact, you will find that the operating system applies also to the relationships of marriage, parenting, farming, small business, large corporations, schools, government, and every other type of relationship. The surprise is that you are guaranteed to find application in your personal and professional life, even if you don’t find application for governing your church.

The application of governance will be particularly beneficial to churches using a form of congregational polity. It will benefit other types of church polities with the modifications that you may contemplate. Best of all, it will benefit all leaders in understanding how to ensure productive and fulfilling relationships in church work. My hope is that the time you spend among these pages will be worth your time and a real blessing to you in your personal, professional and volunteer life.

Les Stahlke


What Others Say

“We’ve been on a journey here at Zion Church and School to learn and implement the Relationship Model of governance over the last three years and it has been a wonderful and challenging experience.We are seeing a shift from a complicated and cumbersome model which had the tendency to segregate and isolate portions of ministry to one that has a central, elected board who delegate responsibility appropriately and monitor the ministry’s progress in a realistic and healthy way.  We continue to learn that it really is all about relationships that are genuine, that encourage, and that teach accountability. It’s exciting to be a part of a ministry that is developing a clear sense of purpose and a unity of vision. Our adoption of the Relationship Model of governance is helping us to do just that: grow as one.”

The Rev. Jefrey Koenig, Senior Pastor
Zion Lutheran Church and School
Cloverdale, British Columbia


“The benefits of utilizing the Relationship Model, together with the development of a governance manual and bylaw revisions have been significant. Even with many years of service on various non-profit and church boards, this process of defining and documenting roles and relationships has been refreshingly valuable to me. The clarifications of roles and processes should well outlast current leadership and serve into the future.”

Mr. John Schroeder, Moderator
South Abbotsford MB Church
South Abbotsford, British Columbia


“I highly recommend the Relationship Model. Any local church will benefit from implementing it because it is based on the biblical example of servant-leadership rooted in Christ-centered consensus.”

The Rev. Dr. Roland H. Feltmate, D.Min.
Executive Pastor
Skyview Community Church of the Nazarene,
Calgary, Alberta (2002 – 2008)


“The Relationship Model of governance came at a critical time in the life of our growing church. With the initial guidance of Les Stahlke and subsequent implementation by our Church Board and Senior Ministry Team, we continue to be well positioned to maximize our ministry for Christ with the clarity of responsibilities and the satisfaction of healthy relationships among our leaders.”

The Rev. Dr. Les Somers, Lead Pastor
StoneRidge Fellowship Baptist Church
Lower Sackville (Halifax), Nova Scotia


“Having served as a parish pastor for over 20 years and as assistant to the president of the East District of Lutheran Church-Canada for four years I believe the Relationship Model is an excellent way to help congregations find focus and direction in mission and ministry. Where its values and principles are embraced I am convinced that church and community will be blessed and the labourers in the “harvest” will find joy in their work.”

The Rev. Mark Hartburg, Pastor
Historic St. Paul’s Lutheran Church
Kitchener, Ontario


“The adopting of the Relationship Model by Lutheran Church Canada’s Central District Board of Directors has resulted in board meetings that are energized with strategic planning and guided by critical discussions on how well the services we provide to member congregations are addressing their needs. Clarity in the roles and relationships between the board and senior staff has not only empowered the staff to move forward with implementation of strategic directions but also removed intermediary committees that at times confused the flow of authority. The Relationship Model is helping us address a changing internal and external environment while respecting our theology and practices.”

Mr. Michael Maunula, Chair, LCC – Central District
Executive Director
Lutheran Community Care Centre
Thunder Bay, Ontario