Are you wanting to grow your church? There are a number of factors that contribute to a church’s inability to grow beyond the 100, 200, 400 and 600 barriers. The last place anyone looks when diagnosing the problem is the first place I go: the church’s by-laws.
I want to know whether or not the church is organizationally structured to facilitate growth. Usually they’re not.
Leaders in these churches try lots of things to bring about growth, but find that nothing really works, blind to the fact that the reason they’re not growing has nothing to do with what they’re doing. It has everything to do with the way they’re organized.
In this article I will share why this is the case, and what you can do to fix this. For the sake of brevity I will use “200” to refer to churches also trying to break the 100, 400 and 600 barriers. “Governing board” refers to your church’s eldership, council, etc.
Here it goes…
Churches Under 200
Here is what the organizational structure of a church under 200 looks like as reflected in their by-laws:
[In this picture a governing board of six people run the operations of the church while their Senior Pastor functions as sort of a chaplain, focusing on preaching and caring for people.]
Why did churches under 200 write their by-laws this way?
They wanted to help the Senior Pastor avoid burnout.
One reason a church’s by-laws were written this way is out of a desire to not overburden the Senior Pastor: “Pastor Jim, this is too much for you to handle, so we’ll organize our board to help you. Bill you take children, Jeff you take worship, Larry you’re in charge of youth, etc. This will free you up to just be a pastor.”
They were compensating for a string of Senior Pastors who were weak or unethical leaders.
Another reason a church’s by-laws were written this way is the Senior Pastors the church has had in the past have all been weak leaders, and the governing board members realized that if they didn’t step in and do something, the ship would sink or nothing would get done. On the flip side, if a church had a competent but unethical Senior Pastor, the inevitable reaction was to tighten the reins.
They were compensating for a revolving Senior Pastor door.
Another reason why a church’s by-laws were written this way is the short-term tenure of Senior Pastors. If the lead person changes every two years, churches will instinctively move into the void to bring stability. This is why I believe Pastors must make at least a five-year commitment to a church to lead it through the 200 barrier.
They were misinterpreting Scripture to justify control issues.
The final reason a church’s by-laws were written this way was to mask control issues with the Bible. The New Testament clearly teaches that each local church should be led by a plurality of “Elders” who oversee the church. But it also recognizes that those gifted at leadership, teaching and administrating the church should be encouraged to take a lead role, alongside and under the oversight of the others. Oftentimes a current governing board will misuse scripture to block changes in by-laws, not because there isn’t biblical support for Senior Pastors taking a more dominant servant-leadership role, but because the current members don’t want to lose control.