Written by Keith Doornbos
March 20, 2024

How to Structure for Renewal

Good governance is essential for healthy renewal. It is about the relationship between boards, staff, teams, and volunteers.
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Good governance is essential for healthy renewal. Governance is about how we decide things and how we get things done. It is about the relationship between boards, staff, teams, and volunteers.

Governance is like a hose when washing a car. Water renews, but the hose is the conduit. If the hose kinks, renewal waters cannot flow. Restructuring will not renew but renewal rarely happens without good governance.

Good governance is measured by how it keeps three things in balance: protection, partnership, and propulsion. In other words, good governance builds safety nets, invites people to the table and catalyzes mission.

A completely staff-run church (even more, a pastor-run church) has propulsion but often lacks protection and minimizes partnership. On the other hand, a completely board-run church often has protection and partnership but, typically, lacks propulsion. Good governance keeps all things in balance.

 Nine characteristics of effective renewal structures
Characteristic 1: Trust Matters.

There is no propulsion without trust. Boards, staff, teams, and volunteers must trust each other. Trust is both earned and gifted. Behaving in trustworthy ways and believing the best of each other is the key.

Characteristic 2: Diversity Matters.

Healthy organizations are supercharged through diversity. Boards primarily composed of white-haired gentleman will seldom ignite renewal. Diversity of age, gender, and ethnicity creates fresh imagining.

Characteristic 3: Nimbleness Matters

Structures are more an exoskeleton than an endoskeleton. In other words, structures do not grow with organizations. As organizations change, they must jettison prior structures to accomplish greater mission.

Characteristic 4: Right-Sizing Matters.

Some churches have too few in leadership, while others have too many. A good board size is 7-9 persons who engage in healthy dialogue, prayer, discernment, and timely decision making.

Characteristic 5: Communication Matters.

Few things are more important than communication between boards, staff, teams, and volunteers. Sharing minutes, listening, retreating, praying together, and encouraging each other are all essential.

Characteristic 6: Mission Matters.

A congregation’s vision should shape the structures of a congregation to guarantee maximum output for every input. A great deal of energy is wasted when structures are not aligned with mission.

Characteristic 7: Life-Stage Matters.

In an organization’s youth, structures lean towards empowering individuals for ministry expansion. As organizations mature, greater balance between protection, partnership, and propulsion should be sought.

Characteristic 8: Imagination Matters.

Most churches have structural obligations based on denominational affiliation or established bylaws that cannot be ignored. Imagining fresh ways to work creatively within systems is essential for renewal.

Characteristic 9: Consistency/Competency Matters.

Churches that have revolving doors of leadership (pastors, boards, staffs, and volunteers) rarely experience renewal. Nurturing the long-term presence of competent leaders must be a priority.

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