What is the reason for changing our governance?

As churches grow, one barrier to continued growth can sometimes be the traditional Consistory structure. Many churches before us have learned that churches often need to restructure their church boards (or Consistories) when they grow larger than 300. These shifts include a more staff lead ministry and less management by the Board. Over years of ministry, churches often fall into “practices” as well that served well in the past, but may not serve as well into the future. Those practices can often feel like requirements because of their longevity, history, and familiarity while inhibiting effectiveness or grappling with changing needs of the congregation and mission. There are several options for restructuring; Carver Policy Governance, however, is a standard governance structure for various nonprofits and for many larger churches. Others have chosen a modified Carver Governance called “accountable leadership” based on the work of Paul Borden.

Who made the decision to change our governance?

Beginning in 2016, the Hope Church Consistory had numerous conversations about pursuing a governance change to Carver Policy Governance. After conversations with numerous churches and leaders, we sought out several proposals for a consultant to lead us through a discovery and learning process. In September of 2016, the decision was made to contract with Pastor Tom Elenbaas from Harbor Churches, a RCA church that was one of the early adopters of policy governance implementation in the RCA. Through the end of 2016 and the winter of 2017, the Consistory learned about Carver Policy Governance including an extended 2 day retreat in December of 2016. The results were the following decisions:

  1. Create a draft Policy Handbook for Hope Church
  2. Empower a team from the Consistory to work on the detailed draft
  3. Continue the leadership of the Consistory through the summer
  4. Transition to a new team to implement a new governance structure beginning in the fall of 2017.

How does this governance work with biblical standards, the Reformed Church polity, and the State of Michigan requirements for churches?

Carver Policy Governance works well with the RCA Book of Church Order, meets biblical standards for Elders as overseers, the RCA BCO and State of Michigan’s required positions and responsibilities for non-profit organizations.  In fact, it is a recommended form of governance for growing churches because of its high accountability and high empowerment model. The highest body of the RCA – the General Synod – uses Carver Governance for the General Secretary and the RCA Denominational Staff. The Regional Synod of the Great Lakes also utilizes Carver Governance, and the previous Regional Director, Rick Veenstra, was an early advocate to churches.