Yesterday I read a great article by Thom Rainer (CEO of LifeWay) on two major changes in the landscape of the American church. These changes have been subtle, but their impact is starting to resonate. The two major trends are: Decentralization of Leadership, and Decentralization of Facilities. I loved this article. It was a huge encouragement to see a shift in how churches in America operate and engage their communities for the Gospel. Church leadership should be encouraged as well, because it marks a change towards biblical faithfulness for the local church and her pastors. I specifically noticed 6 implications from the article.
Decentralized leadership leads to a team ministry mindset - One thing that stood out to me was the shift from "Senior" to "Lead" pastor. The change in terminology, while functionally keeping the position the same, showed a flattening of the pyramid. Think of a round table, no one is at the head, each has a contribution. The leadership comes through influence, and in a team ministry mindset everyone buys into the vision/direction of the lead pastor.
Decentralized facilities turn church from attractional to missional - When the hub of activity is the church facility, and everything is directed towards a "come and see" mindset, what happens often is congregational isolationism--where everything becomes an "alternative" for the church. In a decentralized approach, the church is released to go into the community and put less emphasis on having to come to the church property.
Decentralized leadership changes staff focus - In many churches, staff are expected to do the ministry. In a decentralized leadership model, staff are free to cast vision and handle the administrative aspects of ministry, while putting their primary focus on equipping others to carry out the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:11).
Decentralized facilities reduce overhead costs - It costs a lot to maintain a big building, and much of that money in annual budgets is frozen, which keeps additional funds from being released for ministry, missions, and recruiting new leadership. By putting less emphasis on the grounds and multiplying campuses rather than adding square footage, a church becomes more cost-effective in how their money is stewarded.
Decentralized leadership gets more done - One person doing ministry is limited by their time, energy, and lack of sleep. But if one person equips 10 to do ministry, the impact is exponential. When we shift away from leaders doing ministry to leaders fostering a ministry culture, we're able to see more Kingdom impact happen. Imagine what could happen in your church if you could equip, disciple, train, and release 10 people to do what you're doing by yourself now.
Decentralized facilities allows for greater community impact - A few weeks ago I got to interview an executive pastor in a multi-site church in an urban setting. I asked him specifically about how each campus interacts with their communities, and that was an a-ha moment for me. By placing campuses in different communities, each with a different feel (some were in the suburbs, others were in the yuppy/Millennial areas), the Gospel can be contextualized in such a way that speaks to the hearts of the people, serves in a uniquely beneficial way, and promotes a culture of missions that shows how Jesus loves that community in its own way.
How have you seen decentralization in your church? What was effective about it? How could we continue to move further?
Scott M. Douglas
A blog about leadership and the lasting legacy of family ministry.