Church Leadership Structure Models
A church’s leadership structure is a way of organizing the people in the church for effective ministry. It can help determine how that congregation functions and what roles its leaders have. While there are many different types of church leadership structures, four common models are:
Egalitarian – Every person in the church has equal say and is equally responsible for leadership in the church.
Egalitarian churches are led by a team of leaders. These leaders work together to make decisions, but they do not have any more power than anyone else in the church. Every person in the church has equal say and is equally responsible for leadership in the church.
In egalitarian churches, everyone has a voice that matters. Everyone feels valued and respected. Everyone feels like they are part of important decisions about how to run their local body of believers or ministry organization.
Egalitarianism also means that members take ownership over different aspects of ministry—even if those aren’t roles assigned as “leadership” within a hierarchical structure like other models might have it happen!
Hierarchical – A hierarchy of authority exists within the church that controls all decision-making.
A hierarchical church leadership structure consists of leaders who are responsible for making decisions, carrying out the decision, teaching and guiding the church, handling discipline issues as they arise, and overseeing finances. It is often associated with churches that have a professional pastor (or “elder”) who serves as the main leader of the congregation. In this model, there may be other elders or pastors that serve under this leader in different capacities (such as preaching).
Elders – The senior leaders of a church are also considered its spiritual shepherds. They counsel and guide, and handle church discipline when necessary.
The elders are responsible for the spiritual health of a church. They counsel and guide, handle church discipline when necessary, and make decisions about how to fulfill their responsibilities. Elders are also appointed by the pastor to serve as overseers or overseer/elders.
An elder is someone who has been called by God for service in ministry leadership within the body of Christ (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). An elder must be male because God has revealed that only men can serve as leaders in this capacity (I Corinthians 11:3; 14:34; 1 Timothy 2:11-15).
The word “elder” comes from Greek presbuteros which means “older man” or “one who is older than others” or even “ancient one” due to his wisdom gained through age!
Deacons – The leaders in a church who take care of the non-spiritual matters of the church (such as budgets and facilities).
Deacons are the leaders in a church who take care of the non-spiritual matters of the church (such as budgets and facilities). They are appointed by the congregation and not paid for their work. Deacons are not considered to be spiritual leaders, although they may have a background in finance.
A church’s leadership structure can help determine how that congregation functions.
A church’s leadership structure can help determine how that congregation functions. A church’s leadership structure will be a good fit for its congregation when it provides the right level of accountability and freedom for each member, as well as for the minister.
A church’s structure doesn’t have to be exactly like someone else’s in order to be successful, but it does need to fit your organization’s mission statement, values and vision.
There are many different leadership models to choose from, but when it comes down to it, all you really need is a model that works for your church. This means that no matter what kind of structure you choose, it should be one that honors God’s Word and allows everyone in the church to participate in meaningful ways. You may have heard about some of these models before—but hopefully now they make more sense as well!