Church Membership

from Grace Hills Church

from Grace Hills Church

We live in a world where joining organizations is becoming less and less popular.  It affects us in churches as we invite people to be members of our congregations.  The cultural resistance to joining comes into conflict with appeals to join a local congregation.  Recently I had a young friend who was visiting a church that she liked a lot, but was wondering if she needed to join write to me about joining.  Here is what I said: Continue reading


Size-Appropriate Structures

Screen Shot 2013-07-29 at 4.17.06 PMWe all know an ‘intimate dinner’ of three or four couples has a different function and planning level than a party to which you invite seventy or eighty.  We also know that a Morris Mini has a different engine and transmission than does a delivery truck.  In the same manner, we have different equipment to fish for bluegill off the pier than we would if we fished for tuna in the ocean.  Yet sometimes we act in churches as if supporting structures in the church are the same for an eighty-member congregation as for a five thousand-member congregation, just bigger.

One of the pieces of wisdom shared in church growth circles is that if you combine a couple of two hundred-member churches, you will get one two hundred member church—because they know how to be a two hundred-member church!  What that statement tries to highlight is that different sizes of congregations need different structures to support their size.  When internal structures do not match the size of a church two things can happen; either growth is inhibited or internal discomfort and conflict arises. Continue reading


The political conventions have begun.  The speakers complain that ‘those others’ won’t reach across the aisle and work together.  At the same time they begin to attack the other’s views.  Next week it will be the same song; second verse.   There will be no love lost in the coming election cycle.

I am struck with how much of a politicized culture we are immersed in.  In the faith community we speak of covenant relationships; forbearing one another.  Yet , some meanest fights I’ve ever witnessed have taken place in churches. {Granted they may not be the most brutal, but it seems like church fights go to a place of intentionally leaving deep emotional wounds.  As a pastor I recall trying to reach out to folks who were ‘un-churched’ but found that many of those we were reaching had been ‘de-churched.’  In my messages when I brought up the area of being hurt by a church it was as if a bolt of electricity shot through the room!  There was almost a physical change in about 60% of the people.   Continue reading

Congregational Structure

I have just been referred to a book on congregational structures by the general presbyter here in Presbytery of Eastern Virginia.  The book, Winning on Purpose by John Kaiser already seems to be something rather revolutionary for those in the Presbyterian Church.  In the introduction, Tom Bandy writes, “The organizations of the established church today are anything but ‘effective.’  Originally designed to produce mission results, they have gradually become so complicated and cumbersome as to only produce reports, maintain salaries, and preserve properties.  Organizations start out as a means to an end;  but unless they adapt to the context of mission, they soon become an end in themselves.”  Paul Borden writes in the forward, “Structure does not dominate, but rather it enhances and allows ministry to grow and flourish.  The structure in our congregations allows leaders to lead, staff to manage, boards to govern, and congregations to be involved in significant outward-focused ministries.”  The executive summary supplied to me by our presbytery resonates with much of my experience and observation.

I am embarking on the reading of this book and would relish an opportunity to discuss its ideas with any interested.  One of the questions I’m asking is if this structural change is possible within the presbyterian family.  Another is how difficult is it to transition to this model for effective ministry?  Email me at if you’d be interested in engaging in this conversation!