Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Ministry (DMin)




Many churches are struggling to adapt to changing needs and characteristics of people in the twenty-first century. For decades churches operated by developing standardized programs to reach large groups of people with relatively homogenous needs. The fragmentation of culture into ever-smaller affinity circles means thatpeople often have very different and unique needs from each other. Further, fragmentation has also affected the character and pattern of lifestyles in the emerging culture. There is no longer any standard pattern of work, recreation and home life. Each family has its own needs and its own schedule. This means people no longer have the time or energy to be involved in programs that do not fit their own schedule and do not meet their specific needs. Churches have begun to grapple with the problems this creates and there is much talk of change; of equipping the laity and of being creative in ministry to name just two recent topics of interest. Efforts to implement these changes often encounter great stress as they run into the established patterns of ministry structure. All the good intentions and great effort to change ministry will not succeed unless the environment these ministries occur in, the church structure, is changed with them. The challenge the church faces is trying to find a ministry structure that allows the church to meet the needs of this fragmented and diverse culture and still provides the stability and direction the church needs to remain a unified and energized group. Grace Evangelical Bible Church is an example of one of those churches struggling to adapt to this new world. Grace Evangelical Bible Church in Abbotsford, B.C., Canada, has been encountering difficulties in its ministry. Over the last ten years the number of people serving and attending its major ministries has been falling. The leadership has spent many hours trying to determine the cause of this problem and to refine its program offerings. One problem is the organizational structure of Grace Church. It is unable to adapt to the changing needs of people in the twenty-first Century. This paper proposes that the leaders of Grace Church need to move from an organizational structure focused on controlling ministries targeted at large groups of people to a church structure that focuses on creating an environment that allows microrninistries to develop, based on the gifts and passions of the people within the congregation. Chapter l introduces the problem and sets the context for its solution. The current situation of the various ministry tracks at Grace Church is presented. The chapter outlines the current organizational and ministry structure along with congregational values about programs. The chapter concludes with a discussion concerning the importance and limitations of local church structure. Chapter 2 will demonstrate how four cultural shifts are creating an environment for which the organizational structure of Grace Church is ill prepared. The chapter will show that the organizational structure needs to be re-designed for this new environment. Chapter 3 will outline the biblical principles that are the foundation of the local church. These principles show a more open and empowering (or less controlling) style of local church structure, which is in line with the priesthood of believers and lay driven ministry. The chapter will demonstrate how a network-oriented structure is well-suited to Paul's metaphor of the Body of Christ, and it will allow for the widest development of the gifts of the Spirit amongst the laity. The chapter will also address the theological implications behind the modem church's need for control. Chapter 4 will examine Christian history for examples of movements that blossomed when control was not a primary determination of structure and where organic structures were used. This will include a review of the historical tension that has existed between the institutional church and lay-driven movements. Chapter 5 will address material on how organizations are adapting to the changing environment. New insights from the field of complexity science will demonstrate how organizations can be viewed as complex adaptive systems. The self-organizing properties of complex adaptive systems will be applied to the task of structuring the local church. This will show how micro-ministries could provide a structure that is agile enough to keep up with the rapid changes in the emerging culture. Chapter 6 would offer a new model of church organizational structure for Grace Church. It will outline how Grace Church could move from being structured for control to a structure that cultivates an environment that empowers and equips people to minister out of their unique gifts and passions. It will demonstrate through the science of self-organizing systems how such a network structure could stay unified and connected, without direct control.

Included in

Christianity Commons