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  • Writer's picturePastor Gary

Leadership - Simplified

What follows is the information shared with our church as we consider a transition to a simplified leadership model at Rock Hall UMC.


What will this look like?

A unified Leadership Board of nine people where the whole group would handle the responsibilities of church administration (Church Council, Trustees, and Finance). This group would handle policy and governance issues.

We would still have ministry teams (Facilities, Education, Worship, Missions, Member Care, Hospitality, etc.) and task forces.

Why change? What advantages does a Simplified Accountable Board model have over our current structure?

Years ago, local United Methodist Churches were a simplified single board structure, a Board of Stewards. This board was responsible for the administrative and strategic leadership of the church.

Then after WW2, in an effort to involve more people in church leadership, the responsibilities of the board were divided among various committees. This worked well as long as churches had the involvement to operate multiple levels of leadership through an Administrative Board and a Council on Ministries.

However, lately as churches have experienced a decline in church membership and member involvement, we have seen a dilution of strategic church leadership. This is magnified in churches without a working Council on Ministries to align ministry and mission. This lack of alignment results in fragmented ministry plans, raising ministry silos as ministry leaders “do the best they can” without church wide strategic planning. We find ourselves reporting on how well we maintain ministry rather than seeking to advance ministry.

A single leadership board structure will increase:

· Efficiency! Moving toward a permission-giving culture with less meetings and more ministry! When we remove bureaucratic redundancies, we allow enable good decisions to be put to work quicker, taking advantage of ministry opportunities or addressing challenges as they arise (Currently, ideas can spend months or years making multiple stops in the permission cycle).

· Alignment! Synchronizes and aligns all the church’s ministries with the mission, vision, and goals. Holistic, mission-aligned decision-making becomes possible as leaders now have a better understanding of all aspects of the church (Currently committees are often forced to make decisions without knowing the goals or plans of the other committees or the impacts decisions will have on other areas).

· Accountability! When “everyone” is in charge, no one is actually held responsible. Our new structure will enable leaders to hold themselves and one another accountable for missional fruitfulness.

· Clarity! This process creates a clearer, more consistent decision-making process (Currently due to our complexity, it often feels as though there is a lack of consistency in how decisions are made).

· Transparency! All board meetings will be open to the congregation and meeting minutes will be posted on the charge website.

· Missional Leadership! Our church will be structured so that leaders can lead, not simply maintain the status quo. The more time our best leaders spend on administration, the less they are able to spend on the mission field. The more ministry our members do, the less pastor-dependent we are.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Where did this idea come from?

Many United Methodist churches are going to a streamlined form of congregational governance which they have found to be more effective. Annual Conferences across the denomination are encouraging this development as they see the advantages of lean, more strategic church leadership needed in the 21st century. Simplifying church structures helps create an environment where ministry can thrive. In one sense, the United Methodist Church is beginning to catch up with common good governance practices widely used in the wider non-profit sector.

2. Which positions can be combined for one person on the Board to hold?

Most all positions can be combined as long as the minimum number are elected. The Lay Leader, Lay Delegate, and Trustee Chair must be designated, but could all be the same person.

3. Is there an absolute minimum number for the Board?


4. Does the pastor have a vote?


5. Can family members serve together on the Board?

Per the Book of Discipline, family members cannot serve on the Board together. If it cannot be avoided, the family members may need to excuse themselves from the room or abstain from voting on issues. Staff and family of staff cannot serve on the Board.

6. Should staff (paid or unpaid) serve on the Board?


7. Who should take notes at the meeting?

Someone can be assigned or elected to take notes that is not on the Board. That person could be elected from the existing members of the Board, a person recruited outside the Board to take notes or person who is an addition to the Board with the sole responsibility of taking notes. Of course, a volunteer could attend to serve as the board secretary.

8. Are the Financial Secretary and Treasurer required to be on the Board?

No, but they can be. A best practice is for them not to be on the Board. Additionally, a congregational attorney or chancellor cannot be on the Board as a voting member due to legal ethics.

9. Which position on the Board serves as the liaison to the D.S. for PPR purposes?

While some conferences recommend that the Board Chair serves as the PPR liaison to the DS, in our Charge, due to having 3 churches involved in PPR meetings, we will have a separate PPR and its chair will be the liaison. The Lay Leader will serve as the SPRC representative on the board.

10. Are there still three-year terms and classes?

Yes. One third of the Board will roll off each year.

11. Is the Board self-nominating?

No. There is still a requirement that there be a separate Committee on Nominations and Leadership Development to nominate the Board Members to the Charge Conference each year. Church members can nominate themselves to the Committee on Nominations for consideration, or be nominated by another church member to the Committee or at Charge Conference.

12. How long can a person serve on the Board? Can they roll from three years as Trustee specialist to three years as a Finance specialist?

Board members serve a three-year term. Since everyone is serving Trustees and Finance, it is recommended they roll off after each three-year term. The Lay Leader and Lay Delegate are exempt from the three-year term. After being off the Board for a year, the person can roll back onto the Board as elected.

13. Are UMM, UMW, and UMYF representatives required to be on the Board?

Per the book of Discipline, if a church has these chartered groups, a member of that group can serve on the Board; however, it is not a requirement. Since we don’t have these groups functioning in our church, they will not be included.

14. How many have to be present to take an official vote? What requires an official vote?

In most dealings in the church, a quorum is described as whoever is present, and simple majority of those attending rules. However, since this board will be trustees, at least 50% must be in attendance in order to have a vote. We will allow people to attend using electronic technology.

15. How is the Trustee Chair elected or appointed as required by the corporate resolution?

At the first meeting at the beginning of each new year, the Board will elect the a Trustee Chair to satisfy the corporate resolution requirement. It is recommended, but not required, that the Board Chair serve as the Trustee Chair.

16. If a church moves to the simplified structure (aka single board), how does ministry happen?

Even though the re-structuring occurs, ministry teams will remain in place. Simplifying the structure only refers to the combining of the administrative teams of the Council, Trustees, and Finance Committees. With less time spent in administrative meetings, leaders are actually enabled to spend more time in ministry.

17. Do we need approval from my DS to move to the simplified structure?

Yes. Our DS is aware that this will be presented at Charge Conference in November, 2020.

18. Where can I find information on simplified structure in the Book of Discipline?

The 2016 Book of Discipline (paragraph 247.2) wisely provides for each local church to devise its own structure as long as certain basic provisions are followed. Pen-Del UMC churches are encouraged to develop a church management structure that best serves the mission and ministry of the congregation in accordance with the Book of Discipline and in conversation with the people of the church and our District Superintendent.

19. What is the process for approving a different system of governance?

After several Town Hall style meetings under the tent this summer to educate the congregation, our District Superintendent will lead a special Charge Conference of members Sunday November 22 at 12:30pm to vote on this change.

20. If approved, when would the new Leadership Board begin work?

January 1, 2021

21. Won’t this place too much power in the hands of just a few people?

While this will place a lot of responsibility upon a few people, the unified board assures greater accountability and transparency in decision making and commitment to our mission. Church members would now know exactly how decisions are made and who makes them. Church members would know who to speak to if they have ideas or concerns. The current United Methodist Church administrative structure can sometimes lead to an unhealthy control of power by either pastors, staff, cliques within the church, or ministry teams operating within a “silo.”

22. How will 9 people ever find the time and energy to accomplish the work that previously required three committees?

This change is not simply a structure change but also an adaptive change. The name “Simplified Accountable” is instructive. The board will be trained in good governance practices common today in successful churches and non-profits. The Leadership Board is responsible for strategic governance and accountability, not micro-managing and carrying out ministry. Ministry Teams, pastors, and staff will be responsible for the majority of the day-to-day operations of the church.

23. How will the church membership know what work the board is doing?

All board meetings will be open for everyone to attend. Agendas and minutes of each meeting will be posted on the church website.

24. What if an incoming pastor doesn’t like this model?

Itinerant pastors in our Conference are very used to adapting to “the way things work” in each new church. Even with the current structure, each church has a unique way that things get done. Also, many churches are moving to this new model, so it is possible a new pastor will come from a church with this structure. As the Leadership Board grows to own a particular vision for our church’s future, it will be easier to share with the District Superintendent in the consultation process what type of pastor the Conference should assign to the church. The Leadership Board should actually help the church continue a more consistent vision from pastor to pastor.

Adapted from the documents

Board operations with Ministry Area Specialists

To provide clear areas of responsibility and accountability, Ministry Are Specialists will be utilized for areas of finance, trustees, and ministry.

Imagine sitting around the table with all the members of the simplified structure board where there are 3 hats sitting in front of each person.

  • When there is a financial issue of a governing nature that needs the attention of the simplified structure, everyone at the table picks up their “financial hat.” Each person on the board is responsible for the final financial decisions of the board.

    • This would apply when discussing and approving an annual budget.

  • The same is true for a trustee issue.

    • The Board gives permission to the Building and Grounds team to care for and maintain property within established authority (building use, maintenance needs, etc.).

    • Outside or beyond the team’s authority (perhaps a significant expenditure, a building modification, etc.), they would report to the Trustee Specialists.

    • If it is within the limitations of the Trustee specialists to approve (within financial limits), a majority of the Trustee Specialists (2/3) could approve the work then report it to the board at the next meeting. If the request is beyond their authority, they would bring a proposal to the Board to be addressed.

  • When a general governing issue needs to be addressed by the board, the participants put on their third hat, the “council/ board hat.” (Does _______ align with our mission?)

    • Governing issues to be addressed by the general board might be hearing a report from the pastor regarding an established goal and holding him or her accountable for the accomplishment of such.

When the meeting is over, this is where it gets a bit tricky.

  • If you are a trustee specialist on the board, you pick up your “trustee hat” and wear it between board meetings.

  • The same is true for the finance and any ministry area specialists.

  • These teams of people (usually three representatives in each of the three areas) are responsible for the day-to-day governing issues (NOT MANAGEMENT) that come up within their designated area.


  • If the furnace goes out, a Building team member contacts a Trustee Specialist on the board.

They are given the authority to handle the situation within the boundaries set by the board.

If a repair costs under an established amount, the trustee has the authority to carry out the repairs.

If replacement is needed and is already in the budget, the trustee has the authority to carry out the replacement within any limitations set by the board after checking on cash flow and available funding.

  • The work of the two or three finance representatives will be to create the annual budget and take it to the board for review and approval.

In other words, people are given permission to go about their job duties efficiently and effectively without having to ask permission. Authority is granted while holding the persons responsible and accountable. Those on the board who are not trustee or finance specialists wear the “Leadership board hat” between meetings. Their focus is on the accomplishment of the mission, vision, and goals through the ministry of the church.

We use ministry areas of WORSHIP, CONNECT, SERVE. Specialists could be assigned by the Board to be the contact person for these ministry areas. In this model, these specialists are NOT the ministries’ representative on the Board, but instead the Leadership Board’s assigned contacts for those ministry areas. Each of these ministry areas would be made up of multiple ministry teams.

PROS of Having Specialist Titles:

Assigning specific and direct responsibility over a given area creates an identifiable go-to person for members. This is less of a learning curve for most congregations.

CONS of having Specialist Titles:

The three people having these titles many times still act as their own separate committee, but now with only a couple of voices, robbing the larger Leadership Board of their responsibility and accountability. Therefore, three people can end up making important decisions in their work area that they really do not have any authority to do. It can create or reinforce working silos. Accountability and adaptive change is harder to instill.

Adapted from 10 Prescriptions for a Healthy Church by Farr & Kotan


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