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Thread: Duties of the district, and why

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    Senior Member Hans Deventer's Avatar

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    Duties of the district, and why

    Obviously the District Assembly adopts the budget annually, but it seems to me we never really have a discussion on what the district should or should not do, and why. Which means we often get folks complaining about the district budget, and sometimes the same ones, asking for money from the district. It seems to me we could really do with an agreed upon document that says what the district is to do, and what not, directly linked to the proposed budget.

    I've started to write a policy document on that one, but I'd love to have input on this. Do any of you know about such a document in the district you are in? Can't imagine I'm the first one to ever come up with such an idea.

    Ideally, I'd like to see a cycle develop: Establish policy -> work out in the budget -> act -> report on the actions as determined by policy and budget -> adapt policy where needed -> work out in the budget etc etc.
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    Host Book, Movie & CE forums Ryan Scott's Avatar

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    Re: Duties of the district, and why

    I imagine it would vary quite a bit from region to region, depending on how the various assemblies and advisory boards view the role of the district.

    I know some districts who see their role almost solely as starting new churches and some that view such work solely the responsibility of local congregations.
    ...just my $.02.
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    Senior Member Hans Deventer's Avatar

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    Re: Duties of the district, and why

    So it looks like I'll have some pioneering to do. It will be interesting
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    Host Theology Forum Dennis M. Scott's Avatar

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    Re: Duties of the district, and why

    Remember that when the General Assembly wanted to define what a district superintendent does, they had to call a recess, and when they came back, Dave McClung offered that a superintendent superintends. It passed. I guess maybe it follows that a district "districts"?
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    Senior Member Hans Deventer's Avatar

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    Re: Duties of the district, and why

    Quote Originally Posted by Dennis M. Scott View Post
    Remember that when the General Assembly wanted to define what a district superintendent does, they had to call a recess, and when they came back, Dave McClung offered that a superintendent superintends. It passed. I guess maybe it follows that a district "districts"?
    I vividly remember that discussion. It was an interesting exercise in trying to define authority without responsibility. But I don't think it applies to a district. The district has no authority, some officers on the district have authority.
    200. The General Assembly shall organize the membership
    of the church into districts.
    A district is an entity made up of interdependent local
    churches organized to facilitate the mission of each local
    church through mutual support, the sharing of resources,
    and collaboration.
    The part in italics is through the courtesy of the 2009 GA
    Love the sinner, hate the sin? Love the sinner and hate your own sin! - Tony Campolo
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    Host Theology Forum Dennis M. Scott's Avatar

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    Re: Duties of the district, and why

    I notice that newly elected DS Scott Sherwood is following this thread. Perhaps he, too, is wondering what a district is supposed to do. Probably a good thing for someone in his position to do. Why don't they all do that?
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    Senior Member Eric Frey's Avatar

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    Re: Duties of the district, and why

    I think I would have a hard time distinguishing between what the Superintendent is supposed to do and what the District is supposed to do. I would think the district is the mechanism for the execution of the Superintendent's duties. For example, how does the Superintendent "oversee" the congregations in her district? Through the DAB, finance committee, District Assembly, etc. How does the Superintendent pastor the pastors (ie equip, empower, encourage, etc). In part that is one-on-one, but it is also continuing education seminars/meetings. It is providing a mentoring process. It is team building. How does the Superintendent ordain (provide clergy for the churches)? Through the Credentials Board and the Ministerial Studies board.

    I think when we get into trouble is when we over-extend what the District does to duties beyond the scope of the Superintendents. For instance, whose job is it to equip the local church to make disciples, do youth ministry, and do/support missions? It is the Pastors responsibility to equip/empower/encourage the local congregation. Not the Superintendent. So why does the district need to be in the business of things like NMI, NYI, and SDMI. If the pastor is being equiped/empowered/encouraged by the Superintendent then the pastor ought to be able to adequately equip/empower/encourage the local church. I think Camp Boards fall into this category as well.

    So, IMHO, if we want to understand what the District ought to be doing, we need to simply understand what we expect the Superintendent to be doing.
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    Senior Member Hans Deventer's Avatar

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    Re: Duties of the district, and why

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Frey View Post
    So, IMHO, if we want to understand what the District ought to be doing, we need to simply understand what we expect the Superintendent to be doing.
    How does that fit with this, Eric?

    "A district is an entity made up of interdependent local
    churches organized to facilitate the mission of each local
    church through mutual support, the sharing of resources,
    and collaboration."

    As I see it, the district are the churches. The district organisation involves several officers. My DS would go crazy if everything people expect of a district, would be expected of him. As district officers, we are to facilitate. He's in charge of that on a daily basis, but ultimately, it is the DA who decides what is being done. And that is where my document comes in.
    Love the sinner, hate the sin? Love the sinner and hate your own sin! - Tony Campolo

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    Senior Member John Reilly's Avatar

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    Re: Duties of the district, and why

    From Hans, "Obviously the District Assembly adopts the budget annually, but it seems to me we never really have a discussion on what the district should or should not do, and why."

    When I first attended District Assembly in 1990, there was a microphone on the floor facing the General and District Superintendents. People who wanted to speak were asked to line up at the microphone much like at General Assembly. The microphone disappeared around the time of the demise of the individual pastor reports. Anyway seems like there ought to be input from the assembly delegates on the district budget before it is voted on. I know the district committees do their work but still it is important for the delegates to feel like they can have input.
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    Senior Member Scott Sherwood's Avatar

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    Re: Duties of the district, and why

    Quote Originally Posted by Dennis M. Scott View Post
    I notice that newly elected DS Scott Sherwood is following this thread. Perhaps he, too, is wondering what a district is supposed to do. Probably a good thing for someone in his position to do. Why don't they all do that?
    For some reason, I'm more motivated to nail down my philosophy of district ministry now than I ever have been before. There are some pretty sharp minds & sincere hearts around here (Naznet). On Naznet there is always an opportunity to learn something of value in the first few dozen posts on a given topic. Beyond that, look out.

    Dennis, I find this to be an issue that at least several D.S.'s are continually trying to clarify. Here's what I think I think. Part of the organizational problem churches and districts face is also part of the genius of the church: Pastors, D.S.'s and G.S.'s are all in a position with far reaching responsibilities without a proportional degree of authority. One of the realities this imbalance produces is leaders who must lead almost entirely through influence rather than through authority. When it works, nothing is better. When it doesn't work, it seems like nothing can make it better.

    When relationships are good, the organization flourishes. When relationships are less than good, the organization suffers. Its all about relationship. Kinda like the gospel. And starting with the New Testament Epistles, we know that living out the gospel has always been a little messy.

    I'm looking forward to reading what Hans writes. And memorizing what the Manual says about the District.

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    Senior Member Hans Deventer's Avatar

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    Re: Duties of the district, and why

    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Sherwood View Post
    I'm looking forward to reading what Hans writes.
    So am I! But if it does get anywhere, I'll translate it for you.
    Love the sinner, hate the sin? Love the sinner and hate your own sin! - Tony Campolo
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    Senior Member Greg Gates's Avatar

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    Re: Duties of the district, and why

    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Sherwood View Post
    Part of the organizational problem churches and districts face is also part of the genius of the church: Pastors, D.S.'s and G.S.'s are all in a position with far reaching responsibilities without a proportional degree of authority. One of the realities this imbalance produces is leaders who must lead almost entirely through influence rather than through authority. When it works, nothing is better. When it doesn't work, it seems like nothing can make it better.
    Well said! I think the lack of pastoral authority is the principal reason we have no mega churches. But is it hypocritical, for me as a pastor, to not want our DS's and GS's to have more authority? lol.
    Thanks Scott Sherwood - "thanks" for this post
    Laughing Dennis M. Scott - thanks for this funny post

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    Re: Duties of the district, and why

    After just electing a DS a mere 12 months ago we (as a district advisory board) went through this very discussion. What does a district do-what is its function? We decided almost immediately to ensure that our new DS understands that the District exists to serve the local church and not the other way around.

    We went through hours of discussion regarding "value" of the district. We created surveys, took data, had focus groups and wanted to hear from folks on our district. Then the question becomes how do we resource the local church in order to create healthy churches. It was a fun process and WAPAC is certainly the benefactor of a great DS in Jerry Kester.

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    Senior Member Craig Laughlin's Avatar

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    Re: Duties of the district, and why

    Quote Originally Posted by Heidi Anderson View Post
    After just electing a DS a mere 12 months ago we (as a district advisory board) went through this very discussion. What does a district do-what is its function? We decided almost immediately to ensure that our new DS understands that the District exists to serve the local church and not the other way around.

    We went through hours of discussion regarding "value" of the district. We created surveys, took data, had focus groups and wanted to hear from folks on our district. Then the question becomes how do we resource the local church in order to create healthy churches. It was a fun process and WAPAC is certainly the benefactor of a great DS in Jerry Kester.
    Thanks Heidi. You guys did a great job. With an outstanding outcome.

    I think the idea that the district (and general church) exist to serve the local church is the single most foundational idea. I think DS's have sometimes been viewed as the "enforcer" of the General Church or the larger concerns of the District. (There are some pretty scary stories here on Naznet) That model is pretty much gone.

    I really don't care about having debates with open mics at the district level. I think that is important at General Assembly but at a district level I just don't see it as very productive and it has the potential to bleed off the energy of the district in debates.

    I guess I'm not sure I can articulate what exactly are the duties of the district. However the question itself may miss the point. For me the bottom line is this. To the extent that the District helps local churches authentically be the Body of Christ on earth the district is successful. If this does not happen, does anything else really matter? I also think, like a local church, there are a lot of different ways to get to this and it probably looks different in every place. This is the the genius of the DS role, she/he is given the opportunity to gather the influence necessarily to make things happen.

    I know our new DS is certainly doing that. Having hung out with him some this last year I find myself saying. "Where do I sign up to follow this guy?" - Seems like that is a pretty good measure of success and effectiveness.
    Last edited by Craig Laughlin; May 4th, 2012 at 12:21 PM. Reason: forgot the word "not"
    It is not enough to be right, you have to be like Jesus.
    Thanks Dennis M. Scott, Heidi Anderson - "thanks" for this post

  15. #15
    Dan Henderson
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    Re: Duties of the district, and why

    Quote Originally Posted by Greg Gates View Post
    Well said! I think the lack of pastoral authority is the principal reason we have no mega churches. But is it hypocritical, for me as a pastor, to not want our DS's and GS's to have more authority? lol.
    The mega churches which are leader-driven face the same generational problems of closely-held corporations and proprietorships. Only a smattering of either will survive the second generation. In business there is a concept called the "going-concern principal" that dictates that organizational leaders are required to make decisions for the organizations as if they are always going to be in existance. This concept is difficult for organizations driven by the personality of a single leader as that single leaders vision is rarely passed on in its fullness to the next generation. Closely aligned with that concept is the organizational life-cycle. A for-profit business lifecycle will normally be taught as roughly Birth-Growth-Maturity. There is also Decline and Death, but because of going-concern, business is expected to stay in the maturity phase indefinately or re-define themselves and repeat the lifecycle. Non-Profits and other such organizations are very much concerned witht the decline and death portion of the life-cycle. My estimate of where the Int'l CoTN is right now is somewhere between maturity and decline, and looking for a way to move to rebirth as an organization.

    A long explaination to state that, normally mega church, and almost any type of explosive growth pattern in an organization is generally un-sustainable over the long-haul. Most personality driven organizations die with the personality. The CoTN has a decent enough foundational organization with its 50/50 elder/lay construct. It may not be the best way to run a religious organization but I haven't found another style that doesn't present problems of their own. So on the whole, I think our organizational construct is as good as any as long as we keep it balanced between congregationalism and whatever you call the opposite (papalism?)
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    Senior Member Scott Sherwood's Avatar

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    Re: Duties of the district, and why

    A great resource I plan to re-read in the very near future.

    Created for Mission

    Partial Table of Contents:

    Three Reasons for Districts 13

    Six Marks of a Healthy District 35

    Six Essential Characteristics of a
    District Superintendent 63


    The Six Essential Priorities of an
    Effective Overseer 65


    Conclusion—It Can Be Done 83

    Quote Originally Posted by Hans Deventer View Post
    I vividly remember that discussion. It was an interesting exercise in trying to define authority without responsibility. But I don't think it applies to a district. The district has no authority, some officers on the district have authority.
    200. The General Assembly shall organize the membership
    of the church into districts.
    A district is an entity made up of interdependent local
    churches organized to facilitate the mission of each local
    church through mutual support, the sharing of resources,
    and collaboration.
    The part in italics is through the courtesy of the 2009 GA
    Thanks Ryan Scott, Craig Laughlin - "thanks" for this post

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    Senior Member Craig Laughlin's Avatar

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    Re: Duties of the district, and why

    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Henderson View Post
    The mega churches which are leader-driven face the same generational problems of closely-held corporations and proprietorships. Only a smattering of either will survive the second generation. In business there is a concept called the "going-concern principal" that dictates that organizational leaders are required to make decisions for the organizations as if they are always going to be in existance. This concept is difficult for organizations driven by the personality of a single leader as that single leaders vision is rarely passed on in its fullness to the next generation. Closely aligned with that concept is the organizational life-cycle. A for-profit business lifecycle will normally be taught as roughly Birth-Growth-Maturity. There is also Decline and Death, but because of going-concern, business is expected to stay in the maturity phase indefinately or re-define themselves and repeat the lifecycle. Non-Profits and other such organizations are very much concerned witht the decline and death portion of the life-cycle. My estimate of where the Int'l CoTN is right now is somewhere between maturity and decline, and looking for a way to move to rebirth as an organization.

    A long explaination to state that, normally mega church, and almost any type of explosive growth pattern in an organization is generally un-sustainable over the long-haul. Most personality driven organizations die with the personality. The CoTN has a decent enough foundational organization with its 50/50 elder/lay construct. It may not be the best way to run a religious organization but I haven't found another style that doesn't present problems of their own. So on the whole, I think our organizational construct is as good as any as long as we keep it balanced between congregationalism and whatever you call the opposite (papalism?)
    I think the local churches would benefit greatly from understanding the life cycle issues. I don't know how widely this is understood even among pastors although if they complete enough education they will probably run into it. I know the KC district talked about it and I know Larry McKain's organization "New church specialties" has put it out there a lot. Good stuff.

    Our Nazarene structure is a blend of congregation and Episcopal governmental structures. Sometime I think we have the best of both worlds, sometimes I think we have the worst. - Until we get to heaven all forms of government have huge compromises.
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    Senior Member Craig Laughlin's Avatar

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    Re: Duties of the district, and why

    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Sherwood View Post
    A great resource I plan to re-read in the very near future.
    I'll bet there has been a recent shift in your "to be read" list. Our prayers are with you.
    It is not enough to be right, you have to be like Jesus.
    Thanks Scott Sherwood - "thanks" for this post

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    Senior Member Greg Gates's Avatar

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    Re: Duties of the district, and why

    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Henderson View Post
    The CoTN has a decent enough foundational organization with its 50/50 elder/lay construct. It may not be the best way to run a religious organization but I haven't found another style that doesn't present problems of their own. So on the whole, I think our organizational construct is as good as any as long as we keep it balanced between congregationalism and whatever you call the opposite (papalism?)
    I removed my thanks after thinking about the above statement, lol

    I think our structure has prevented our churches from "winning" more people to Jesus, regardless of generational transitions. I think a better structure is one that makes it easy for churches to become as effective as possible. Now, I think the BGS is trying to do that... but too little too late.

  20. #20
    Dan Henderson
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    Re: Duties of the district, and why

    Quote Originally Posted by Greg Gates View Post
    I removed my thanks after thinking about the above statement, lol

    I think our structure has prevented our churches from "winning" more people to Jesus, regardless of generational transitions. I think a better structure is one that makes it easy for churches to become as effective as possible. Now, I think the BGS is trying to do that... but too little too late.
    Thanks for unthanking me. The structure doesn't win people to Christ. People win people to Christ. The structure is there to support the people in the organization. In an organization of our age, some atrophy is normal. As long as we have people, like you, who care enough to change things for the better, we will be okay as an organization. Any type of organization we invent to take care of the business portion of our organization will have strengths and weaknesses. We could have the Bishops appointing all the pastor's like in the UMC, but that would present its own set of problems. With our structure, at least we've had enough time to identify the weaknesses. We can fix them or work around them.

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    Senior Member Hans Deventer's Avatar

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    Re: Duties of the district, and why

    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Sherwood View Post
    Part of the organizational problem churches and districts face is also part of the genius of the church: Pastors, D.S.'s and G.S.'s are all in a position with far reaching responsibilities without a proportional degree of authority. One of the realities this imbalance produces is leaders who must lead almost entirely through influence rather than through authority. When it works, nothing is better. When it doesn't work, it seems like nothing can make it better.

    When relationships are good, the organization flourishes. When relationships are less than good, the organization suffers. Its all about relationship. Kinda like the gospel. And starting with the New Testament Epistles, we know that living out the gospel has always been a little messy.
    This is a post to print and frame and put on one's wall. Very, very true, Scott.
    Love the sinner, hate the sin? Love the sinner and hate your own sin! - Tony Campolo
    Thanks Paul DeBaufer, Gina Stevenson - "thanks" for this post

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    Multi-Forum Host Kevin Rector's Avatar

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    Re: Duties of the district, and why

    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Henderson View Post
    So on the whole, I think our organizational construct is as good as any as long as we keep it balanced between congregationalism and whatever you call the opposite (papalism?)
    I think our polity is very balanced and healthy. I rather like it as the congregationalism is checked and the episcopacy is checked.

    PS. Episcopacy is the word you were looking for to stand opposite congregationalism.

  23. #23
    Dan Henderson
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    Re: Duties of the district, and why

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Rector View Post
    I think our polity is very balanced and healthy. I rather like it as the congregationalism is checked and the episcopacy is checked.

    PS. Episcopacy is the word you were looking for to stand opposite congregationalism.
    Thanks, looks easier to spell than to say

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