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It’s time for a church checkup

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Is your church structured to handle the new ministry realities of 2024? Rev. Ron Brooks says it’s time to consider a more streamlined model called the Simplified Accountable Structure (SAS).

Coordinator for Simplified Accountable Structure (SAS), Michigan Conference

Trapeze act
~ photo courtesy Ron Brooks

Timing is everything. As a kid, I remember going to the circus and watching the trapeze act. I was so impressed with the artist’s ability to let go of one bar at the perfect moment to fly through the air easily and grab another bar or a partner’s hand at precisely the right moment. Timing is everything on the trapeze and in life.

You probably have certain things you do every year around this time. I vow to lose weight and start exercising but don’t ask me how it’s going. I go to my doctor for my annual physical. I change the batteries in my smoke detectors. The new year is the perfect time for lots of things.

Have you thought about what time it is in your church right now? The new year is the perfect time to ask yourself and your leadership team some critical questions:

    • What matters most right now?
    • What are your missional goals for this year?
    • How can you lead yourself and your team well throughout the year?

You’ve probably been asking yourself those questions, but you may be neglecting the most important one: Are you structured to handle the new realities of 2024, and will your structure enable or hinder your mission?

Thinking about church structure and systems is not the most exciting topic. Still, your organizational structure can be your best friend or worst enemy on the road to accomplishing your purpose.

RV on a floating barge
~ photo courtesy Ron Brooks

Many United Methodist churches are moving to a more streamlined organizational structure called Simplified Accountable Structure (SAS). It is a single-board church model instead of the multi-committee model most churches use. Many leaders are realizing that the world has changed, and the divisional structure of the administrative board or council system is too big and cumbersome in an environment that demands quick decisions and adaptability. You may struggle to make your current system work like the guy in the picture who needed a houseboat. It may be working, but it’s awkward and far from optimal.

Moving to the SAS structure speeds up decision-making and can help churches build alignment around their mission. One of the most common problems in local churches is what is often called “silo ministries,” where a church has one or two ministries that are doing well but have no real connection to the greater mission of the church. Often these silo ministries take resources away from the church disproportionally to what they add to the mission.

Road signs
~ photo courtesy Ron Brooks

I like this picture of a local street. Can I park here or not? It’s not clear. Likewise, a church’s current organizational structure often evolves and morphs over time to the point where there is lack of clarity about who is responsible for different aspects of church life. SAS is uniquely designed to help churches clarify roles and establish grace-filled accountability.

Churches that have moved to SAS report needing fewer people in administrative positions, so it frees up more people for ministry. If you have trouble filling all those slots in the nominations and leadership reports each year, you should explore moving to SAS. Churches also report fewer bottlenecks in responding to ministry opportunities, which means you can reach your goals more effectively. Finally, they report finding and developing more new leaders than when they were operating out of their old organizational structure.

Pastor Jonathan Combs from Downriver UMC summarized the transition well: “We have fewer meetings and get more done. As a result of moving to SAS, our communication has also improved.” Who wouldn’t want that for their church in 2024?

It is the perfect time to look into SAS. As the new Michigan Conference Coordinator for SAS, I would love to talk to you about assigning a coach to your church so that you can explore the possibilities more fully. Rev. Dirk Elliott formerly held this position for the conference.

If you have questions or would like to learn more, email me at [email protected] or call me at 269-779-6131.

Last Updated on January 30, 2024

The Michigan Conference