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.

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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.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
 
— winston
 
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 
comment_post_ID); ?> "While I understand the intent behind this phrase" Expound please. What do you understand to be the intent behind that phrase?
 
— Ken
 

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