A Game-Changing Perspective: Knowing the Difference Between a Decentralized and Fragmented Ministry

Good church leaders know the importance of releasing and sending people to do ministry. Jesus himself moved quickly from modeling ministry for twelve leaders, to sending out those same twelve to do ministry on their own (Luke 9:1).

Yet in observing hundreds of churches from coast to coast, not all “releasing” is the same. In fact, there is a good kind and a bad kind.  And if you don’t the difference, your ministry will be limited for the rest of your life.

Let’s say a pastor is consistently recruiting volunteers to initiate and lead in multiple environments like groups, classes, and teams. And let’s say he has just recruited ten new small group leaders. In the next week, let’s imagine these ten leaders will be facilitating some kind of learning and relationship building in homes for the sake of Jesus— a common snapshot of small group life in the American church.

What will actually happen in those homes?

In this scenario the most common kind of “releasing” is fragmentation. That is, we are not just splitting up and breaking into “smaller chunks of people” with regard to ministry time and place, we are also dividing and breaking apart the shared intent within each time and place.

The biblical and effective way to “release” is not fragmentation but decentralization. That is, taking some centrally defined intent and executing them without a central person or place defining the experience.

Most ministry activity is fragmented not decentralized because there simply no clarity of shared intent, no cultivation of shared values, and no development of shared abilities within the church. In short, their is no shared vision, just many little mini-visions everywhere a ‘piece’ of the ministry gathers.

The few ministries that operate a decentralized ministry have gone to great lengths to build a well defined vision first. Something other than a central pastor or central church building define the what, why and how of reality where ever groups, classes or events meet. That something always brings shared meaning in the form of  ideals, goals, dreams, tools, approaches, stories, etc.

To illustrate, Alcoholics Anonymous is a decentralized organization.  This successful program happens with no central person or place to guide it. But there is a central methodology—12-steps—with a defined set of values and practices that guide the experience of de-centralized communities.

What central methodology guides the experiences of your classes or groups or teams? Is your ministry fragmented or decentralized?

It is tempting to try to explain these concepts with metaphors like “the starfish and the spider” or apples and oranges. There are several quick and dirty metaphors out there. But based on your unique church context those metaphors may or may not work. That’s why I am working on a better metaphor or illustration for another post.  I would love to hear your ideas if any come to mind.

Read more from Will here.

Download PDF

Tags: , ,

| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Vision >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Will Mancini

Will Mancini

Will Mancini wants you and your ministry to experience the benefits of stunning, God-given clarity. As a pastor turned vision coach, Will has worked with an unprecedented variety of churches from growing megachurches and missional communities, to mainline revitalization and church plants. He is the founder of Auxano, creator of VisionRoom.com and the author of God Dreams and Church Unique.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
I'm lost, to say the least! As a new pastor, taking over a newly started church I have read just about everything there is to learn what I can do to grow the church. I truly beleive that those attending our church are friendly and sincere. So that can't be the issue. I have read all the comments to this article and I feel that most churches will never have a fair chance! We are a VERY small church, so we don't have a children's church (yet). So if a family comes and gets upset that we don't have a children's church for them to put their children into, we lose! We do provide things for their kids to do during the service and even have an option for their kids to be in a different room, if they don't want their kids to sit with them. We are also such a small church that we don't have a worship team/band/etc. Our worship music comes from music videos. The congregation we do have likes it this way, but of course we would love to have a worhsip team. So, if someone comes to our church and is upset that we don't have live music, we lose! The point I am trying to make is that when people come in with preconceived ideas of what a church should be like, they will never find a church home, unless they find a church who's goal is to entertain! Every Sunday our message comes from the Bible, so that can't be a complaint for someone, so instead, people leave the church and never come back because they want more from a church: they don't want friendly people who are following the Word of God; they want a church that give them something (a babysitter for their kid, entertainment, free gifts, etc.) I'm sorry if sound cynical, I truly want everyone to hear the Good News and learn about Christ's love, but if they come in looking for something else, then the church will always lose!
 
— JAG
 
Reminds me Tony Morgan's classic post entitle “What If Target Operated Like A Church?” I wrote about this in a blog post "Is Your Church Like Target…or More Like A Mall?" https://goo.gl/2qQIy3
 
— bruceherwig
 
Challenging and very good
 
— John Gilbank
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.