A model for administering independent churches: how it works

This is the second in a series of posts on a model for administering independent churches.

My previous post described the problem that independent churches face in their governance structures. Briefly, we want financial management, etc., to be the responsibility of deacons, but under many current structures for administering churches, the responsibility must be taken up by the elders.

Now I want to offer up a model that may be able to provide a solution. It is summarised in the following diagram:

Diagram showing two organisational structures, one (the church) headed by the elders and another (the service company) headed by the deacons

The main features of this model are:

  1. The “church association” is split up into two separate organisations: the “church” and the “service company”.

  2. The “church” is an unincorporated association headed by the elders. All ministry of the Word and prayer is done through the unincorporated association. As an unincorporated association is not a legal entity, it cannot hold property or employ staff. It does not have any finances that need to be managed.

  3. The “service company” is a legal entity headed by the deacons. The legal entity can be a company, an incorporated association or perhaps a trust. The service company holds all property, employs staff and handles all the finances.

  4. The relationship between the “church” and the “service company” is driven by two things:

    • Membership in the two organisations are stapled. The membership criteria within each organisation is worded so that people can only be members of both organisations at the same time.

    • The membership in the service company is divided into multiple classes. This allows the elders to retain influence over the service company through special voting rights, etc, available to certain classes of members.

    • There is a service agreement between the “church” and the “service company”. The service company would essentially agree to supply property for use by the church, second staff to work for the church, take on any liabilities of the church, etc.

I think this would achieve what we want in that:

  • the elders have responsibility over the ministry of the Word and prayer, and retains influence over the service company if things go bad; and
  • the deacons have responsibility over finance and administration through the service company

Future posts will elaborate on some of the details.

Are there any issues with this model that you can think of?

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