Tag Archive - deacon


Can a Congregationally-Led Church be Healthy?

Why are the majority of small churches in America congregationally-led instead of being led by pastors and ministry staff?

Here’s a short history lesson:

The congregational style of church government finds its sustained growth in the birth of our nation. The driving force behind people risking everything to sail to the new land was to throw off the tyranny of government and religious persecution. Unfair policies and spiritual hierarchy, along with unbearable taxation, served as the motivators for families to uproot and risk everything.

Oppression lingered in the minds of these pilgrims, and their response was to establish congregations that mirrored the newly embraced form of democratic government. Once and for all, we would be free from persecution and tyrannical rule in our houses of worship.

Another major contributing factor to the congregational structure was the effects of the Protestant Reformation which was now firmly established in religious thinking. The doctrine of the priesthood of the believer declared that every believer has direct access to God without requiring a human mediator. It is easy to see the direct correlation between an individual’s personal connection with God and the rejection of spiritual leadership after so many centuries of spiritual aristocracy and hierarchy within Christianity.

If It’s Good Enough for the USA

The majority of the rural churches did not have a bishop or pastor to lead them. So circuit-riding preachers would travel from church to church on Sundays teaching from the Scriptures. The prevailing attitude became that the preacher tells us what the Bible says without actually meddling in our day to day lives.

Today, the average small church in America is still democratic, choosing deacons, trustees or elders through a popular vote, and voting on the installation of a new preacher whenever called for.

This attitude is so ingrained in church DNA that the thought of a pastor or staff-led church sounds like heresy. It prevails from one generation to the next.

If It’s Not Biblical, What Is It?

Ephesians 4:1-16 gives us uncompromised clarity about how Jesus intended for His church to be structured.

A church led by those God has called to lead will equip the saints to do the work of the ministry. The results will be a church that models maturity, stability, integrity and community.

This passage also states very clearly that His church will grow. At its core, a healthy church grows both deep and wide, in character and numerically.

So, can a congregationally-led church be healthy?

In most cases, the answer is no. And even if they experience health for a season, it’s not likely to be sustained.

A small church mentality is what keeps a church small. A proper understanding of how Jesus intended for His church to work should eventually motivate us to adopt His design for His church.

Leading a shift from congregational leadership to staff-led leadership is no small feat. But as our team at The Unstuck Group continues to serve stuck churches, this is one of the major reasons vision has stalled out and churches are starting to die.

Tony Morgan and Amy Anderson dive deeper into this topic in a recent episode of The Leadership Unstuck Podcast. Check it out here:

Episode 10 – Staff vs. Congregational Leadership

Does choosing a new shade of paint for the lobby require approvals from three different committees at your church? Maybe it’s time to start asking if your current structure is the best way to make decisions.

This episode addresses challenges that both staff-led and congregation-led churches face and provides clear roles for effective lay leadership boards.

About the Author: 

Dale Sellers has been in ministry for 35 years. He and his wife, Gina, have been married for 34 years. They have three daughters and two sons-in-law. Their first grandchild is due in July! He launched Dale Sellers Leadership, Inc. in March 2014 to assist organizations in the areas of leadership, inspiration, and evangelism. He has recently become an Associate Consultant for The Unstuck Group with a focus on helping the small church. You can contact him at .

Posted in Leadership


Why Big Weekend Worship Services are not the Goal of the Church

I’ve personally been following Jesus for more than 30 years and in full-time ministry now for more than 20 years and there are still times that I get frustrated and wish the Bible gave us more answers than it really does. The New Testament is notorious for being way more descriptive than prescriptive in its approach. It describes much of what happened during the early stages of this new movement called the Church getting off the ground but it shares very little about how we should be doing Church today.

For instance, even the idea of having deacons was a pragmatic response that the Apostles had in Acts chapter 6 to meet the need of running a feeding program so they could focus on what they were supposed to focus on. And churches have been mimicking this practice ever since.

That being said, it’s really interesting to me that the modern church has fallen in love with a practice that the New Testament doesn’t actually prescribe anywhere, weekend worship services.

Now don’t hear what I’m not saying. I’m a big proponent of churches providing meaningful, engaging and relevant weekend worship services. Not because that’s the mission of the church, but because it’s the most effective strategy in North America to expose people to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In other words large weekend worship gatherings are a strategy, not the mission.

The Mission is the Goal not the Strategy

When you love a strategy more then you love the mission you’ve got the right recipe for a declining church. When the strategy stops working it’s not time to give up on the mission, it’s time to employ a new strategy. The mission of the church is not to get a bunch of people in a big room at one time for a great show, the mission of the church is to help people meet Jesus. Don’t get those two things confused.

Strategies are Designed to Serve the Mission not the other way around

Strategies are fine as long as they are effective in moving you towards the mission Jesus has already defined for His Church. The moment a strategy becomes a lid or a hindrance to accomplishing the mission it’s time for it to go. If your weekend worship service is no longer effective it’s time for it to change. And the easiest way to measure the effectiveness of the weekend worship service at your church is by measuring life-change. Are people meeting Jesus and are their lives changing as they get to know Him and follow Him?

Posted in Leadership, Spiritual Formation


Top Posts of 2013 #10: “Church Boards Gone Wild”

For the next couple of days I’m going to be counting down the top 10 posts from 2013 here on Helping Churches Make Vision Real. These are the posts that generated the most traffic, comments, tweets, and Facebook posts. The most popular topics this year had to do with volunteers, giving, leadership, and managing the tension of being an insider-focused or outsider-focused church. We start off with a topic that every leader in every church has had to deal with at some point or another, Church Boards.

If you’ve led in a church for any length of time you can probably tell some stories of experiences you’ve had with dysfunctional Church Boards. Church Boards become dysfunctional for a variety of reasons. But more often than not they become dysfunctional because those involved simply don’t understand their role or what the function of the Board is. What is more, those involved with the Board fail to understand what the church needs from them as a Board at the different stages of growth that the church experiences. Below are the 4 basic stages that a Board goes through as a church experiences growth.

Stage 1: Doers

Early in the life of a church and in smaller churches the Board Members are usually up to their elbows doing ministry. They are usually the ones leading ministries right along side of the Pastor. At this stage the Board is leading with the Church Staff. Church size: 0-250

Stage 2: Approvers

As the church begins to grow and change so does the role of the Board. They move from doing ministry (that’s not to say they’re not involved in ministry, it’s just no longer their primary function) to approving the decisions and direction that the church is taking. Church size: 250-800

Stage 3: Reviewers

Next the Board transitions to no longer approving every decision but rather trust the staff that is in day-to-day leadership roles to lead the church. The board is kept informed and made aware of how things are progressing. The decisions that they are involved with at this stage involve higher-level directional decisions that have a trickle down affect. Church size: 800-2,500

Stage 4: Counselors

Ultimately as the church grows into the 1,000’s the Board then moves into a role where they are taking on a 30,000-foot view and act more as wise counsel to the Staff that are leading the Church. Unable to stay completely informed of the complexities and pace of a large organization they become the keepers to the gate of the mission and vision and in so doing they begin to serve as both the brakes and the gas pedal. They are involved in very few actual organizational decisions at this stage, but those decisions they are involved with affect the entire organization. Church size: 2,500+

Often times churches get stuck and boards become dysfunctional because the board and the staff that relate to the board don’t understand these simple stages and the transitions that need to take place at each stage.


Posted in Leadership