Yesterday Wayne Traverse, Donald Thompson, and I spent the day at a training event at Forestville Baptist Church in Greenville, South Carolina. The ACTS: A Church that Serves Ministry Plan is the best infrastructure plan in order to sustain ministry, reduce bureaucracy, and unleash people to do ministry that I have seen. Marhsall Fagg was the senior pastor at Forestville who basically originated the idea, and Paul Fleming helped him much in the implementation.
Five years ago I attended the conference, was deeply impressed, and hoped to be able to transition the church I then served toward that plan. Instead, five years later I am pastoring a new church and wondering how this great plan may fit into our future.
One of the exciting things about starting a new church is that you start without organizational baggage. You don't have years of tradition working against you. You don't have to change a power structure that impedes or suppresses ministry. You have lots of flex room to prayerfully consider, What does God want here? and What process will best enable ministry to take place?
In a paper I wrote entitled Church Structure: Organize Around Your Mission, I state the following:
Bill Hull writes in We Must Sacrifice the Forms for the Function, “The mentality of the present system is management, not leadership. Its focus is maintenance, not mission. And its result is restriction, not release. The solution is to think function, not form. If the church desires to move people toward mission instead of toward institutional maintenance, a new administrative model is needed.” Hull advocates a “ministerial congregationalism supported by a streamlined administrative congregationalism.” In other words, empower the congregation to do ministry while empowering appropriate individuals to make decisions in their various areas. The balance of the system is accountability: “The three loci of power in the church – the congregation, leaders, and staff – must provide checks and balances, which facilitate mission.”
Empower people on ministry teams and committees to make decisions regarding their respective areas: “Delegating decisions nurtures a feeling of ownership and openness. It makes the church more grass-roots in practice, with those close to the action making the decisions. Those working within their sphere of ministry are endowed with the responsibility and the authority.” When appropriate, they too come to the congregation for input and approval. Every decision does not have to be discussed with the entire congregation. Instead, use congregational discussion times for sharing what they sense to be leadership from the Lord and sharing about things that affect the entire body.
Forestville's ACTS plan does just that.