Effective leadership in the church structures staff to be effective. This can be achieved simply through a well-planned organizational chart. The goal of an organizational chart is to define three areas for the personnel: authority, roles, and responsibilities. How the chart does this varies between organizations, but three common structures may be found in most churches. These are also the models found in Scripture. Each chart is organized by style versus church size or personnel functions. [1]

The first basic type of staff organization is a centralized structure. [2] In this model, one person functions as the chief administrator. He is the sole person that all staff persons are responsible to. This is an authoritarian/dictator approach to leading an organization. An example of this is found in Exodus 18. This is the structure Moses was following when Jethro warned him of burnout. Moses was God’s appointed man, so he was trying to do all of the work himself. If Moses continued to operate this way, the fate of the nation of Israel was at stake. A church following this structure has a senior pastor who has all the authority, establishes all of the roles of the staff, and determines all of the responsibilities of each person. While this structure has proven itself effective over the years, it has its faults. For one, it limits authority to one individual, while an effective leader chooses to distribute responsibility to other leaders.

The second type of organizational structure is known as the non-centralized structure. [3] As its name implies, the non-centralized structure has no central line of authority or responsibility. In this model, each staff member relates to each other equally. When Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, he reminded them that the Spirit appointed every believer in the church to take on specific responsibilities, (1 Cor. 12). His guidance was that no position was greater than any other, but that all are equally important. For those churches who follow this model today, a lead pastor may be in place, but only as an advisor to the rest of the staff. In this model, authority is disbursed to every staff member, the roles will overlap, and responsibilities will be shared. The health of this structure is the sharing of authority and responsibilities. However, the danger of this model is the possibility of miscommunication, poor relationships, duplication of efforts, and wasting of resources. It may be an effective structure, but it’s definitely low in efficiency.

The third model of organizational structure is known as the line organization. [4] In this model, a leader is defined, but leadership is delegated downward through lines of authority. Portions of responsibility reside at various levels within the organization. This structure defines supervisors and direct reports. When Jethro discovered how Moses was attempting to lead Israel with a centralized structure, he suggested to him this line organization approach. This would prevent Moses from experiencing burnout since responsibility was divided among other leaders. Some groups of people were headed by leaders of thousands and others by leaders of hundreds until the smallest group. For those churches using this model today, there is a sense of ownership by all staff members. The structure identifies needs and eliminates duplication. Authority is shared throughout the structure, while the senior pastor has ultimate authority. Roles are clearly defined, such as, senior pastor, executive pastor, youth pastor, worship pastor. Responsibility is shared throughout the organization. This model is highly effective and highly efficient.

The first two structures for organization do not allow for an effective and efficient use of personnel and resources. However, the third model, the line structure, is best suited for the church organizational structure. The authority and responsibilities are shared, while individual roles are clearly defined. While each model offers some advantages, this third model is ideal. And, even though the structure for organizations may vary, Welch writes,

The church organizational structure should continue to pattern itself after the traditional matrix or line format. People need policies and procedures with a defined workflow. Personnel should be directed through their work by job descriptions not only for accountability but also for responsibility. [5]

When the workflow is defined, as in the line structure, people can work better and are more suited to function as leaders. They are given a clear understanding of what needs to be accomplished to move the organization forward. When the personnel are clear at what they are supposed to be doing, they are equipped to guide others under them in their responsibilities.

[1] Welch, Church Administration, 70-72.

[2] Ibid., 70–71.

[3] Ibid., 71.

[4] Ibid., 72.

[5] Ibid., 73.


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