This is the Congregational Structure Statement as adopted by the 2000 Annual Conference. You may download and distribute this document without permission. This report is available in printed form from Brethren Press.
Congregational Structure Query
Whereas: We, at the Annual Conference level, have not dealt with congregational structure since 1964;
Whereas: our district has many churches that are struggling with issues around the effectiveness of the commission-oriented structure and the official board-oriented structure;
Whereas: We, the Church Development Commission found that congregations could improve the quality of their congregational life by implementing changes in their structure;
Therefore, we, the Church Development Commission of the Atlantic Northeast District request the 1995 District Conference at Elizabethtown, Pa., to petition the Annual Conference to appoint a committee to evaluate and study our current congregational structures and propose other congregational structure options that also maintain the integrity and biblical precedences of our Brethren heritage.
The action of the Atlantic Northeast District Board: The District Board of Atlantic Northeast District, meeting in regular session on August 5, 1995, passed the query on to District Conference, which will meet October 14, 1995, in Elizabethtown, Pa.
J. Mark Bushong, Board Chair
Linda Balsbaugh, Recording Secretary
The action of the Atlantic Northeast District Conference: Passed on to Annual Conference, Church of the Brethren, by the Atlantic Northeast District Conference, meeting October 14, 1995, in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania.
J. Calvin Wenger, Moderator
Bonnie Hutchinson, Clerk
The action of the 1996 Annual Conference: Sarah Ann Bowman, a Standing Committee member from the Virlina District, presented the recommendation from Standing Committee that concerns of the Query: Congregational Structure be accepted and further recommended that because of the redesign of the General Board the action related to the query be deferred until 1998. The delegate body adopted the recommendation of Standing Committee.
From the Conference Secretary: This item of business is included in the 1997 Conference Booklet as a reminder that it continues to be business of the Annual Conference. This query has been deferred to the 1998 Annual Conference where it will be received as an item of new business.
Action of the 1997 Annual Conference: The delegate body was reminded that the query, Congregational Structure, will be processed as an item of new business at the 1998 Annual Conference. No action was taken.
Action of the 1998 Annual Conference: Standing Committee member Janet Whetzel presented the Standing Committee recommendation that the query be accepted, that a three person study committee be elected, and that the committee report back to the 1999 Annual Conference. The delegate body adopted the recommendation of Standing Committee. It subsequently elected Wanda Will Button, Sam Detwiler, and Robert D. Kettering to serve on the committee.
1999 Progress Report
The committee has met once and has conferred by telephone. Preliminary writing and outlining of our work has been done. A bibliography has been prepared and will be distributed at Annual Conference. A survey regarding congregational structure was developed and sent to all congregations and the returned surveys tallied. “Thank-You” to the 428 congregations that returned the survey. We are planning for a time of conversation with the Congregational Life Team members and anticipate an Insight Session at 1999 Annual Conference.
We ask for another year to complete our work.
Wanda W. Button, Chair
Samuel K. Detwiler
Robert D. Kettering
Action of the 1999 Annual Conference: The progress report was presented by Wanda W. Button, chair of the committee. The delegate body voted to receive the progress report.
Congregational Structure Statement
Norman J. Baugher wrote, concerning the production of a new worship and polity manual, “No religious society or movement can long endure which does not adapt and apply itself and its body of faith and program to the living generation” (Manual of Worship and Polity, Church of the Brethren, Brethren Publishing House, 1953, Foreward, p.4). This is true of congregational structure as well. Over the course of time many factors, such as size, vision, local demographics, bring about changes in congregations. In order to address the changing needs of congregational life, new organizational structures need to emerge so the mission of the congregation can move forward.
Congregational structures are therefore fluid rather than static in nature. From the New Testament record we discover a church in the midst of change and changing organizational structures, so that needs such as the calling of deacons, church councils, and elders could be addressed. From the birth of the church, its structures have been evolving into new forms. The church is no different in our day.
In 1964 Annual Conference adopted a one board/three commission pattern. This pattern has been helpful in reminding the church of its threefold focus in ministry: the nurture of its own members, the witness to the world, and the call to stewardship. It has been helpful in broadening the representation of church members in its administrative body. However, some congregations have recognized that:
- organizational structure needs to be simplified;
- administration of program often consumes too much time and energy;
- mission, vision, and core values need to be clarified;
- leaders have been chosen by an election process that has produced winners and losers rather than by a process of discerning and discovering persons’ gifts;
- members need to be called to specific ministry tasks rather than to a board;
- the deacon ministry of the church has not been adequately integrated into the structure of the congregation;
- tasks have often not been properly defined, so members are inadequately informed about what they are asked to do;
- a continuing group needs to be called specifically to work with the pastor(s) on congregational/pastoral relationships;
- new language may be needed to describe the way we structure our lives together;
- within the boundaries of the stated mission, vision, and policies of the congregation, individuals and groups need to be given greater freedom to initiate and carry out projects.
In response to these concerns, and in light of the fact that nearly half the congregations responding to the committee’s survey are no longer using the recommended organizational structure detailed in the 1992 Church of the Brethren Manual of Organization and Polity (see Appendix 1), the Congregational Structure Study Committee has developed a new model for Annual Conference to consider.
The new model proposes to congregations that:
- mission, vision, and core functions be clarified before Ministry Teams are established;
- the number of Ministry Teams be determined by the core functions or ministries which relate to and carry out the mission/vision and by the size of the congregation;
- persons be chosen for various positions by a gifts discernment process which involves a Gifts Discernment Team and affirmation/confirmation by the Congregational Forum of each person called;
- persons be called to a specific ministry rather than to a “Board” which would then assign members to special areas of service as called for in Chapter 4 of the 1992 Church of the Brethren Manual of Organization and Polity;
- members be adequately informed of the tasks to which they are called through printed position descriptions;
- the deacon ministry of the church be integrated into the structure of the congregation;
- a Pastoral Relations Team be established.
Not every congregation in the denomination will find this new model relevant. However, what we present is our best effort at being open to the Holy Spirit in searching for ways in which our structures can energize and revitalize the church for more effective witness and ministry through the local church.
The proposed model is based upon the belief that the starting point for structuring church organization is for the congregation to develop clear understandings and statements regarding its mission (what it is called to be) and its vision (what it is called to do). The core functions, those areas of ministry that are essential to the life of a congregation, grow out of its mission and vision. The number of Ministry Teams is based upon the congregation’s mission and vision and its size.
Integral to this understanding of congregational life is a process of discernment that seeks to identify and call out the spiritual gifts among the membership. Persons are called by the church based upon their unique spiritual gifts. Congregational elections are replaced by a congregational call and affirmation which eliminates the concept of elections that create winners and losers. Clear descriptions of every position in the church are essential in helping persons issue and respond to a call from the church.
In a change from the present organizational structure, two additional issues address deacons as an important part of the new structure and a Pastoral Relations Team as a group in its own right to deal with pastoral needs and concerns.
Also new is shaping congregational life around mission, vision and discerning of spiritual gifts. This requires new nomenclature. Therefore, vocabulary is being suggested that seeks to embody the concept of vitality and ministry rather than busyness and bureaucracy.
Organizational patterns are neither sacred nor unimportant. The way we organize ourselves, the clarity of vision for ministry, the language used to describe groups and tasks within the church, the degree of freedom given to carry out a task, the way we call leadership are all important. Organizational structure is a tool that can either enable or impede ministry. The committee has seen its task as offering a flexible tool that will enable congregations to develop their own unique organizational plan, so they might better carry out their mission.
The Congregational Structure Study Committee thanks local churches who sent their organizational plans and other materials with their response to the survey (see Appendix 1). We also acknowledge with gratitude the encouragement, suggestions, advice, and criticism offered by many congregations, groups, and individuals across our denomination.
In addition, serving as an Advisory Team was a group that included the Annual Conference moderator and representatives of the General Board, the Ministers’ Association, the Council of District Executives, the Association of Brethren Caregivers, the General Board’s Congregational Life Teams, and the denominational New Church Development Committee. This team offered invaluable advice and suggestions. The new organizational model being proposed in this paper stems directly from these many contributions.
BIBLICAL FOUNDATION OF CONGREGATIONAL STRUCTURE
The Christian church, unlike any other organization, is called together by God through Jesus Christ to live according to a new commandment, “that you love one another” (Matt. 16:16-18, John 13:35). Following the example of Jesus, leaders in the church are called to be servants (Luke 22:25-27). Leaders are called to be people of high moral character and maturity (Titus 1:5-9). In the earliest days of the church, the apostles learned they couldn’t do everything; that others needed to be called to certain tasks. From them we learn that leaders in the church are willing and eager to delegate responsibility and authority (Acts 6:1-7).
The church is the body of Christ-living, dynamic, and growing with all its parts interdependent. Each part has a different function, but the functioning of every part is essential to the health of the whole body (1 Cor. 12:12-26).
Through the power of the Holy Spirit, a variety of spiritual gifts are given for the purpose of building up the body (1 Cor. 12: 4-11, Eph. 4:11-12). The bestowing of these spiritual gifts is the foundation for the structure and organization that God calls us to create.
Paul writes in his letter to the Romans, “We have gifts that differ according to the grace given us” (Rom. 12:6a). Paul also writes, “Do not neglect the gift that is in you” (1 Tim. 4:14-16). We understand that every member has at least one God-given gift that is needed by the church and must be nurtured; and so, like good stewards of the grace of God, we are to serve one another with whatever gift each of us has received (2 Tim. 1:6-9, 1 Peter 4:10).
As congregations structure themselves for ministry, we believe they are called to prayerfully discern God’s plan for discovering and nurturing the spiritual gifts of all members, empowering and freeing them to use their gifts through the ministry of the church.
Throughout the nearly 300-year history of the Church of the Brethren, church structures at the local and denominational levels have emerged, evolved, and changed. The church started with no formal organization or structure. A small group simply gathered in Schwarzenau, where they searched the Scriptures together and prayed, seeking the mind of Christ until they were able to arrive at a common understanding. This consensus approach became increasingly difficult as more members were added to the group and as new groups were formed in other communities. A leader emerged early on, Alexander Mack, Sr., but before the move of many Brethren to Pennsylvania, no formal congregational plan had developed. (“Polity,” S. Loren Bowman, Church of the Brethren, Yesterday and Today, Donald F. Durnbaugh, ed., 1986, p.86)
The Germantown congregation, which was the first in the new world, chose an elder. Council meetings developed in connection with the yearly love feast. Membership grew. As families moved away into the surrounding rural areas and later into the West, new congregations were created. Elders, teachers, preachers, deacons, and bishops were called or elected by these new congregations. Church leaders from the congregations met regularly to seek unity on controversial issues.
By the mid-19th century an organizational pattern had emerged. Each congregation had two or three preachers. Teachers and deacons were chosen by the vote of all members, men and women. Bishops were chosen from among the teachers. Elders were ordained by the laying on of hands and by prayer. Their duty was to travel from one congregation to another to preach, to discipline, and to be present when a bishop was to be ordained or when a significant happening was to take place in the congregation. The bishops had general oversight of their own congregation and of other congregations that had no bishop. The deacons or “visiting brethren” were to take special care of the poor widows and their children, as well as to visit all the families or members of their congregation once a year (The Brethren in the New Nation, Roger E. Sappington, 1976, pp. 199-200).
The office of elder became increasingly influential and into the early 20th century was the primary power center in the congregations. Also, “Deacons exerted considerable influence in the affairs of the congregation, with responsibility in nurture and the faithfulness of the members. The women had no voice in the public deliberations of the congregation. Operationally the general picture was that of a tightly knit group shaping its life by the teachings of the New Testament, with the Elders in charge of the congregation” (Power and Polity Among the Brethren, S. Loren Bowman, 1987, p. 50). The elders and pastors meeting with the deacons became the organizational pattern of the local congregations for many years (Minister’s Manual, Church of the Brethren, 1946, p. 37).
As Brethren became interested and involved in Sunday schools, higher education, publication, and missions at home and abroad, boards and committees came into existence at the denominational level. Early in the 20th century, members of these boards and committees recognized the need to work toward wider cooperation, especially in program and finances, and so a Council of Boards was formed through which they voluntarily shared and planned together for a more effective ministry (Power and Polity Among the Brethren, S. Loren Bowman, 1987, pp. 81-82).
Reorganization at the denominational level in 1947 drew these various boards and committees together into one centralized board with five program commissions. In 1968 further reorganization reduced the number of commissions to three. These reorganizations had a major impact on local congregations. They were encouraged to bring together into one unified official board or church cabinet the elders, ministers, deacons, and other “functional leadership of the church” that had developed through the years, so they could “pool their plans, problems, leadership resources, and financial needs. . . In this central group should be representation from all the age groups and special-cause groups and important committees of the church” (Minister’s Manual, Church of the Brethren, 1946, p. 36).
The 1964 Annual Conference adopted the one board/three commission (nurture, witness, stewards) model as the recommended plan for local congregational organization. A majority of our congregations have used this model during the past 30 years. However, many congregations report having modified that plan in recent years or having made other substantial organizational changes. Slightly fewer than half of the 435 congregations responding to the committee’s survey, report that they are currently using the one board/three commission model.
The following is based on the 1992 Church of the Brethren Manual of Organization and Polity, Chapter 4, “The Local church.”
I. Organization and Function
Preliminary to any plan of local church organization is an understanding of the mission of the church. This mission, set forth in the great commission, though never fully understood, may be defined as having an inner and an outer direction. The inner mission of the church is to nurture its members, seeking ever to bring them more and more to the stature of maturity in Christ. The outer mission of the church is to be related, as God’s instrument, to the problems and the needs of the world. These two major functions of the church are achieved to the extent that they are undergirded with stewardship of time, talent, and material resources.
The congregation is a basic unit of the church at work in the world. Servants of the Lord must be alert to the needs and the opportunities about them. They must make their ministry relevant to the changing times and should always be creative in communicating the Word and the love of God.
To these ends each local congregation should develop its own articles of incorporation (where applicable), constitution, and bylaws, clearly defining its organizational structure and working procedures in harmony with Church of the Brethren and district polity. Articles of incorporation are the formal legal document filed with the state of incorporation. A constitution is regarded as a statement of the fundamental principles of government adopted by the church. The bylaws are detailed rules and regulations which allow for the effective working of the congregation within its basic principles and procedures to be incorporated into a local church plan of organization. This organization plan is a model only and should not necessarily be taken as legal articles of incorporation. If the church is to be duly incorporated by the state in which it is located, the congregation shall consult the District Office for proper compliance to state corporation laws.
II. Articles of Incorporation
Articles of Incorporation should provide the information required by the state of incorporation. It is usually preferable that the articles contain only information required by state law.
III. Suggested Constitution
(While a constitution is not legally required for an incorporated congregation, it has often been used even by such a congregation to designate fundamental positions. If a constitution is not used, the kinds of information described in this section may be contained in the bylaws.)
A. Name of the Congregation
The local church shall have an official name. The church is deserving of a Christian name.
B. Affirmation of Faith and Purpose
1. Is founded upon the faith that there is but one God who is a personal God who in holy love creates, sustains, and orders all.
2. Confesses Jesus Christ as the Lord of the church and of all life.
3. Believes that the Holy Spirit is at work in the hearts and minds of believers, creating and sustaining the church through the gospel, giving guidance and comfort, and uniting believers with their Lord and with one another.
4. Maintains the New Testament as its only creed and rule of faith. In the Holy Scriptures is recorded God’s search for all persons which is climaxed in God’s redemptive act in and through Christ. Through the Bible God still speaks and continues to accomplish God’s redemptive purposes.
5. Believes that the gospel is the good news that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself. Through the gospel God’s sovereign will and Christ’s redeeming grace are revealed.
6. Believes that the gospel is the good news that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself. Through the gospel God’s sovereign will and Christ’s redeeming grace are revealed.
7. Considers that all members of the congregation, of the body of believers, are responsible for the total ministry of the church.
8. Accepts the ministry of the church to be the proclamation and fulfillment of the gospel for all people both near and far, and the nurture of the individual believers in the Christian faith and life.
C. Mission and Vision Statements
The congregation should discern, develop, and implement mission and vision statements. The mission statement defines the primary purpose of the church, why the congregation exists, and their understanding of what God is calling them to be. The vision statement defines the specific ministries to which the congregation understands God to be calling them, what God is calling them to do. The mission statement should be reviewed at least every five years and the vision statement every three years.
D. Relationship to the Whole Church
1. The Church Universal
The local church is part of a larger whole which comprises the complete body of Christ. The local church, therefore, shall recognize other Christian bodies and denominations, and shall seek to cooperate with, and give direction to, the united efforts of the church.
2. The Church Denominational
The congregation shall covenant to support faithfully the program of the Church of the Brethren, recognizing Annual Conference enactments of the Church of the Brethren as having governing force in its life, and shall remain a member of the Church of the Brethren or its successor. The congregation shall send delegates to those official conferences of the Church of the Brethren in which it is entitled to have representation. In case of strife or division, if any part of the congregation refuses to abide by its obligation as a member of the Church of the Brethren, that part of the congregation, whether a majority or minority of its membership, which continues in unity with the Church of the Brethren shall be recognized as the lawful congregation and shall continue in possession of all the property of the congregation.
If the congregation (a) disbands, (b) departs from membership in the Church of the Brethren, or (c) so decreases in numbers and financial strength as to render the congregation unable to fulfill its purpose, the district of the Church of the Brethren in which it is located, or the successor, shall have the right to take charge and control of all property and thereafter to hold, manage and convey the same at the discretion of the district. All action taken by the district relating to the property of a congregation shall be in conformity with the provisions of this manual (Chapter VI: Property Holdings and Financial Resources.)
1. Meaning of Membership
According to the New Testament, life in Christ means life in the body of Christ. “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body” (I Cor. 12:13), so that we, “though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another” (Rom. 12:5). Membership in a local fellowship of believers, the congregation, is the way in which we affirm and live out our membership in Christ’s larger body, the church universal. In our interrelatedness with other Christians in the local church, we experience the fullness of the gifts of the Spirit, we discover ways to be faithful to our covenant with God and each other, and we’re able to support one another in carrying out our common calling as the people of God. So it was in the house churches of the earliest Christians; and so it is in the life of God’s people today.
From the time of its beginnings, the Church of the Brethren has affirmed the importance of church membership and sought ways to make church membership more meaningful. It is appropriate, therefore, for the congregation and its members to reflect on their mutual accountability to one another. On the one hand, the congregation has a covenantal responsibility to care for its members, to encourage growth in freedom and discipleship, to help members discover their gifts and find ways to serve, and to provide ministries which respond to both spiritual and physical needs. On the other hand, each member has a covenantal responsibility to participate regularly in the life of the congregation, to seek the counsel of the church in living out the way of Christ, to challenge the church to greater accountability to its calling, to respond to opportunities to serve in the congregation and beyond, and to contribute to the church’s ministries in every way possible. Congregations may use these general guidelines as a basis for developing more specific expectations for their membership.
At the heart of our calling as members of Christ’s body is the summons to follow Christ as his disciples. Christians do not live unto themselves but are called to seek first the kingdom of God, to risk themselves for Christ’s sake, to take up the way of the cross. To accept and practice the costly grace of radical discipleship is no easy task. In the community of faith, however, we find courage and strength to live out our discipleship in solidarity with others.
2. Entering Into and Renewing Church Membership
Membership in the local church is open to all persons who by their own act of faith say yes to God’s offer of new life in Christ and accept the vocation of the covenant community, as taught and practiced by the Church of the Brethren. One of the responsibilities of the congregation is to reach out to persons irrespective of race, national origin, or status in life, to share with them the good news of God’s grace in Jesus Christ, and to invite them to enter into the life of Christ’s body.
When persons respond to this invitation, the church shall take steps to prepare them for membership. Part of this preparation should consist of classes of sufficient length on the meaning of church membership. Such classes offer an opportunity for persons to explore the faith and history of the wider Christian community, to study the particular story and distinctive emphases of the Church of the Brethren, and to become familiar with the life and expectations of the congregation they will be entering. In addition to providing membership classes, the congregation may choose to identify persons who will serve as sponsors of new members to assist in their orientation into the life of the church. In whatever ways the congregation chooses to prepare persons for membership, the pastor or minister has a key role to play here.
When persons seeking membership have completed their period of preparation, the deacons shall recommend them for membership in the congregation. Following a congregational confirmation of acceptance as members, persons may be received into the church in one of three ways:
a. Confession of faith and baptism by trine immersion as practiced by the Church of the Brethren.
b. A letter transferring membership from another congregation of the Church of the Brethren or of another Christian denomination.
c. Reaffirmation of faith and renewal of the commitment to membership made at an earlier time in another congregation.
Whatever the particular mode of reception, the act of receiving new members should be a festive moment in the life of a congregation. It is a time for old and new members to affirm their relationship with one another, a time to celebrate the joys and responsibilities of living in covenant in Christ’s body, and a time to lift up the lifelong process of growth to which baptism should lead.
The sequel to entering into membership is the renewing of membership. Only as we regularly renew our covenant with God and with one another does that covenant function in a vital way. Historically, Brethren worked at renewal of membership through an annual visit by the deacons to the homes of members to reflect on the health of each person’s relationship with Christ and the church-and through the love feast which traditionally followed that visit. Whether through its practice or through other models of calling one another to accountability, the congregation shall provide its members with annual opportunities to examine their faith and calling and to renew or reaffirm their relationship with the church. As a part of this process, members may be invited to make specific commitments related to their participation in the life and work of the church.
3. Membership Classification
Members shall be classified in one of three ways for statistical purposes and reported accordingly on annual report forms:
a. Members. Members of the congregation shall consist of those persons who have been received into the church by baptism, letter, or reaffirmation of the faith, and who choose to continue their membership when the congregation invites them to examine and renew the covenant relationship, thereby confirming their intention to fulfill the responsibilities of members as described above.
In congregations which are aligned with two or more denominations, members shall be regarded as full members of each of the related denominations, nurtured in and oriented to the traditions of each church,and encouraged to enrich one another through their differences, seeking strength and unity together. Annual report forms shall provide a way for such congregations to identify their multiple affiliation, so that statistics on membership and giving can be understood in the light of dual or multiple commitments.
b. Associate members. Congregations may grant associate membership to two categories of persons:
(1) Temporary residents, such as students and winter residents who participate in the life of a congregation on a seasonal or short-term basis, and who continue to hold membership in another congregation in the community of their permanent residence
(2) Former residents, persons who have moved to a new location in which there is no Church of the Brethren, and who wish to continue a relationship with the Brethren at the same time that they become members of another Christian community.
Associate members have the right to vote and hold office in the congregation granting their associate status, and have a responsibility to contribute resources to support the ministries of that congregation. Associate members are not eligible to serve on the leadership team or to represent the congregation as delegates to district or Annual Conferences. (For more detailed guidelines on the rights and responsibilities of associate members see Section III.2 of the 1985 Annual Conference Membership Study Committee report.)
c. Separated Members. Separated members consist of those persons who were received into the church as members, but who no longer participate in the church’s life or carry out the commitments expected of members, and who for three consecutive years fail to respond to invitations to reaffirm or renew their relationship with the congregation. Whether the causes of separation have to do with the individual, the congregation, or both, the congregation shall continue to explore ways to restore the broken relationship. Guidelines for working at reconciliation and restoration may be found in the 1976 Annual Conference statement on “Discipleship and Reconciliation.” For statistical purposes, members whose residence is unknown and cannot be ascertained for three consecutive years will also be designated as separated members.
4. Membership Termination
Membership in a congregation of the Church of the Brethren may be terminated in one of the following ways:
b. Transfer of membership by letter. A letter of transfer is the property of the congregation and shall go from the granting to the receiving congregation. Either the letter or accompanying note should indicate whether the member for whom the letter is being sent is a member or separated member.
c. Withdrawal. This action shall be taken by the congregation at the written request of the individual.
d. Removal. The congregation may act to remove a person’s name from the list of members when:
(1) A member has joined another church, but failed to request a letter of transfer.
(2) The congregation determines that all attempts at reconciliation have failed.
F. Congregational Forum
In the Church of the Brethren, the Congregational Forum is understood to be the final authority and governing body within the local congregation; it is the church in business session. The Congregational Forum shall be a place of open dialog where members hear reports, discuss new ideas, envision and approve goals, evaluate past accomplishments, make decisions for future direction, and record the voice of the congregation on current issues where Christian witness is urgent. Names used for this gathering should reflect the congregation’s understanding of itself and might include Congregational Forum, Congregational Business Meeting, Church Council, or Congregational Gathering.
The Congregational Forum shall call officers, deacons, Ministry Team chairs, a Pastoral Relations Team member, and the two at-large members of the Gifts Discernment Team. The Congregational Forum shall also adopt budgets, rule on policy and organizational matters, and authorize church officials to act on behalf of the congregation. Separated members shall not be eligible to participate and vote in the Congregational Forum. The Congregational Forum should strive for prayerful consensus and unity in its decision making.
G. Officers of the Church
The officers of the Congregational Forum shall be the moderator, the church clerk, the treasurer, and the chair of the Leadership Team (who also serves as assistant moderator).
The Congregational Forum officers shall make decisions on behalf of the Leadership Team at their direction or in emergency situations between regularly scheduled Leadership Team meetings. Decisions of the Congregational Forum officers shall be made by consensus. If consensus cannot be achieved, the decision must be made by the Leadership Team.
H. Legal Officers/Trustees
Local Congregations need to identify and empower legal officers/trustees as required by the state in which the congregation is located.
I. Leadership Team
There shall be a Leadership Team consisting of the Leadership Team chair, chairs of the Ministry Teams and the moderator who serves as vice-chair. The pastor(s), the church clerk, the deacon chair, and the treasurer shall be ex-officio without vote.
The Leadership Team shall be invested with administrative powers to plan, coordinate, integrate, and supervise the ongoing program of the congregation. The Leadership Team is primarily responsible for program, long-range planning, initiation or discontinuation of programs, and the setting of goals and objectives. The Leadership Team shall be empowered to act on behalf of the Congregational Forum ad interim except for those actions specifically reserved for the Congregational Forum as set forth in this constitution and bylaws.
The Leadership Team is accountable to the Congregational Forum. The Leadership Team shall assure that the mission and vision of the congregation are fulfilled by encouraging and empowering the development of new ministries by individuals and groups and also by evaluating existing ministries and modifying or discontinuing them. These ministries shall aid in fulfilling the mission and vision of the congregation and shall be faithful to the Church of the Brethren heritage and its understanding of the New Testament as the rule of faith and practice.
The chair of the Leadership Team shall be called for a three-year term by the Congregational Forum. The moderator shall serve as vice chair and the church clerk as secretary of the Leadership Team. The Leadership Team shall strive for prayerful consensus and unity in its decision making.
J. Ministry Teams
Ministry Teams shall be created by the Congregational Forum and are accountable to the Leadership Team. Each Team shall be composed of three or more members, including a chair, called by the Congregational Forum. Other Ministry Team members shall be called by the Leadership Team and the Gifts Discernment Team. The moderator, Leadership Team chair, and the pastor(s) shall be ex-officio members without vote on all Ministry Teams. Each Ministry Team shall choose from its membership a vice-chair and secretary.
As needed, depending upon the work load and the size of the congregation, additional Ministry Teams or short-term Project Groups shall be created to carry out specific assignments. The number of Ministry Teams will be based on the identified core functions of the congregation.
In smaller congregations, if there are fewer than four voting members on the Leadership Team, Ministry Teams need not be created as such, in which case the Leadership Team shall function as a whole, delegating various responsibilities among its members. In this case, all Leadership Team members, including the chair, the moderator, the church clerk, the deacon chair, the treasurer, and the pastor, shall be voting members.
Deacons may be called for a term or for a continuing succession of three to five year terms. After each three to five year period of ministry, opportunity should be given for deacons to review their ministry experience. Following a positive review and affirmation, the deacon may enter into another period of ministry.
The deacon body’s central interest is the spiritual, physical, and emotional well-being of the church family. Its duties differ significantly from the tasks of Ministry Teams, whose responsibilities are expressed in programs aimed to support, nurture, teach, and direct the ministry and mission of all the congregation. In contrast, the deacons serve as caregivers of the congregational members.
Congregations determine the number of deacons needed to meet their needs. When deacons’ duties include a care giving ministry to every household in the congregation, a suggested guide is one deacon caregiver for every 10 active households. (1997 Annual Conference Statement on Deacon Ministry in the Church of the Brethren, p. 16.)
The deacons shall serve as the Membership Team. They shall recommend persons for membership. They shall consult with the pastor(s) regarding the listing, classification, reporting, and termination of membership.
The deacons shall receive the names for the at-large positions on the Gifts Discernment Team and shall discern, call, and present the persons to the Congregational Forum for affirmation.
The deacons shall appoint a deacon representative to serve on the Pastoral Relations Team.
The deacon body chair serves as a member of the Leadership Team by virtue of office without vote. The deacon body representative serves as a member of the Gifts Discernment Team with vote. A deacon body representative also serves on the Pastoral Relations Team. The deacon body is accountable to the Congregational Forum to whom it will report directly.
The office of deacon is a congregational office and does not automatically transfer when a deacon moves to a new congregation. The call to participate in the deacon body comes as a decision of the Congregational Forum based on the individual’s qualifications and the needs of the congregation.
L. Gifts Discernment Team
The Gifts Discernment Team shall:
1. Oversee the gifts discernment process and talent/interest/skill inventories.
2. Keep accurate records of member profiles.
3. Serve as consultative group to church leadership in securing persons for ministries in the church.
4. Develop descriptions for every position in the church using a standardized form to include position, title, term, tenure, group to whom accountable, budget resources, duties and appointments.
5. Oversee the calling of the Congregational Forum officers, the deacons, the chairs of the Ministry Teams, the two at-large members of the Gifts Discernment Team, a Pastoral Relations Team member, delegates to District and Annual Conference using the following process:
a. At least six weeks prior to the congregational call, the Gifts Discernment Team shall announce the positions needing to be filled and corresponding responsibilities.
b. During that six-week period the Gifts Discernment Team shall be responsible for educating the congregation on discernment of spiritual gifts and the call process.
c. The moderator shall convene a Congregational Forum following a Sunday morning worship service at which time the Gifts Discernment Team shall distribute a blank ballot with a listing of positions to be filled.
d. Names of ineligible persons (church officers and Leadership Team members serving unexpired terms) shall be shared with the church.
e. After a time of prayer and discernment the members of the congregation shall be instructed to write the name of the person they believe should be called to each position which is open.
f. The Gifts Discernment Team shall receive these names and based upon these names from the Congregational Forum, the spiritual gifts inventory, and prayer, issue a call on behalf of the congregation to the individual for the position.
g. The deacons shall receive the names for the at-large positions on the Gifts Discernment Team and shall discern, call, and present the persons to the Congregational Forum for affirmation.
h. When all positions are filled through this process, the persons who have accepted the call for their respective positions will be affirmed by the Congregational Forum.
i. In the event of an unclear call or a call that is not accepted, the Gifts Discernment Team, after consultation with the Leadership Team, shall issue the call to another individual.
6. In the event of a vacancy, together with the Leadership Team, appoint a person to fill the unexpired term.
7. Serve as the congregational contact team for district and denominational groups responsible for calling leaders. This team shall have the responsibility for suggesting persons for district and denominational leadership.
8. Consist of the following people: pastor or member of the pastoral team, moderator (shall serve as chair), a deacon body representative, two at-large members (one woman, one man). The at-large members shall serve three years with staggered terms. All members of the Gifts Discernment Team shall serve with vote.
M. Pastoral Relations Team
The Pastoral Relations Team shall:
1. Meet with the pastor(s) quarterly, or more often as needed, in an advisory capacity and serve in maintaining good ministerial relations with the congregation.
2. Not fulfill administrative functions. Administrative functions, such as negotiating contracts and salaries, will be the responsibility of the Leadership Team.
3. Consult with the pastor(s) regarding vacations, professional growth, and training opportunities.
4. Consult with the pastor(s) regarding requests from outside individuals or groups for special appeals, programs, services, or other community or wider church involvements.
5. Assist the pastor(s) in coordinating and giving balance to the various program aspects within the congregation’s organizational structure.
6. Consist of one person appointed by the Leadership Team, one person appointed by the pastor(s), a deacon representative appointed by the deacon body, one person called for a two-year term by the Congregational Forum. (A second term may be served.) The appointed persons shall serve an indefinite term until replacement or resignation.
N. Short-term Project Groups
The Congregational Forum, the Leadership Team, or Ministry Teams may constitute or authorize short-term Project Groups to carry out specific assignments. Such groups may also be constituted by a group or individual within the congregation if the project to be done, as discerned by the Leadership Team, falls within the stated mission/vision and policies of the congregation. When the specific assignment is achieved, the Project Group shall be dismissed. Short-term Project Groups are accountable to the Ministry Team constituting them or to the Leadership Team.
1. Official Documents
The following official documents related to the ongoing activities of the congregation shall be preserved:
a. Deeds, contracts, and other legal and governing documents;
b. Minutes: Congregational Forum, Leadership Team, Ministry Teams, Project Groups, and other active groups within the congregation;
c. Records: of members including name, date received into membership, and date and reason for removal from roll; of ordinations, baptisms, weddings, deaths; worship and Sunday School attendance; annual statistical reports; financial statements; significant correspondence by and to called, appointed, and employed officers that documents congregational program and activity;
d. Publications: such as weekly worship bulletins, newsletters, bulletins or programs for special events, directories, books, pamphlets, and brochures published by the congregation.
2. Ownership of Records
All correspondence and records created by persons called or employed to act on behalf of the congregation while acting in that capacity are the property of the congregation held in trust for the use and benefit of the Church of the Brethren. Congregations are urged to arrange for the responsible and safe care of their records and documents.
3. Transfer of Records
Church records no longer in active use may be transferred by action of the congregation to a depository approved by the district board where they can be protected from damage by fire and where, under proper restrictions, they may be opened to examination.
Attention is called to the Brethren Historical Library and Archives at Elgin and to each of the Brethren college libraries as appropriate depositories for church records.
P. Structuring and Restructuring Congregations
The district board through its appropriate commission shall direct the work of church extension through the development of new fellowships and congregations, the growth of existing ones, and the receiving of unrelated congregations. When needed, guidance shall be given to the merging or disorganizing of congregations. Procedures to be followed in organizing and dividing congregations have been summarized as follows:
1. Organization of New Congregations
A body of members or the district board through its appropriate commission may call for organization when, in the judgment of the said commission, conditions of the place from which the call comes justify such organization. Area councils of churches should be notified and their counsel sought and considered.
The call for organization shall be in charge of the district board through its appropriate commission. A moderator shall be selected by the responsible commission. The commission shall provide assistance and counsel in establishing a plan of organization. It shall also assist the organizing congregation in the election of such officials as may be deemed advisable.
The new organization shall then be reported to the district conference, and after its acceptance as fellowship or congregation by that district conference, its delegates shall be seated in the district conference.
2. Merging Organized Congregations
When two or more congregations desire to merge, they shall seek the counsel and assistance of the district board. After procedural details have been determined regarding property and other assets, liabilities, organization and identity, and a plan of merger has been approved by the congregations and the district board, the board shall recommend the merger to the district conference. Following acceptance of the merger, the new congregation shall be received and its delegates seated.
3. Dividing Organized Congregations
If a majority of an organized congregation decides to divide into more than one Church of the Brethren congregation, the congregation shall notify the district board of that decision and the date of the Congregational Forum to determine lines, division of church property, etc., and to elect a moderator for each of the new congregations and other officers, if deemed advisable. The district board shall then send at least one member of the appropriate district commission to the meeting to assist the congregation in those tasks. The new organization(s) shall be reported to district conference and recognition be obtained, after which the delegates of the newly formed congregation(s) shall be seated.
If the report of the district board favoring the new organization is rejected by the congregation, the district board may, if deemed advisable, organize the petitioners as outlined above, provided two-thirds of the petitioners support the new organization.
If the report of the district board is unfavorable to the petitioners, they shall be counseled to work in harmony with all the other members in a spirit of love for the best interests of the congregation and to exercise patience until such time as conditions may be more favorable.
4. Disorganizing Congregations
Requests for disorganization of a congregation shall be made to the district board. The board shall appoint a committee to consider the request. This committee shall examine the circumstances of this request, consider carefully the spiritual welfare of all involved, and report their findings to the board. Upon receiving this report, the board shall determine the advisability of such disorganization and make a recommendation to district conference. If the recommendation is approved by the conference, the district board shall arrange for a transfer of membership of the then-remaining members of the congregation. The district board shall also recommend to district conference a plan for the use or disposition of the property of the disorganizing congregation according to the guidelines in this manual (Chapter VI: Property Holdings and Financial Resources).
Special care shall be taken to ensure that the official records of the congregation as listed above are transferred to the district. In addition, related information on the life of the disorganizing congregation, if available, should be transferred to the district. Such information may include:
a. Photographs taken in connection with special events or collected from members;
b. Newspaper and periodical articles documenting church activities;
c. Manuscript histories of the congregation or any of its subunits or activities;
d. Information about special achievements or honors attained by the pastor or lay members;
e. Biographical material on the minister and other church leaders;
f. Artifacts connected with the history of the church.
IV. Suggested Bylaws
A. Personnel Selection and Tenure
1. The Gifts Discernment Team shall maintain a personnel file indicating the interest, giftedness, and record of service of all members. This team shall develop a process for discerning spiritual gifts of all the members of the congregation and find appropriate ways to use those gifts for the ministry and mission of the church. The team shall oversee the calling of persons for special duties in the church, such as the officers of the congregation, members of the Leadership Team, deacons, delegates to district and Annual Conferences, and other positions required by the Congregational Forum.
2. The term of office for all officers of the Congregational Forum shall be three years. Officers shall not be eligible to serve more than two terms in succession.
3. The term of office for the chairs of the Ministry Teams shall be three years. They shall not be eligible to serve more than two terms in succession. The other members of the Ministry Teams shall have a term of two years. They shall not be eligible to serve more than three terms in succession. If any Leadership Team or Ministry Team member is absent from meetings without cause for six months, that office shall be declared vacant.
4. Approximately one-third of the membership of the Leadership Team and one-half of the Ministry Team members shall be called in any one year.
B. Employed Staff
The congregation shall employ a pastor(s) when needed; a person whose faith, aptness to teach, preach, counsel, and administer,and educational qualifications have been examined in consultation with the appropriate authorities in the Church of the Brethren.
The pastor(s) shall be properly ordained. (In special interim situations a licentiate, or a minister from another denomination, may serve upon approval by the district board.) The pastor(s) shall accept and adhere to the faith and the practices of the Church of the Brethren and the local congregation as set forth in this constitution. The pastor’s life and conduct shall witness to Christian faith.
The pastor(s) shall be the spiritual shepherd of the congregation and the executive director of the church program. The pastor(s) shall be an ex officio member of the Leadership Team, Ministry Teams and Project Groups as needed. Normally the pastor(s) shall preach and teach, administer the ordinances, visit and counsel, and in various other ways aid the congregation in worshiping and serving God.
2. Additional Professional Staff
When the congregation has grown to sufficient size the employment of additional trained staff shall be considered so as to assure the continued growth of the congregation and to provide adequate leadership for the congregation. Other staff members suggested are: a director of Christian education, a director of Christian witness, an associate pastor, a minister of music, an administrative assistant, a congregational visitor, a youth minister, or others.
3. Office Secretary
The local church shall provide secretarial assistance for the pastor(s) and the church office. Part-time secretarial assistance shall be provided until such time as the work load requires full-time service.
Custodial services shall be provided for the care and supervision of the church buildings and grounds.
C. Staff Employment Procedures
1. The selection and call of a pastor(s) and other professional staff persons, as well as the termination of their services to the congregation, shall be done in keeping with approved Church of the Brethren procedures and after seeking consultation and guidance of the authorized officials of the Church of the Brethren.
A two-thirds majority vote of the members present and voting in a duly called Congregational Forum shall be regarded sufficient to express the will of the congregation in extending a call or in voting to continue the leadership of a pastor.
2. The office secretary shall be employed by the Leadership Team in consultation with the pastor(s). The office secretary shall be responsible to the pastor(s).
3. The custodian shall be employed by and be responsible to the appropriate Ministry Team or Leadership Team.
4. The terms of employment for all employed staff shall be carefully stipulated and reviewed annually. When the terms have been mutually accepted, such terms shall be set forth in writing on approved forms and shall be considered an agreement between the contracting parties.
5. When there is multiple staff, the division of responsibility and the lines of authority shall be clearly defined and periodically reviewed by the appropriate church officials. Although there must be close cooperation and harmony between staff members, in the final analysis all personnel are responsible to the congregation for their conduct of their offices.
D. Church Officers
1. All officers shall be members in good standing of the Church of the Brethren.
2. The moderator shall be the official head of the congregation but shall recognize the pastor(s) as the spiritual and executive leader. The moderator shall preside at the Congregational Forums and serve as vice chair of the Leadership Team and chair of the Gifts Discernment Team. The moderator will be an ex-officio member with vote at Leadership Team and Gifts Discernment Team meetings but without vote at Ministry Team and Project Group meetings.
3. The chair of the Leadership Team shall serve as the assistant moderator.
4. The church clerk shall keep accurate minutes of the Congregational Forum and the Leadership Team meetings. Minutes shall be kept in a volume provided for that purpose and they shall be and remain the property of the congregation.
5. The treasurer, who shall be an ex-officio member without vote of the Leadership Team and the Ministry Team related to financial issues, shall keep a book of accounts of the congregation. The treasurer shall receive the financial secretary’s bank deposit slips for all contributions, disburse funds upon proper “order on the treasury,” make written reports of all transactions to the Leadership Team and to the annual Congregational Forum, or at such intervals as the Leadership Team may decide. The treasurer shall report the general state of finances to the Leadership Team and shall also submit accounts to an audit annually at the direction of the Leadership Team.
a. The financial secretary shall receive, keep records of, and deposit in the bank for the treasurer all contributions from the members and other public and private offerings, and all other receipts. At least two persons shall count and verify in writing all public offerings. The financial secretary shall report periodically to the Ministry Team related to finances.
b. All financial personnel shall give corporate surety, in amounts determined by the Leadership Team, for which premiums shall be paid by the congregation.
E. Leadership Team
The Leadership Team shall:
1. Provide an atmosphere of worship and invite personal sharing with one another at the beginning of each Leadership Team meeting.
2. Share resources and opportunities for leadership development offered by district, denominational, and ecumenical agencies.
3. Fulfill the directives of the Congregational Forum.
4. Assign, supervise, and coordinate the work of the Ministry Teams.
5. Supervise and coordinate the work of Project Groups not under the supervision of a Ministry Team.
6. Project long-range planning, set goals and objectives, recommend the initiation or discontinuation of programs.
7. Interpret rules of procedure for Ministry Teams and Project Groups.
8. With the Gifts Discernment Team, make all necessary appointments.
9. With the Gifts Discernment Team, fill all vacancies in elective offices occurring between Congregational Forums and such other vacancies not otherwise provided for.
10. Act on recommendations from the appropriate Ministry Team on staff vacancies and present recommendations on personnel and terms of employment to the Congregational Forum for all professional staff personnel. Non-professional staff may be employed by the appropriate Ministry Teams or Leadership Team as in harmony with local church practice.
11. Prepare the agenda for the Congregational Forum.
12. Establish self-allocation proposals for outreach giving and recommend guidelines to Ministry Teams for budget planning.
13. Review the proposed budget for presentation to the Congregational Forum.
14. Approve and supervise, within the limits established by the Congregational Forum, the expenditure of all funds.
15. Provide for the annual audit.
16. Allocate and define authority with respect to the establishment of bank accounts and the signing of checks and other legal documents.
17. Receive, consider, and make disposition of concerns brought by any group or individual member.
18. Report its activities and actions to the Congregational Forum.
19. Bring recommendations to the Congregational Forum when major church policy needs revision.
20. Advise and consult with the pastor(s) when there is no Pastoral Relations Team.
21. Enlist the help and consultation of the district executive and/or other district personnel in program planning and handling of special concerns.
F. Ministry Teams
1. In general:
a. Mission and vision statements, core functions, size of the congregation and available resources will determine the number of teams needed.
b. Basic areas of church life will be covered by Ministry Teams. Ministry Teams will be added and dissolved as new areas of ministry are identified, as the congregation’s needs change, and as persons and groups discern ministries in which they want to be involved.
c. Each team will be chaired by a person called by the Congregational Forum, for a three-year term, with a limit of two successive terms.
d. The Gifts Discernment Team and the Leadership Team will interact to call other persons to complete the team. They shall serve two-year terms with a maximum three-term tenure.
e. The Gifts Discernment Team and the Leadership Team will interact to call other persons to complete the team. They shall serve two-year terms with a maximum three-term tenure.
f. Each Ministry Team will:
(1) Identify its goals as related to the mission and vision statements.
(2) Identify the gifts and skills needed on the team to carry out its ministry.
(3) Report to the Leadership Team on a regular basis.
(4) Appoint a vice chair and secretary.
(5) Meet regularly or as needed.
(6) Work cooperatively with those carrying out specific ministries, empowering them with the appropriate authority to fulfill their responsibilities (e.g., Christian education teachers, choir director, etc.).
2. Ministry Teams shall be responsible for developing ministries in areas such as:
a. Fostering the spiritual life of the congregation through worship, music, education, and fellowship.
b. Securing leadership for special meetings and providing pulpit supply when needed.
c. Directing the congregation’s witness to the world through evangelism, church planting, ecumenical relations, missions, social action, and ministry to the needy.
d. Acquiring, holding, and conveying property in accordance with the decision of the Leadership Team and/or the congregation.
e. Caring for, protecting, and maintaining all church property.
f. Receiving, disbursing, and recording all funds of the congregation.
g. Building the annual budget for Leadership Team review.
h. Planning of stewardship emphases.
i. Recruiting, training, and mentoring leaders in cooperation with the Gifts Discernment Team.
(The following section is a revision of the Supplemental Guidelines developed by the Parish Ministries Commission staff in 1973, pp. 90-96 of the 1992 Church of the Brethren Manual of Organization and Polity.)
3. Specific duties based upon the core functions for Ministry Teams should include:
(1) Assist in planning varied corporate worship experiences.
(2) Consult with the pastor(s) regarding the ministry of preaching.
(3) Plan for seasonal events and special historical celebrations.
(4) Develop proposals and provide guidance for the ministry of music.
(5) Give consideration to the use of fine arts in the congregation’s program.
(6) Provide opportunities and suggestions for personal and group meditation and reflection.
(1) Provide opportunities and resources for formal study in Christian education classes, membership classes, short-term courses or seminars in specific interest areas, and training courses for group leaders.
(2) Encourage persons to participate in formal study beyond the congregation by taking related courses in adult education in area colleges, in short-term summer schools, or in lay training program sponsored by church/interchurch agencies.
(3) Provide opportunities and resources for informal study through house groups, intercultural groups, community affairs groups, or other small groups; outdoor education efforts; camps; retreats.
(4) Develop a library that offers an adequate guided reading program for all members.
(5) Give consideration to educational values in talk-backs or discussions of sermons.
(1) Assist the congregation in creating a hospitable environment where strangers are welcomed and new people effectively assimilated into the life of the church.
(2) Plan congregational social opportunities.
(3) Give consideration to fellowship occasions for the community surrounding the church.
(4) Provide guidance for needs of specific fellowship groups such as adult, youth, and Christian education classes.
(5) Develop plans and secure leadership for interest groups such as hobbies, parents, recreation, therapy.
d. Evangelism and Church Planting
(1) Work with congregations in other communities for mutual helpfulness and shared ministries, such as youth ministries, between suburban and inner-city congregations or between predominantly white and predominantly non-white congregations.
(2) Plant a new congregation, or work with other congregations or the district to plant new congregations.
(3) Discover those persons in the community who are not actively related to a church.
(4) Plan and carry out appropriate forms of evangelism such as personal evangelism, visitation evangelism, fellowship evangelism, educational evangelism, or preaching evangelism.
(5) Prepare, encourage, and support members in speaking up for Christian values and concerns in vocational, neighborhood, community, and civic groups.
e. Social Education and Action
(1) Lead out and involve the congregation in social education and action on issues in the areas of peace, international relations, citizenship and political life, economic life, anti-poverty, race relations, religious freedom, and temperance.
(2) Send delegates to conferences and seminars on social concerns for purposes of information and training.
(3) Interpret the church’s peace position and alternative service, and counsel all young persons regarding military recruitment.
(4) Actively involve the congregation in the ministry of reconciliation and interpersonal peacemaking in the church, community, and family.
f. Social Service
(1) interpret service opportunities, such as workcamps, resettlement of refugees, disaster relief, volunteer service, to congregations and recruit persons for service.
(2) Plan volunteer service projects in the community and congregation; and recruit for summer projects elsewhere.
(3) Aid and support welfare institutions in the community for the poor, homeless, aged, dependent children, mentally and physically impaired, and those dealing with addiction problems.
(4) In cooperation with appropriate social welfare agencies help persons in crisis.
(5) Offer help and counsel to members of the congregation when needed.
(6) Collect material aid for relief abroad and disasters at home.
(7) Sponsor overseas people-to-people projects such as student exchanges; resettlement of refugees; and sending members to overseas seminars, workcamps, and tours.
g. Stewardship of Time and Abilities
(1) Recruit for set-apart ministries.
(2) Enlist and train persons for the congregation’s ministries.
(3) Work with the Gifts Discernment Team to maintain a personnel file indicating the interest, aptitude, and record of service of all members.
h. Stewardship of Financial Resources
(1) Educate and encourage members to be good stewards of their resources and encourage Christian giving.
(2) Encourage members to tithe.
(3) Administer the funds of the church.
(4) Be concerned for an adequate corporate stewardship of the congregation, including the ratio of resources going to outreach.
(5) Give counsel to the Leadership Team on anticipated resources and expenditures in annual budget preparations.
i. Stewardship of Property
(1) Supervise the care, maintenance, and development of church property.
(2) Provide adequate insurance coverage.
(1) Publish a periodic newsletter.
(2) Prepare and distribute a brochure introducing the congregation to the community.
(3) Promote the use of denominational publications.
(4) Encourage the use of audiovisuals for interpretation and education and provide adequate equipment.
(5) Interpret local, district, and denominational ministries.
k. Work with the Pastor(s) and Staff
(1) Recommend suitable personnel for employment as church secretary and/or custodian.
(2) Represent the congregation in screening and nominating all professional personnel for employment by the Leadership Team and/or by the Congregational Forum, such as the pastor(s), associate pastor(s), administrative assistant, youth minister, director of Christian nurture, director of Christian witness, or a minister of music. The employment of the pastor(s) and other professional staff shall be in keeping with approved denominational placement procedures and in consultation with the district executive.
(3) Stipulate carefully and review annually the terms of employment for all employed personnel. When the terms have been mutually accepted, they shall be set forth in writing and considered an agreement between the church and its employees.
(4) Recruit capable men and women for the ministry, giving them encouragement and guidance during their training and making recommendations to the congregation and district regarding licensing and ordination.
(5) Arrange for pulpit supply and other ministerial services during the absence of the pastor(s).
4. Each Ministry Team shall prepare annually a tentative budget for its program area which shall be submitted to the Leadership Team for its use in preparation of the full church budget.
5. Along with the responsibilities listed herein, additional duties and instructions may be assigned to the Ministry Teams by the Leadership Team when deemed to be in the best interest of the congregation. The activities of the Ministry Teams are subject to review by the Leadership Team, and regular reports shall be made to the Leadership Team.
6. Suggested Ministry Team Models
Under 50 members: Leadership Team acts as a whole or two Ministry Teams
50-100 members: Three Ministry Teams
100-200 members: Four Ministry Teams
200-300 members: Five Ministry Teams
300-400 members: Six or seven Ministry Teams
400-500 members: Seven or eight Ministry Teams
Over 500 members: Eight or more Ministry Teams
Each congregation will add or dissolve Ministry Teams as determined by the mission of the church.
G. Program and Fiscal Year
Congregational leaders shall assume their duties January 1 with the exception of Sunday School leadership. The fiscal year for congregations shall be the same as the calendar year. Salaries and extended contracts shall be negotiated at the regular budget-building time for the upcoming fiscal year.
H. Business Meetings
1. An annual Congregational Forum shall be held. Other regular meetings may be held as determined by the Congregational Forum. Special meetings may be called by the moderator or the Leadership Team upon giving seven-day written notice. The date of the Annual Congregational Forum and other special meetings shall be given to the District office as requested.
2. Adequate advance notice of all Congregational Forums and their agendas shall be given to the membership involved.
3. The Leadership Team shall meet regularly. Special meetings of the Leadership Team may be called by the Leadership Team chair or the moderator.
4. Ministry Teams and Project Groups shall meet regularly or as the Leadership Team may direct.
1. Although it is desirable to have as many members present as possible for Congregational Forums, no quorum shall be required except as might be specified by law.
2. For meetings of the Leadership Team and Ministry Teams, a majority of the members shall constitute a quorum.
RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE GENERAL BOARD
It is recommended that:
A. copies of the new plan of local church organization be distributed to each congregation along with other sources of information provided in this report;
B. workshops be planned in cooperation with every district to provide ways to implement the new plan of organization in local churches by addressing the following areas:
1. developing mission and vision statements;
2. providing training and resources in gifts discernment and new ways of calling leadership;
3. assisting congregations in identifying their core functions;
4. providing resources for consensus building;
5. providing resources for churches to use in evaluating their programs, ministry objectives, and goal setting.
C. this new plan of organization be reviewed in five years.
RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE DISTRICTS
Each District office shall provide information regarding church incorporation requirements of the state in which the congregation is located.
In November 1998, a “Congregational Structure Survey” was sent by this committee to all 1,089 Church of the Brethren congregations, with 435 congregations responding. The congregations that responded represented all 23 districts. A little over 60 percent reported a Sunday morning worship attendance of 100 or less, and nearly half of those were under 50. Ten congregations reported an attendance of 300 or more.
Slightly less than half the 435 congregations were using the one board/three commission plan adopted by the 1964 Annual Conference. 66 percent reported basic satisfaction with their present structure. Thirty percent reported having changed their plan of organization significantly within the last five years. Another 30 percent reported they are considering changing their plan of organization within the next few years.
Fifty-seven percent reported that their congregation had a mission or vision statement. Thirty-seven percent of the congregations have not developed a method for discovering the spiritual gifts, abilities, or talents of the people in their congregation.
The majority of the congregations reported that they choose their leaders through an election involving more than one name per position. However, some reported they have gone to an election with slate, one name per position, primarily because it had become difficult to find more than one person willing to serve in each position. About 16 percent reported using an open ballot, generally related to the choosing of deacons.
Many congregations sent additional information: plans of organization, ways of choosing leaders, and information regarding the discernment of spiritual gifts, talents and abilities of their members. This was very helpful to the committee.
(New Names for a New Structure)
|Church Council /Congregational Business Meeting||Congregational Forum|
|Church Board||Leadership Team|
|Executive Committee||Congregational Forum Officers|
|Executive Committee / Ministry Commission||Pastoral Relations Team|
|Personnel and Nominating Committee||Gifts Discernment Team|
|Election||Call / Affirmation|
Mission Statement: A mission statement defines the primary purpose of the church, why the congregation exists, and the members’ understanding of what God is calling them to be. The mission statement should be sufficiently brief, so it can be understood and known by every member.
Example: We are an open community faithful to the way of Christ.
Vision Statement: A vision statement defines the specific ministries to which the congregation understands God to be calling them; what God is calling them to do.
We are called:
1. to strengthen our congregation through worship, fellowship, and educational opportunities;
2. to encourage mutual support and community among the members;
3. to share the good news of Christ’s love to those around us and to invite and welcome new persons into our fellowship;
4. to respond to the needs of persons, both near and far, as we are able;
5. to be conscientious caretakers of the resources, gifts, and relationships God has given us.
Core Functions: Core Functions are those areas of ministry that are essential to the life of the congregation.
2. Christian education
5. Pastoral care
ORGANIZATIONAL FLOW CHART
TIMELINE FOR CALLING CONGREGATIONAL LEADERSHIP
Gifts Discernment Team announces positions needing to be filled for the next year (moderator, Leadership Team chair, Ministry Team chairs, deacons, at-large member of the Gifts Discernment Team.)
Gifts Discernment Team invites the congregation to submit names of eligible persons to call to positions needing to be filled as announced in March. This will be done during a brief Congregational Forum following a Sunday morning worship service.
Gifts Discernment Team issues a call to persons based upon names submitted by the Congregational Forum, gifts discernment inventories, etc.
The Congregational Forum affirms the call to persons presented by the Gifts Discernment Team at a spring meeting.
The new Leadership Team for the next year meets with the Gifts Discernment Team to call persons to the Ministry Team positions that need to be filled for the next year.
Ministry Team members for the next year are affirmed by the Congregational Forum.
The new Leadership Team and Ministry Teams begin their term of service.
(This timeline presumes a calendar year. If a congregation chooses to have leadership begin their terms at a different time, the timeline should be adjusted accordingly.)
SAMPLE DESCRIPTION FOR VOLUNTEER POSITIONS IN THE CHURCH
Term and Tenure:
Revisions and Dates:
LOCAL CHURCH IMPLEMENTATION GUIDE
1. A Constitution and Bylaws transition team of three persons should be appointed by the present Church Board.
2. The present Church Board should circulate the Annual Conference Congregational Structure paper and encourage church members to become familiar with the paper and resources in the bibliography.
3. The present Church Board should initiate a process within the congregation to develop mission and vision statements to be adopted by the congregation.
4. Using the guidelines of the paper, a Gifts Discernment Team should be established. It is suggested that one member of the present Personnel and Nominating Committee continue to serve as one of the at-large members during the transition.
5. Based on the mission and vision statements approved by the congregation, the present Church Board should begin to identify core functions and determine the nature and number of Ministry Teams.
6. The Gifts Discernment Team begins its work of discovering, discerning and calling forth the gifts of congregational members for leadership and ministry. They shall develop descriptions for all leadership and ministry positions. With the help of present church leadership, they shall educate the congregation regarding spiritual gifts and initiate a spiritual gifts inventory of the church. (See bibliography for resources.)
7. The revised Constitution and Bylaws will be presented to the congregation for approval.
8. During the transition period from the previous organizational plan to the new, the church may consider including present leadership in the new structure.
Ammerman, Nancy T., Jackson W. Caroll, Carl S. Dudley and William McKinney, eds.Studying Congregations: A New Handbook, Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1998.
Bandy, Thomas G., Kicking Habits: Welcome Relief for Addicted Churches, Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1997.
Bandy, Thomas G. and William Easum, Growing Spiritual Redwoods, Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1998.
Church Smarts Resources, 350 Randy Road #5, Carol Stream, IL 60188. Telephone 800-253-4276; website ChurchSmart@compuserve.com.
Easum, William, Sacred Cows Make Gourmet Burgers, Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1995.
Frazee, Randy, The Comeback Congregation, Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1996.
Hybels, Bill and Mark Mittelberg, Becoming a Contagious Christian, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1994.
Mead, Loren, Five Challenges for the Once and Future Church, Alban Institute, Bethesda, Md., 1996.
Mead, Loren, The Once and Future Church, Alban Institute, Bethesda, Md., 1991.
Mead, Loren, Transforming Congregations for the Future, Alban Institute, Bethesda, Md., 1994.
Mundey, Paul, Unlocking Church Doors: 10 Keys to Positive Change, Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1997.
Murray, Steven M., 24 Effective Ideas for the Small Membership Church, Discipleship Resources, Nashville, 1996.
Ogden, Greg, The New Reformation: Returning the Ministry to the People of God, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1990.
Oswald, Roy M., and Robert E. Friedrich Jr., Discerning Your Congregation’s Future: A Strategic and Spiritual Approach, Alban Institute, Bethesda, Md., 1996.
Reid, Newbiggin, and Pullinger, Modern, Postmodern, and Christian, Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, No. 27, Handel Press, Carberry, Scotland, 1996.
Russell, Keith A., In Search of the Church: New Testament Images for Tomorrow’s Congregations, Alban Institute, Bethesda, Md., 1994.
Saarinen, Martin, The Life Cycle of the Congregation, Alban Institute, Bethesda, Md., 1986.
Warren, Rick, The Purpose Driven Church: Growth Without Compromising Your Message and Mission, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1995.
White, James, Rethinking the Church, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, 1997.
Woods, Jeff, Congregational Megatrends, Alban Institute, Bethesda, Md., 1996.
Crabtree, David Foy, The Empowered Church: How One Congregation Supports Lay People’s Ministries in the World, Alban Institute, Bethesda, Md., 1989.
Chambers, J. Oswald, Spiritual Leadership, Moody Press, Chicago, 1967.
Hestenes, Roberta, Turning Committees into Communities, NavPress, Colorado Springs, 1993.
Olsen, Charles, Transforming Church Boards into Communities of Spiritual Leaders, Alban Institute, Bethesda, Md., 1995.
Chambers, J. Oswald, Spiritual Leadership, Moody Press, Chicago, 1967.
Cladis, George, Leading the Team Based Church, Jossey-Bass Publishers, San Francisco, 1999.
Maxwell, John, Laws of Leadership, Nelson Publishers, Nashville, 1998.
McCarty, Doran, Leading the Small Church, Broadman Press, Nashville, 1991.
Rammey Jr., Robert H., Growing Church Leaders: New Skills for New Tasks, CTS Press, Decatur, Ga., 1995.
Rendle, Gilbert R., Leading Change in the Congregation: Spiritual and Organizational Tools for Leaders, Alban Institute, Bethesda, Md., 1998.
The International Centre for Leadership Development and Evangelism, P.O. Box 41083 RPO South, Winfield, BC V4V1Z7. Telephone 800-804-0777; website www.GrowingLeadership.com.
Weems, Lovett H. Jr., Church Leadership: Vision, Team, Culture, and Integrity, Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1993.
Wilson, Marlene, How to Mobilize Church Volunteers, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, 1983.
Young, David, Servant Leadership for Church Renewal, Herald Press, Scottdale, 1999.
Mission/Vision Statement Development
Barna, George, The Power of Vision, Regal Books, Ventura, 1992.
Sogaard, Viggo, Research in Church and Mission, William Carey Library, Pasadena, 1996.
Bauknight, Brian K., Body Building: Creating a Ministry Team Through Spiritual Gifts, Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1996.
Brown, Patricia, Spirit Gifts: One Spirit, Many Gifts, Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1996.
Bugby, Bruce, What You Do Best in the Body of Christ, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1995.
Cousins, Don and Poling, Judson, Building Your Church: Using Your Gifts, Time and Resources (Curriculum), Walking with God Series, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1992. Telephone 800-727-3480; website www.zondervan.com/master.
Carbonell, Mels, Discovering Your Giftedness in Christ, Uniquely You Resources, Blue Ridge, GA, 1996.
Clapp, Steve, Ron Finney, and Angela Zimmerman, Preaching, Planning, & Plumbing, Brethren Academy and LifeQuest, Richmond, IN, 1999.
Coleman, Lyman, Gifts & Calling: Discovering God’s Will (Curriculum), Serendipity Series 101, Serendipity House, 1998. Available from Serendipity House, P.O. Box 1012, Littleton, Colo. 80160; telephone 800-525-9563; website www.serendipityhouse.com.
Edwards, Lloyd, Discerning Your Spiritual Gifts, Crowley Publications, Cambridge, 1988
Gilbert, Larry, How to Find Meaning and Fulfillment Through Understanding the Spiritual Gifts Within You, 1998. Available from Church Growth Institute, P.O. Box 9176, Oxnard, Calif. 93031; telephone 800-553-GROW; website
Gilbert, Larry, “Team Ministry,” (Spiritual Gifts Inventory), 1997. Available from Church Growth Institute, P.O. Box 9176, Oxnard, Calif. 93031; telephone 800-553-GROW; website email@example.com.
Peters-Pries, Pam, Go For Broke: Using the Gifts God Gave You (curriculum), Generation Why Bible Studies for Youth, Brethren Press, Elgin, Ill., 1998. Telephone 800-323-8039.
Reiland, Dan, Spiritual Gifts: Unleashing the Potential of Your People in Ministry (cassettes and inventories), Injoy, 1998. Available from The International Centre for Leadership Development & Evangelism; telephone 800-804-0777.
Spiritual Gifts Discovery Tools, website www.cforc.com/sgifts.html.
Swindoll, Luci, Discovering Your Spiritual Gifts, Women of Faith Series (adult curriculum), Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1998. Telephone 888-493-2484; website www.zondervan.com/master.
Vander Griend, Alvin, Discover Your Gifts and Learn How to Use Them, Leadership Development Resources (adult curriculum), CRC Publications, Grand Rapids, 1996. Telephone 800-333-8300.
Vander Zee, Ruth, Discover Your Gifts and Learn How to Use Them, Leadership Development Resources (youth curriculum), CRC Publications, Grand Rapids, 1998. Telephone 800-333-8300.
Wagner, C. Peter, Your Spiritual Gifts Can Help Your Church Grow, Regal Books, Ventura, 1979. Available from The International Centre for Leadership Development & Evangelism, P.O. Box 41083 RPO South, Winfield, BC V4V1Z7. Telephone 800-804-0777; website: www.GrowingLeadership.com.
Wagner, C. Peter, Your Spiritual Gifts Can Help Your Church Grow (Video), Gospel Light, Ventura, 1997.
Wagner-Modified Houts Questionnaire, Charles E. Fuller Institute, Pasadena, 1985.
Consensus Building and Conducting Meetings
DeBono, Edward, Six Thinking Hats, Little, Brown and Company, Boston, 1985. Contact Del Keeney regarding training and certification; telephone 717-656-0158; website Delkeen@hydrosoft.net.
DeBono, Edward, Teach Your Child to Think, Viking Penguin, a division of Penguin Books USA Inc., N.Y., 1993. Contact Del Keeney regarding training and certification; telephone 717-656-0158; website Delkeen@hydrosoft.net.
Groff, Kent Ira, Spirituality Matters for Committee Meetings, CTS Press, Decatur, Ga, 1996.
Johnson, Barry, Polarity Management: Identifying and Managing Unsolvable Problems, HRD Press Inc., Amherst, 1992. Morris, Danny and Charles Olsen, Discerning God’s Will Together, Alban Institute, Bethesda, Md., 1997.
Wanda W. Button, Chair
Samuel K. Detwiler
Robert D. Kettering
Action of the 2000 Annual Conference: The report of the study committee was presented by Wanda W. Button with members of the committee present. The delegate body adopted the report by a two thirds majority vote with one amendment which has been incorporated into the text.
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