By Hank Lamb
When a church recognizes its need to make structural changes, organizationally speaking, they should seek wise and experienced counsel. Kirbyjon Caldwell (President George W. Bush’s pastor) said, “Organizational structure is like a pair of shoes. You fit shoe to the feet; you don’t make the feet fit the shoes.” It’s necessary to recognize that church’s have down times and up times. All of life runs with times and seasons, ebbs and flows, work and rest, expansion and consolidation, death and birth. This is normal; it is also biblical, and our ecclesiology (teaching and understanding of the church) should acknowledge it. We need an ecclesiology of the church that is streamlined, simple, and less exhausting and time consuming. When we keep adding program to program, never practicing strategic abandonment, we run ourselves ragged and finally despise the church for burning us out. Simply put, we need to go back to the drawing board and conceive of new approaches to structuring church life.
Author and pastor, Brian McLaren rung my bell when he admitted, “I used to think I could find the perfect structure for my church, the right balance of power, terms of service, checks and balances, and so on. But now I realize that the perfect structure is just about any that is flexible enough to become a better structure tomorrow. Conversely, the “perfect structure that claims to be the right one, immune to improvement, is actually one of the worst structures possible.”
Searching for the perfect church structure is about as promising as the search for a perfect pair of pants or shoes that your kids will never outgrow! Brian McLaren points out that “in the same way our closets are full of outgrown clothes, so our church files should be full of outgrown structural diagrams. Those diagrams were not failures; they fulfilled their purpose for their time.”
So as a church’s leadership’ staff, elders, deacons, ministry team leaders consider the need for change in their church structure, they should consider a bigger change: not just a change to a different structure, but a change to a different way of thinking about structures. This is harder to accept in the short run, but it will prove to be so much better over time. So quit trying to make the feet fit the shoes! It’s time to find the shoes that “fit our feet.”