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…

Why staff don’t take gifts

This is just one of the principles we made clear from the start with our staff. Staff don’t take gifts from the congregation.

There’s OK gifts like “let me buy you a coffee” or “It’s your birthday”… they are common gifts for people to give one another, regardless of position or authority.

It’s more about those gifts that are given in response to someone “being the pastor”. Things like, “I just wanted to say thanks for everything you’ve done”, or “I thought this would be really helpful to your future ministry”.

There’s a few reasons why:

  1. It’s unlawful (unless your declare the value of the gift when you do your tax).
  2. People’s hearts are very deceitful. They may not intend to, but the day may come when they think they have some right over you because they gave you this gift.
  3. Your heart is very deceitful. You may think it impossible, but the day may come when you give them special treatment because of the gift you were given.
  4. If they think that item is “valuable to your ministry” they should speak to your board/elders/etc. Otherwise, they are taking a gift that is meant “for the church” and rather than trusting God’s appointed leaders, they’re taking on themselves what should happen with that money/gift.

There is, however, scope for your board/elders/etc to approve gifts and things… that way there are other people who can keep you accountable in how you treat that person.

Another attempt to pictorally display church

Recently we had our AGM which gave us another opportunity to try and help our church see itself. That might seem like a strange idea, but for most people, they only see (or even hear) about the aspects of their church they’re involved in. This can lead to misunderstandings about why the staff are never around, or a feeling that God’s not at work in your church, when there might be things to be very excited about.

We want our church family to see itself well… see how God is at work in it, and how God is at work through it.

So, we came up with this infographic that tries to display something of the messiness of church. A growing church family is organic and interrelated. It’s interdependent. This info graphic isn’t meant to make church “understandable”, but rather it’s meant to make the messiness of church understandable. (See it large here).

2014HBCagmMap

Why would you give a volunteer access to church data?

There’s a few things to think about before you give people access to contact details and other data.

  1. You’re not giving them access, you’re appointing them with responsibility.
    There are certain things people should do, and not do with private data. Access to data is not a right or a gift to use as they see fit. It’s a weighty responsibility they have to choose to take on. (We have volunteers sign a database privacy policy).
  2. If you’re appointing someone to a position of significant authority, it’s appropriate they have access to data.
    They might not need access to the database to fulfil their responsibilities, but the very fact they already have such responsibility means that access is appropriate. For example, our senior pastor rarely uses the database to do his job, but he has access.
  3. If someone’s smaller roll would be much, much easier with access to data, its loving to let them have it.
    There’s no point asking someone to organise a person from every growth group to be a contact person for a particular event, and then telling them they’ve got to find all those people the selves, or bounce that administrative hassle back to the growth group over seers. Administrators are great people to give access to the database.

Church “Org charts” are hard

Recently we thought it would be a good idea to try and visually communicate our church staff “map”. It was an attempt to try and describe how we’ve deployed staff across our 5 passions for our flock, and across our 3 Sunday meetings/congregations. Check it out here.

There’s still so much that isn’t described well in this org chart… lines of responsibility are kinda’ there (vertically), congregations are kinda’ there (via colour tags), many staff responsibilities are not represented (I’m waiting for staff to come and ask why their things isn’t on there! Sorry!), Staff type and time is kinda’ on there (but there’s so little difference between a senior staff and part-time staff – just looking at them).

Any other church org charts out there?

The principles that should guide what pastoral staff meetings look like

A Church staff meeting is the opportunity to express and embody the values you want to shape your staff team culture. For our staff team, that means we spend time in the bible and in prayer for our church and each other. We spend time communicating the things going on (not just to inform, but to enthuse and encourage). We spend time on relationships by doing lunch together, and we spend time trying to improve by training and development. We also blow up the staff meeting plans every so often to do walk up as a team, or all do one ministry together.
We do these things in a formal way in “staff meeting” time, because we want these things to be informally part of what goes on throughout the week and throughout the year, and throughout the generations at our church.

Ministry Exercise: Imagine doing another staff member’s job

Is very easy to get caught in your own silo as part of a staff team. You’re slogging away at one aspect of church, and you can easily start to feel like others aren’t pulling their weight, or they’re not doing it as well as they should.
One exercise to do is to get the team to imagine swapping rolls with each other. Even pass them out pieces of paper with a new area of responsibility written on it, and give them 5 mins to work out their plan.
What would you start doing? What would you stop doing? What would be your biggest fear? What would you be excited about doing? What would you kill?
This is great for two reasons. First it breaks the rut of only thinking about your own thing. You begin to realise that this new role is huge and that guy leading it at he moments doing a huge job. Second it actually provides great creative ideas… Being asked to plan a ministry you’ve only spent 5mins thinking about can actually raise some great ideas.