The Strategy and Structure of the PMBA
As we sought to redefine our Mission and thereby refine our Vision and Values, we realized that one of the main challenges that we were facing was that we were spread out across five counties, and within those regions had a wide range of diverse churches. The scope and diversity of our Association causes us to embrace four major strategies.
The first strategy is to decentralize the Association. Because we are spread across five counties, we know that a centralized approach for regularly gathering pastors would not always work. Instead, we chose to establish Impact Groups, a regionally-based consortium of pastors who met together for fellowship, support and partnership in Gospel-based, community-centered ministries.
Beyond our monthly newsletter, increased use of Social Media, and updates through Constant Contact, these groups would provide us with the regular means to keep up with our pastors and inform them of new services or ministry opportunities.
The second strategy is to reposition the Association to minister to churches according to their level of spiritual health. In the past, we responded to churches either according to their requests, their size, or even style of ministry.
Although this can be effective in some ways, in the end we want to move from a service provider to a spiritual partner in each church’s journey towards fulfilling the Great Commission. This led us to sort them in the following ways:
In this modeling approach we see that there are churches in poor shape and on the verge of dying. These churches are ones that haven’t baptized anyone in a long time, have decreased in attendance and giving, have lost their missional passion, and have continually crept upwards in their median age. The closure of the church is not in question; the only real question is when.
The next type of church has either plateaued or begun a downward trend. Although they may be in a somewhat stable situation financially, they rely heavily on a staff-centric model of ministry, are very comfortable with keeping things the same, seek occasionally to improve things by adopting a ministry or program that has been successful elsewhere and allow past fruitfulness to lull them into a state of complacency. These churches are operating in a “Rip Van Winkle” modality that causes them not to notice the somewhat subtle changes in their congregations and communities, only to eventually wake-up one day and find themselves in a dire situation.
The third type of church we deal with has still maintained their missional passion. They are seeing people come to know Christ, they have a plan in place for making disciples, they understand the needs of their communities, and they have a heart for cross-cultural missions locally, regionally, and to the ends of the earth. The size of the church is not key here, but rather the sense of being on mission with the Savior and maximizing all that they have for the investment in Kingdom enterprises.
These types of church require different approaches. Beyond specific or contextual needs there are some basic approaches that represent a primary effort to help them re-engage or reinforce their missional impulse:
For dying churches, we recognize that although they have the willpower to change their situation, they probably don’t have the horsepower to make it happen. In this situation the best possible solution is to help them relaunch or replant. In this scenario we look either for a new plan for those that remain (typically involving a great deal of outside help) to do congregational ministry, or have a new group come on board and take the primary lead in restarting a new ministry.
The Association has a process whereby we help churches take this step called Re-Forge. Here, we help put partners together and consult with the new emerging church on how they can position themselves for greater missional impact.
For declining churches, they don’t need quick fixes but a systematic, comprehensive, prayer saturated process of renewal. When this is done, we revitalize or realign the church back to its primary purpose. This requires a full commitment of the congregation to take a deep look at all ministries of the church with the mindset of aligning them with the mission of making disciples.
The process the Association uses for this is called Re-Focus. This is a deep, customized approach to revitalization that incorporates anywhere from a three to five-year plan to get the church back on track.
Finally, for churches that are healthy or deploying, we want them to accelerate and grow their overall missional impact. Part of this is connecting healthy churches to struggling ones that they might be an encouragement and blessing. As we work hard at getting pastors to meet together to form collegial relationships, we believe that this could pave the way to serve one another. We call this step resource in that we connect leaders and congregations to the opportunities which enable them in this pursuit.
We call this process Re-Frame. It is primarily helping churches become aware of new ministry prospects through a networking, training and consulting interaction in which we look into new, different or better ways to do collaborative ministry.
Our third strategy is to incorporate other organizations directly into how we do ministry. This means that in using organizations within our own tribe (BSCNC; NAMB; IMB; etc.) or other parachurch ministries (Love Out Loud; Corpus, etc.), we will seek to enhance our vision through complimentary partnerships that makes sense for us.
We determine how these Key Partnerships work. These partnerships give churches multiple opportunities to plug into all types of expanded Kingdom work. It is our desire to purposefully interface with these select groups in ways that make sense for our churches.
The fourth major strategy we have employed is inverting the more traditional, program-centered approach to primarily a coaching model. When we boil down all that we do as an organization we can reduce our interfacing roles in three basic ways:
The catalyst role is about initiating action in order to get a ministry off the ground. Here, the PMBA takes a more primary leadership role with the idea of eventually handing off a ministry to a church or a group of churches. The Association never wants to get stuck in past patterns of doing for churches what they ultimately can do for themselves.
The consultant role focuses on offering organizational help to our churches based on customized needs. This can be such things as helping Search Teams look for a new pastor, connecting them to church planting and replanting opportunities, providing processes to help them revitalize or other similar cyclical needs that crop up in the life of a congregation.
The coach role now has become our central focal point of how we interface with our churches. In the coach role we come alongside pastors and provide them the assessments, training, resources and input that help them more effectively lead a disciple-making movement through their congregations. Typically, it is easy to focus our energies on large group events to gather and equip pastors. While we will still offer large group meetings, we have chosen to do this more selectively and to put more energies into offering both general and specific help to our pastors to see the highest possible impactful return in their lives.
Building upon our main strategic objectives, we have sought to boost our organizational effectiveness by aligning our four Focus Groups with our renewed Mission, Vision, Values. Here is what that looks like for us at this stage of Associational renewal:
Through decentralizing via Impact Groups, redefining how we interface with churches based on their missional health, refining our partnerships based on needed additional missional opportunities, and shaping the resources and services we offer through the primary role of coaching our Focus Groups take on a different tone. For Church Health, we will seek to help churches examine all that they do to ensure that they are making disciples. In Church Planting we seek to help churches expand their disciple-making potential by starting new churches and replanting dying ones. In Leadership Development we enable pastors to be productive, healthy leaders of a disciple-making movement. In Community Impact we engage the broken with the help and hope of the Gospel that they might become disciples of Jesus.
The members of these ministry teams will not only create large group meetings or events, but more importantly will serve as groups of coaches that can offer what leaders need to grow in their missional capacity. This renewed structure allows for both consistency and flexibility in how we seek to do relevant and contextualized ministry for our churches.