Below you will find some questions that have come up in conversations about our recent proposed leadership changes. Many of these were answered in the family meeting on Sept. 13. We’ve divided them into two sections: Those that relate directly to the proposal we’re making, and those items that are outside the scope of this proposal but have nonetheless prompted questions.
FAQs Regarding Article VII
These items are directly related to the changes the Elder Body is proposing to Article VII of the Creek constitution (in other words, what you’ve voted on/are voting on).
Why are these changes necessary?
We’ve offered two major reasons. First, we needed to clarify, modify, and codify leadership roles and expectations as a part of this transition process. This was the first major item that Dr. Ewart’s assessment showed us as a church. Admittedly, it has been many years since we as a church looked at our pastoral roles and responsibilities closely, and in light of our growth as a church we believed some of those things should be adjusted.
The second reason flows from the first, that we want to codify a team-based approach to pastoral leadership which values a plurality of elders speaking into various aspects of our leadership process. This team-based approach is biblical and practical, especially considering the size and complexity of the Creek’s church body and ministries.
What are the differences between this polity (leadership structure) and the Creek’s current polity (leadership structure)?
The biggest differences are found in the formation of a Directional Team and the role of the Vision and Preaching Pastor. Let’s take these in turn:
We’re proposing the formation of a Directional Team that would serve as a subset of the Pastoral Body and be responsible for the overall direction and leadership of the church. This team would be appointed by the Pastoral Body. This team creates value because it places the responsibility for overall direction in the hands of a reasonable number of godly and qualified men while simultaneously giving other members of the Pastoral Body, who are not on the Directional Team, the time and freedom to oversee ministries and shepherd the flock. The Directional Team is, though, accountable to the larger Pastoral Body, just as the Pastoral Body is appointed by and accountable to the church body, in accordance with Scripture.
The Vision and Preaching Pastor would assume some, but not all, of the responsibilities assigned to the Senior Pastor in our current structure. He would, as is obvious by the title, cast a vision for Richland Creek as we fulfill Christ’s mission. He would do this by the effective teaching of the Word from the pulpit, as well as a serving as a “first among equals” on the Pastoral Body. Joining him in the fleshing out of this vision would be the Directional Team, on which he would serve, as well as the Pastoral Body, our staff and lay leaders, and finally the whole church family. He would not function as the day-to-day leader of the church staff, freeing up his time and spiritual energy to focus on vision and teaching. Of course, he would work closely with staff leaders to ensure faithful alignment with the church’s vision.
We believe both of these key changes help accomplish our purpose of codifying a team-based approach to leadership which provides for strong vision while also prizing consensus and cooperation among leaders.
Why are you proposing to change the wording of non-staff pastoral leaders from “Lay Elders” to “Lay Pastors”?
We’re proposing this to remove confusion. These changes still recognize one biblical office of “shepherd-elder-overseer.” All pastors, whether on staff or not, will be appointed by a vote of the church body. All pastors, whether on staff or not, are subject to biblical qualifications and calling described in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 2, among other places. By calling all of these leaders “pastors,” instead of using two different terms, we’re trying to eliminate the idea that there is some difference in qualification, calling or authority.
Does the church body lose authority in the proposed leadership structure?
No. This vote, and the proposed changes to Article VII, do not address membership requirements, responsibilities, or authority. Those are addressed in a different section of the current constitution. The church body would still have the authority in the following areas, just as they currently do: The annual budget of the church, and significant changes to the budget; the disposition of all or substantially all of the assets of the church; the merger or dissolution of the church; the acquisition of real property and related indebtedness; amendments to the articles of incorporation or bylaws of the church (constitution); the vote of affirmation for all Pastors; the nomination and vote of affirmation for Deacons.
Please note that in the current structure, the person serving as Senior Pastor can only be removed from his position by a vote of the church body, unlike other pastors, who can be removed by a vote of the Elder Body. Since our proposal does not include a Senior Pastor, that voting opportunity would not be available. We’re proposing to treat the potential removal of the Vision and Preaching Pastor like we would any other pastor, which would be the responsibility of the Pastoral Body.
FAQs regarding future leadership structure/decisions
These items below are NOT UNDER CONSIDERATION for a vote as a part of the proposed changes; rather, they are implications of that change. The thoughts below have been approved by the Elder Body as a part of an overall polity proposal, with the understanding that some of the things below may change as we continue the alignment and transition process. Some of these things may come before the church as future items for constitutional change, while others will be reported to the church as part of the policies and procedures guidance for leadership teams and groups. To state it as clearly as possible: No one has voted on/is voting on any of the items below right now.
What will be the initial makeup of the Directional Team?
This team will initially consist of seven (7) Pastors: The Vision and Preaching Pastor (by position), two (2) Lay Pastors (rotation), three (3) Pastors from the Executive Team (by position based on ministry alignment), and one (1) Staff Pastor (rotation).
Is there a minimum or maximum number of who can serve on the Directional Team?
The minimum number to serve is seven (7) and the maximum number is 13, accomplished by equitably adding a Lay, Executive, and Staff Pastor to the team as deemed prudent by the Pastoral Body.
Is there a chairman for the Directional Team and how long does a chair serve?
A Lay Pastor will serve as the chairman and set meeting agendas based on team input and prior communication. The chairman will serve on a rotational basis, changing every two (2) years, with the new chairman to be elected by the other Directional Team members.
Please note that the chairman of the Directional Team will work closely with the Vision and Preaching Pastor, as he provides leadership within both the Directional Team and Pastoral Body at large.
How long do members of the Directional Team serve?
Lay Pastors will serve on this team for a four-year term. Staff Pastors will serve on this team for a two-year term. The Vision and Preaching Pastor and Executive Pastors serve indefinitely, based upon position. Lay and Staff Pastors who rotate off this team must allow at least one (1) year must pass before being eligible to serve again, though they would still remain part of the Pastoral Body. In the event of an absence or the need to expand this team, Executive Pastors, Lay Pastors, and any additional Staff Pastors who serve on this team will be elected or determined by the Pastoral Body.
What is the Executive Team?
While the Pastoral Body provides shepherding, pastoral care and spiritual leadership to the congregation; and the Directional Team, as a subset of the Pastoral Body, provides overall direction to the church; the Executive Team will provide daily leadership to the staff as this team executes the vision and direction of the church.
What does the Executive Team do?
The Executive Team supports, develops, and empowers others for ministry, while ensuring that they align with the church’s vision. This team will be responsible for the day-to-day operations and execution of ministries which support the church’s vision and goals. This team will also give counsel to the Staff Pastors and ministry leaders as ministry decisions are considered.
Additionally, this team will:
- Consider staffing needs, facilitate the hiring of non-pastoral staff and provide staff evaluations.
- Assure the annual budget is prepared and maintained by all ministries.
- Solicit input from the Pastoral Body and appropriate staff as they consider decisions of these types, while aligning with the overall vision of the church as set forward by the Directional Team.
- Meet weekly with an agenda coordinated with the Directional Team and the needs of day-to-day ministry.
Who is on the Executive Team?
Selected Pastors and Staff (men and women based upon their position on the organizational chart, noting that women will not carry doctrinal authority over men) with a structure to provide functionality and ministry alignment for all pastors, staff, and volunteers. The team will include pastors whom much of the organization reports to, as well as others.
Who leads the Executive Team?
The Executive Pastor will lead this team as it interfaces with the Directional Team.
How does accountability work in the new polity?
Part of the very purpose of a team-based approach to pastoral leadership, with an emphasis on a plurality of elders, is to promote accountability and consensus-building. Here are a few thoughts related to direct accountability:
- The Vision and Preaching Pastor and the Executive Pastors on the Directional Team will be held accountable by Lay Pastors.
- The church leadership is accountable to the membership of the church. Church members may direct concerns with any Staff member to the Executive Team for investigation, discussion, discernment, and appropriate action. Likewise, church members may direct concerns with any Pastor to the Directional Team for investigation, discussion, discernment, and appropriate action.
- In the matter of staff relations, if a concern arises, attempts should be made to settle the matter privately. If these attempts do not yield reconciliation, then a supervising pastor should be consulted. From there, if no reconciliation occurs, the Lay Pastors and the Executive Team would be sought out for guidance and to bring resolve. Matters requiring the dismissal of general staff will remain in the hands of the Executive Team as a part of the day-to-day operations.
- In the event that a Pastor’s doctrine, character, qualifications, actions, treatment of others, or ministry performance come under questions, the matter shall first be brought to the Lay Pastors for prayerful investigation, discussion, and appropriate action. In the event that a Pastor is thought to be disqualified, the Lay Pastors will take the matter to the Pastoral Body.
- Within the leadership, all Pastors and Staff will be accountable for personal spiritual growth, while also leading their families and the flock to do likewise. Efforts to provide accountability will be a regular part of various staff meetings, private accountability discussions via peer accountability, and personal reviews.