How we arrived at the Purposes Model

After recently attending the very encouraging Nexus Conference I thought it’d be helpful to outline how we arrived at the Purposes Model.

  1. Back in 2008, we had 3 congregations and 1 more about to kick off. We had a Senior Pastor (Greg Lee) and we had a Staff member for each of the 4 congregations – I was the UniChurch pastor. We also had a Women’s Pastor and a part time kids pastor.
  2. We started to notice two areas of difference  between our congregations. First, there wasn’t an equal dispersion of pastors to flock.
    Unichurch had one staff to 150 people, PM had 1 staff to 60 people, AM had 1 staff to 80 people, the new congregation was going to have 1 staff to 30 people. Greg and Kelly (our women’s pastor) already had to spread themselves across all these people anyway.
  3. Second, we realised each of our congregations were doing well in some areas and poorly in others.
    1. So Unichurch had a pretty good meeting, but it didn’t welcome very well, nor did it have enough groups and there was no leadership development, nor a real heart for evangelism.
    2. AM was welcoming, but the meeting was awkward and there was no evangelism and groups were haphazzard.
    3. PM was really getting into evangelism, but it’s meeting was awkward, groups were struggling and welcoming was hit and miss.
    4. The new congregation were all in groups that were working well, but the meeting/mission/etc. were going to struggle.
  4. That’s when we heard about the Purpose model (from Andrew Heard at EV Church). We realised that the aspects of church that were going well vs going poorly were simply because our staff had particular “bents” towards helping people grow in those purposes.
    1. Richard (new cong.)  had a natural bent towards helping people just get the bible, and lead a group and grow in knowledge and obedience.
    2. Sam (PM) had a natural bent towards helping Christians WANT to be evangelists.
    3. Dave (AM) had a natural bent towards getting beside people, helping them into church and investing in one another as members of a body.
    4. I had a natural bent towards challenging people about their deepest love and purpose in life.
  5. So, rather than having congregations that just reflect their Pastor’s strengths and weaknesses, we decided (after a long period of prayerful thinking and reflecting on God’s word) to free up our staff to do for everyone what they were only doing for one congregation. This also meant that we each stopped being responsible for aspects of our congregations that we weren’t particularly gifted in doing.
    1. Richard took on Maturity (encouraging people into small groups, raising up leaders and helping those groups build one another up in love from God’s word).
    2. Sam took on Mission (encouraging people to see themselves as missionaries to Newcastle, facilitating events where people can be confident the gospel will be presented and where they gain confidence in their own evangelism)
    3. Dave took on Membership (helping people to join well and participate in church life of loving one another and church).
    4. I took on Magnification (helping people live their whole lives in awe of the gospel 24/7, especially through running Sunday meetings that tried to impact their whole week).
    5. (Kelly moved to under Richard in Maturity – just focusing on raising and equipping and helping Growth Groups).
    6. (Richard also wore the Ministry hat – helping people get equipped and find their way into serving with church).
  6. After 2 years, we found a guy at Church (Pete Witt) who was already helping me do Magnification 1 day a week. We put him on 4 days a week to replace me, and I started looking after Ministry (as Richard had too much to do in Maturity). We also re-titled my role to Executive Pastor, simply because I was finding myself taking on a whole heap of pastoral responsibilities that were the foundation of the Ms structure; facilities, database, planning, association, legal. (I’ll write a later post on why this is Executive Pastor stuff and not General Manager stuff).

We’ve made heaps of mistakes along the way, and spent 6 years refining what we’re doing… with loads of really healthy arguments along the way. If there’s one huge positive that came out of going to Team Pastoring around the Ms it is that our team is really tight and loves one another in the midst of the fight.

And God’s been amazingly gracious and allowed us to grow in size and grow people’s faith.

The Nexus Conf and the “Portfolio Model”

One of the “controversies” (apparently) at the Nexus Conference was comparing the Congregational Model of staffing to the Portfolio Model of staffing. While I was really pleased to see brothers keen to sharpen in their thinking about how to get good faithful gospel work done, there were some frustrations.

First, it seemed that the Portfolio Model wasn’t really held by anyone. Dave Sheath (Lakes Evangelical) kept referring to it as doing church according to Purposes, and wanted to avoid the Portfolio language. While Lionel and Phil had questions about it, it turned out the staff in their churches were “specialising” beyond their congregations already.

During dinner I was chatting through the purpose model, and thought it would be worth making some points…

  • The Purpose model is NOT first and foremost a “staffing” model, it’s a model that focus on ENDS rather than MEANS (to use Phil’s language – ironically).
    So at HBC, we’ve settled on 5 ends, 5 goals we think God wants to see EVERYONE grow in. 5 aspects of what it means to be a healthy christian and a healthy church; Be a magnifier of Jesus, Be a Missionary of Jesus, Be a Member of Jesus’ church, Be a Mature follower of Jesus, Be involved in Ministering with Jesus.
    You can focus on these purposes no matter how many staff you have. No matter how big (or small) your church is.
  • In a Purpose Model church, all pastoral staff see themselves as EVERYBODY’S pastor.
    I’m a pastor of 500+ adults. The other staff at HBC are also pastors of the same 500+ adults. We all share the pastoral responsibility – without dividing up the church into “congregations”. They are all the flock, and we are all shepherds.
    This is each staff member’s FIRST IDENTITY. Sam’s not the Mission guy… he’s a Pastor of the flock at HBC, who happens to focus on one aspect of the sheep – namely helping them be missionaries.
  • Therefore, the Purpose Model is better described as TEAM PASTORING where everyone pays a special role on the team.
    I wrote about this a while ago here. If you have more than one pastoral staff, you have a team. And you can either divide the team’s work into flocks (you take that congregation, I’ll take this one). Or you can divide it by gifts/focus/emphasis (you look after people’s heart for mission and magnifying God – particularly not exclusively, I’ll look after their membershiping, their maturity and their ministering – particularly, not exclusively)
    You make this decision on the basis of the gifts your staff already have. Some of us are just better at one of those than we are the others (see here)!  So, rather than limiting those gifts to just one congregation, they get to use their gifts regardless of their congregation. People don’t miss-out just because they’re in this congregation not that one.

So, the big points to grasp are, a) Purposes not Portfolios and b) Team Pastoring everyone and c) Staff are Generalist at heart, Specialists in the field.

Tomorrow, I’ll try to give a bit of a history of how we came around to this…

Before you go to a “Purpose model” of church (like the Ms)… resign!

If there’s one aspect of the Purpose model of church structure that you really need to get, it’s that you need to resign as a single Congregation Pastor before you do it.

I don’t mean resign in the sense that you hand in your notice. Rather I mean in your heart you have to stop thinking of yourselves as only responsible for “that” congregation at St Something Church. To move to something like the Ms model of a church staff team, you need to start seeing yourself as the pastor of the whole church. Everyone. No matter what congregation they go to. Even if you’ve been the 8am silver-haired pastor for 20 years… if you’re going to take on the Membership M, you have to choose which role is going to come first. Either you’re going to be the 8am pastor who happens to try and get people to welcome well so people join well, or, you’re going to pastor every single soul at all 4 congregations towards being welcoming and loving to their brothers and sisters in Christ and help them invite people to join whatever congregation well.

This shouldn’t put us off… it’s exactly what the senior pastor has to deal with as any church grows and as there are several congregations… He has to see himself as the pastor of all those people, not of those congregations.

To put it another way, the Ms structure of church stops staff teams from thinking so structurally about ministry.

Facilities and facilitators need to know their place

I’m part of this crowd so I can say it. I spend about 80% of my time facilitating more gospel work. That means I build roads, equipment, and supply lines for the armies of gospel workers in our staff and in our church.
But a road to the wrong place is a waste of my efforts and ends up hindering, rather than helping, gospel work.
This is why facilitators, like me, need to know our place. We need to keep our team’s priorities our priorities. We need to give them the veto, the free ride, the non-kosher process, the work-around.
Because, we’re facilitators. We facilitate what they have decided they need to do.
We might offer advice and suggest problems with their plans, and how it’s going to make things hard for everyone else… (That’s our job too).
But in the end, the bloke shooting the rifle has a better idea where the enemy is that the bloke up in HQ. Support him, feed him, and for the gospel’s sake, listen to him!!

Why you should have purposes #6 : It’s not unbiblical! In fact…

Eph 4 was the kicker for me. Here’s how it goes:

  1. Jesus gives certain people to the church; [“Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastor-teachers”] (Leaders)
  2. These people are meant to “equip Jesus’ people for works of service” (Training, Mentoring, Encouraging)
  3. So, Jesus gives leaders who train church members so that “the body of Christ may be built up”.

That all seems ok, until you consider 2 things.

First, what does he mean that an “Evangelist” should equip Jesus’ people for works of service? Shouldn’t an Evangelist be out, you know, evangelising? Well, it’s not that they can’t do that, it’s just that Eph 4 says if they are one of Jesus’ gifts to his church, their primary role is to equip others so they can serve (presumably then more people can be better evangelists).

Second, this doesn’t read like an exhaustive list of roles, does it? In fact, it starts very similar to 1Corinthians 12:28. And there are other similarities between Eph4 and 1Cor12. E.g. Jesus gives people certain strengths, Gifts are to be used for the common good of Jesus’ people.

So, your staff all have certain gifts that Jesus has given them, right? Your staff and leaders aren’t all carbon copies! Jesus has given them to your church with certain skills and abilities. Eph4 says that, as leaders, they are primarily there to use those gifts for the common good of the church.

So, how are your staff/leaders built by Jesus? How are they being freed up to equip the saints in their particular gifts?

Why you should have purposes #5: more accessible staff

A common issue raised with the idea of staffing according to purposes is that people won’t know who their pastor is.
The first response to this is to passive-aggressively infer that anyone who asks that question has some some sort of Roman Catholic view of priesthood. Jesus is your pastor, your brothers and sisters in Christ are your encourages. You don’t need to have “a pastor” to run to every time you have some issue of the faith (or of life).
The second (and less condescending) response is to affirm that Jesus gives his people a sense of respect for the pastors he appoints over them, and its perfectly natural for people to want to ask their pastor about issues.
The reality is that some people “click” with their congregational pastor, and some people don’t. If you don’t feel comfortable with the prospect of laying your cards on the table with the congregational pastor you’ve got… Chances are your holding back from investing into that church family.
However, when you staff for purposes, you give your flock a real ability to choose the pastor that they best feel comfortable chatting to.
Yes. If you move from one model to another, it won’t happen straight away. It will take time for people to get to know the other guys. But at their heart, all your staff who take responsibility for purposes, are primarily people focused.
Purpose staffing gives people more staff who care for them, and allows for a great variety of people in your church – not just people who feel comfortable chatting to you.

Why you should have purposes #4: You’re not an all-rounder

So there’s something like 5 big reasons or purposes behind everything we do in ministry… But chances are you have a bent towards 2 or maybe 3 of them. That is, you agree with all the big purposes, you love them, but you personally find yourself having energy to give to a few of them over and above the other ones.
On the other hand, there’s really just too much to do for all of the purposes. You can’t fit them all into a working week… Not just in terms of time, but in terms of focus. Mental focus. Even the above average minister just can’t keep a handle on how all those big things are going.
What happens then?
You end up with a “Congregational Pastor” who can only really focus on 2 or 3 big purposes. They get all the attention, all the effort, and the other purposes just trail along behind.
We see this a lot don’t we? One church is doing great things evangelistically, but you start to have concerns about their theological convictions and the type of people they let lead groups. Another church is great at welcoming people and expressing deep Christian fellowship, but they just struggle to be evangelistic or really skill people up into ministry roles. Another church does their Sunday meetings and singing really well, but they leave people feeling shallow and disconnected.
Staffing for purposes just says; we value all the things… We want to be a church that at least tries to be all these good things and develop in all thee good ways… So we appoint staff and volunteers to take responsibility for those things. We invite them to focus on those things, so as a team, and as a family, we do them all well.


Why you should have purposes #3 : You already do them (probably badly)

If you’re in paid full time ministry, you’ve already thought hard about WHY you do the things your doing. You’ve thought hard about why you spend 10hrs on one thing, and only 2 on the other, right? (Ok well lets just assume you could justify it).
The fact is that all those things you’re already doing all fall into one of about 5-6 categories. Sure some might fall into two, some might fall into three. But they will have a primary purposes, with secondary outcomes.
So do a little exercise… Review how much of your week/month is spent trying to achieve these purposes;

  • growing and facilitating people’s convictions about evangelism
  • growing and facilitating people’s expression of Christian fellowship
  • growing and facilitating people’s maturity in knowing God
  • growing and facilitating people’s expression of thankfulness, obedience and love of God
  • growing and facilitating people’s skills in service of the kingdom

Sure you might slice the cake a bit differently, but that’s what the things you do come down to, don’t they?
Why do you put effort into music? It’s a little bit of a few of them, but mainly because you want to provide a right and joyful expression of love for God, right?
Why do you meet with your growth group leaders? Because you want to help them grow others in maturity, right?
I reckon you can link everything you do in ministry to one of these big purposes.
See, you’re already doing them… But do you know which ones you do best? Do you know which ones you’re spending the most time on? Do you know which ones you’re neglecting? Do you know which ones are holding you back (humanly speaking) from growing?

Why you should staff purposes #2: Not programs!

I’ve spoken to a fair number of people who’ve told me they’ve tried the “purpose based” model of church staff, or sometimes they call it the “portfolio model”. But when you dig a little deeper, it turns out they haven’t ally tried it, what they’ve actually done is just reshuffle the cabinet.
They’ve kept Pastor Joe on as the evening church/young adults guy, and on top of that, they’ve given him the evangelism portfolio. But by that, what they mean is, “you have to run the evangelism STRUCTURE/EVENT for the other two congregations!”
Now, this is stupid for so many reasons…

  • what if the pastors of those other two congregations don’t want Joe to run an evangelism structure for them? What if they don’t like how he’s going to run it?
  • so, are the pastors of those other two congregations just meant to ignore evangelism in their congregations because Joe’s doing it?
  • if Joes is still meant to be the young adults pastor, when on earth is he going to haven the opportunity to develop an evangelism initiate with the other two congregations? It’s not his priority, and it never will be.
  • structures don’t work. They only provide an avenue for people to express what they are convinced of. That is, if people are convinced and excited about evangelism, they’ll use a structure to help them do it. If they’re not, putting something on isn’t going to change their mind

That’s why you should give your staff Purposes, not structures and not even portfolios. Set them a purpose, a vision for the people across all their congregations; “make us a people who are excited about evangelism, trained for it, and doing it”. That’s a purpose to work towards. That’s a purpose to staff!

Why you should staff “purposes” #1: Because you have a team of leaders

If you have a team of staff you should assign them purposes not congregations. In other words; staff “team” = Purpose based model is usually best.
The reason for this is kinda simplistic, but it seems it needs to be spelt out. The fact is, if you already have a team of staff working in one or more congregations, they are already specialising in different areas of ministry. And they are already doing poorly in other areas of ministry. That’s ok because Jesus gave them gifts to serve the body in their own special way. They are, by the grace of God, particularly suited to helping the church be and do particular things.
Secondly, either you are a team working together, or you are a mother’s club getting together to talk about your respective children. Some church staff talk like they are part of a team, when they’re not; they just get together to talk about their respective congregations and then go their merry way.
You have to choose first and foremost; are you going to be a church staff team, or a gathering of church staff?
If you’re going to be a team, then leverage that to the best of your ability for the glory of God. Use one another’s strengths, give some people responsibly for some things and others responsibility for other things.