Church Leadership Structures

There are many ways to structure the leadership of a church to meet the needs of the congregation and to fulfill the purpose of the church in general. Depending on the demographics of the church, there may be more administrative, missions-related and pastoral positions required. A church with many young people, for example, may want to have a youth pastor who works under the leadership of a senior pastor. Some churches have schools or community-related programs, in which case administrative and leadership positions are needed.

 

Horizontal and Servant-Shepherd Organization

In other cases, the congregation may be small enough to have a “servant-shepherd” model of organization. This focuses most of the leadership on one or two people, usually a senior pastor. More positions may be added as needed, but most are considered to be on the same level of importance under the leadership of the main pastor. Horizontal organization discourages much competition among church leaders, but relies very heavily on the leadership of one person, the main pastor.

 

Vertical Organization

Some churches require an administrative wing of leaders to operate the business-related needs of the organization. Like most models of church leadership organization, this also depends heavily on the oversight of the senior pastor. However, the second-tier leaders, often the administrator and executive pastors, are considered equal in the decision-making process. Under them may be other positions, such as accountant, membership coordinator, outreach director, family ministries director and others.

 

Spatial Organization

Finally, the spatial organization approach breaks up the specific demographics and aspects of a church into groups under the leadership of a special assistant minister. This can be the assistant for youth ministries, assistant for community outreach or other specialized positions. These individuals assist the senior pastor by handling special groups or tasks. Under the assistants are coordinators who do more of the groundwork involved. The assistant for music and worship, for example, may oversee the coordinators for the traditional and contemporary worship services.

 

When organizing or reorganizing a church’s leadership roles, there are many different considerations. The division of labor and leadership within a church needs to reflect the ultimate goals and needs of the congregation and community. Assessing these needs and structuring the organization to best respond to them should be important goals.

 

Some churches thrive more with a centralized decision-making leadership structure, while others prefer a more democratic and decentralized form. Ultimately, time and experience are the best indicators of what works for a particular church. Hiring staff or coordinating volunteers to fill leadership roles is essential to success. Ideally, many individuals within a church’s congregation have a voice in the structure of the leadership and will be represented and considered in this process.

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