Mt. Olive Lutheran Church in Weston, WI
"Policy-Based Governance has been incredible for our church and has been a great blessing and the most effective way for us to operate to make disciples to advance Christ's Kingdom!" Pastor Lance Hoelscher
Peace Lutheran Church in Antigo, WI
How long have you used governance based structure?
We changed structure in 2010.
Are you satisfied with the structure? If yes, why? If not, why not?
I believe the change in governance was very good for our congregation. It's quite a change in philosophy and it is not a natural system of governance. It needs to be learned and repeated education (?) over time. We utilized several resources to help us to make the transition. We began with Alan Klaas and his “Flexible, Missional Constitution/Bylaws” and he also visited and led us in the change of our Constitution and bylaws. We also utilized Immanuel Cedarburg as a resource. I also gathered some other resources from Redeemer Lutheran Church in Fort Collins Colorado. Most recently we had DJ Schult from the district office lead our yearly leadership retreat in January for both staff and lay leaders on policy-based governance and how to be more effective in what we do. I also recently attended some policy governance workshops at the best practices conference in Phoenix Arizona in February which were led by leaders from Holy Cross Lutheran church in Fort Wayne Indiana. St. John Lutheran Church in West Bend Wisconsin is also one that uses policy governance. I have accumulated many resources which I'd be happy to share with you or other leaders if you want. My assessment of the structure change is that it was needed and is also working overall quite well. In order for it to work well, (it requires) the buy-in from your leadership and congregation and most importantly from your pastor.
What would you do again if you were implementing the governance structure?
After being in it five years I don't think we were very well prepared to actually make the change when we did and it might've been better to hold off for a year before we really had it planned out a bit better. We decided to make the change and went for it and learned basically as we went along.
What would you do differently in the implementation process?
Even though we had a structure committee that met for about a year in advance, we still could have done better at organizing How well our ministry action teams function following the change. But we have gotten better at it as time is going on.
What has been the biggest blessing?
The governing board is able to focus on the big picture, the mission of the church, and the ultimate goals we’re trying to accomplish rather than spinning their wheels on small details that in the end don't matter that much. There is also a great degree of trust between the congregation in the governing board and the governing board and me and the rest of the staff and ministry action teams. The various groups in the church are basically released to do ministry without having to jump through a lot of hoops to accomplish things or make decisions. One example of this is that we used to have a Board of Trustees make decisions about repairs building issues, and even finances, except often at the monthly meeting we didn't have a quorum and you have to wait till the next month to make a decision and then half of the people who were at the last meeting weren't at the next one etc. etc. We now have a facility manager on our staff who works with a team of laypeople (who will give) advice but he has authority over his section of the budget and simply makes decisions based on priorities without having to get approval from anyone. He answers to me and so we have regular staff meetings and dialogue about what's going on so we all are in the know.
What has been the biggest challenge?
Biggest challenge is probably been education for all leaders as well as the congregation and exactly how it's supposed to work and keeping people from falling back into old habits and the old ways of doing things.
What recommendations/advice do you have for us?
Do a lot of reading and preparation prior to making the change.