The Organizational Structure of a Christian Church

by Carolyn Schott

In Christian churches, Jesus Christ is the head of the church, though the senior pastor is the head of his individual church congregation. Under this leadership, the ideal organizational structure will depend on size, types of ministries, and denomination.

Church Size

A large church with many ministries and a paid staff needs a more complex structure than a smaller congregation. A church's decision-making process, whether by congregational consensus or by ministry leaders, also impacts the structure.

Main Functions

Many churches are organized by functions, including outreach (also called evangelism or missions), worship, and congregational ministry.

Congregational Ministry

Congregational ministry can be subdivided by age (children's ministry, youth ministry), by ministry type (Christian education, shut-in visitation), or by specific target ministries (men's ministries, university ministries). When creating this structure, avoid overlapping subgroups that could make responsibilities unclear.

Church Administration

Another main function is administration, which includes accounting, technology support, facilities management. Large churches can have an executive pastor or an administrator to oversee these areas.

Lay Leadership and the Congregation

Most churches have a board of elders or governing board that provides strategic direction. In many cases, the congregation as a whole must vote on decisions, such as hiring pastors. The authority of the governing board and congregation varies by denomination.

About the Author

Carolyn Schott has been writing about technology subjects since 2002. Her travel essays have appeared in the “Christian Science Monitor” and the “Seattle Times.” Schott has certificates in technical writing and editing from Bellevue College, as well as a Master of Science in information systems from Seattle Pacific University.

Photo Credits

  • church image by stefanie van der vinden from Fotolia.com