Gospel Centered Growth

Building Power in a Congregation: The Basic Need in Our Day

Power is defined as the ability to act. A congregation needs a purpose and needs power to act to fulfill this purpose. Some congregations appear to be powerless. That is, they never seem to be able to engage in action, which results in achievement of their stated purpose. A congregation lacking power can be defined as, “all talk, no action.”

Power to act can be built into an organization. Such power is the result of fulfilling certain functions within the organization, of doing them in a certain sequence, and in sharing this development process throughout the church. The four primary functions are:

  1. Evaluation
  2. Recommendation
  3. Decision
  4. Action

When we diagram this, we place them in a circle, strengthening the sequential nature of their relationship into an ongoing activity in the organization. When portrayed thus we call it, The Power Cycle.*

*We have expanded the elements of   The Power Cycle from the four basic functions into ten functions, thus providing a smoother and more comprehensive understanding of the process. However, we still retain the four function steps for an easier entry into using this process.

As its name suggests, the power cycle is a sequence of steps, which are repeated in an organization as it conducts its planning, and execution of activities. If this process is shortened, omits steps, or conducts without building on one another – the result is power draining rather than power building.


Examples of Power Draining Activities in a Church

A church can be so busy doing things that it never stops to ask why or how well it is doing them or fulfilling the church’s purpose. People will often feel very busy but without a sense of direction except in the continuation of the activities. This substitutes “means” for ends.” Eventually people will feel burned out and willing to turn their responsibilities over to others. A proper evaluation will provide clear directions for the future and relevant purpose to their activities. This will build power into them.

A church can move directly from evaluation to action, avoiding the steps of recommendation and decision. This turns the church into an activity trap, doing only that which has been done before. This may make their activities more efficient, but only the consideration of alternative actions can lead to greater effectiveness. These emerge when appropriate alternatives are considered in the process of recommendation. Then a move to new future activities is possible and may become part of the decision making process. This will build power into the selected activities.

A church can get very careless in its decision making. All decisions need a statement of spiritual values and outcomes that are expected and observable. These must be communicated to the membership so that they can do two things:

  1. Participate in making decisions
  2. Participate in acting on them

Good decisions are completed by clear communication to the members on how it will be implemented, the sequence or steps that will be followed, who will be responsible, what resources are needed, when these will be completed. This will build power into the connection of the church’s vision to its activities.

A church can get very careless in the administration of its programs. All activities should be clearly delegated by a decision of the congregation, with all report expectations clearly stated and a date for annual evaluation of the program. This will build power into the congregation for its renewal through evaluation and its faith in God leading it into its future.


Comments on Power Building Activities in a Church

Power building will reach only certain levels of the organization depending on the manner in which it is developed. We will present the three most common forms of power-development. They are:

  1. Development at the highest level of the church’s organization
  2. Development scattered among key leaders, board, and committees
  3. Development power is accessible to all members

1. Power building at the highest level only results in Power over us. 

This happens when one person or a small group attempts to fulfill all or most of the steps of the power cycle. A church board could decide what needs the church has, develop alternatives for the future, decide among the alternatives, and tell others what to do, or it conduct them alone. The other people of the church will perceive this as power building over them and not with them.

2. Power Building scattered among the members results in Power among us.

This occurs when the process of church planning uses a large number of the members of the church but the emphasis remains on power being generated by and for those in leadership positions. The steps in the power cycle are governed by the leaders with the members involved as sources of information and willing workers. This results in ownership of, and energy for, the work of the church. The members see new power in their church but it remains primarily in a leadership spread among them. However, one thing remains undone.

3. Power building empowered by God results in Power through us.

This happens as we recognize that we are a community of faith. We are not simply people who sit down to develop plans as might a business or social organization. We must bring our faithfulness into the planning experience so that the dimensions of faithfulness empower the way we think and what we do. The Christian Church has always confessed that it is empowered by God for its work of ministry and mission. It has often failed to see how that happens.

That power comes through God’s gifts to the entire fellowship, given largely to individual members for their donation to the common work of the fellowship. It must see its shared power as coming from its individual members into the community of faith, for its planning, development, and action. The true health and wholeness of the church comes when we take the risk of sharing each of our individual gifts for the common ministry and mission of the church, and this requires a church that can release and encourage this to happen. It is ultimately ONLY the experience of “power through us” which matters.

In Christ,

Rev. Karl Koch

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