At Dwell, we believe in individual initiative in ministry under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. The church leadership is not here to restrict ministry or to control it, but to facilitate it. At the same time, for a variety of reasons, the church is, and should be, limited in the number and type of ministries it supports. These limitation arise for the following reasons:
- Any local church's resources are finite, and to have impact for God, we must guard against diffusing our efforts in so many directions that most ministries are weak and starved for resource and personnel.
- Information is another bottleneck. If hundreds of ministries want to inform the other members of what they are doing, we can end up in a maelstrom of information that deadens interest. Soon all our meetings could contain an interminable list of announcements that turns everyone off.
- Some people are moved in their heart to tackle ministries for which they are entirely unqualified. It's easy to underestimate how difficult some ministries will be, and we need evidence that the individual or group that tackles a job has some prospect of success.
- Finally, each church has to determine what their particular vision and mission are, and ministries that expect substantial church support must be in harmony with that mission and that vision. A church is like a team of horses pulling in the same yoke. But even a hundred horses hitched to a little wagon will go nowhere if they are all in separate yokes pulling in different directions! God appoints leaders in local churches to determine the general direction the church should move.
Considering all these factors, we realize the church needs a way to balance the freedom and creativity of individual initiative with the limitations of the church. This is why we developed a procedure for "accrediting" ministry teams. Accreditation has nothing to do with permission. At Dwell, members are free to pursue any ministry they chose. Accreditation is a recognition that a ministry:
- appears to be led by the Spirit
- has a good plan that promises success
- has adequate leadership and personnel
- is needed
- fits in with the vision and mission of our church
- will cooperate with other ministries in the church
- should be prioritized over other ministry opportunities for some strategic reason
For ministries such as these, Dwell offers accreditation, and all the benefits that come with it. These include funding, assistance from staff, publicity, and referrals. We call our accredited ministries, Ministry Teams, and we have about 70 accredited teams in the church.
When someone wants to start a ministry, or wants to have an existing ministry accredited, we suggest they go the Dwell office (1340 Community Park Drive, 43229) and pick up an accreditation packet. This packet, mostly available on this site, includes forms and instructions intended to guide the thinking of prospective ministry team leaders in clarifying the plans goals and features of the proposed ministry. Accrediting a ministry team is a big decision involving numerous leaders and administrators, and eventually the elders of the church. Once a ministry team is accredited, often for a charter lasting two or more years, the church is committed to putting our full weight behind that ministry in prayer, personnel and other types of support to assure them success. At the end of their charter, they do a self-assessment along with a staff assessment to determine whether to accredit them for another charter period.
We warn applicants that the process may take weeks or months to complete, and there is no guarantee of success. People on staff as well as volunteers have to fit meetings with the applicant into their schedule, and we explain that, with possibly numerous ministries seeking accreditation, it could be weeks before a particular department or division head can schedule a meeting. The patience and persistence it takes to complete the process are very similar to the patience and persistence required by most ministries, so we feel the demeanor of the applicant during this process is telling us something.
The Pastoral Support Division supervises and coordinates the process, which might involve people from several divisions or departments in the church before completion. At several points during the accreditation process, a consultant meets with the applicant to review their progress. Steps in the process include:
- When someone wants to either begin a ministry or accredit an existing ministry, they contact the equipping division and set up a first consultation.
- A potential qualified leader must be identified to make and pursue the application. A person is qualified to lead a ministry if he or she belongs to the Servant Team. If the applicant is not currently a leader, the consultant explains the requirements, and initiates a plan, either to recruit a leader, or to qualify the applicant as a leader. The applicant's name is circulated to the elders and they have an opportunity to raise any objections they may have to appointing that person as a deacon in the church. Clear character problems known to the elders are identified at this point, before a huge amount of work is expended on the application.
- The applicant fills out the Ministry Team Accreditation Application
- At the second meeting with a consultant, they cover the work on the application and identify any areas that need more work before going further. If the applicant is having trouble with parts of the application, the consultant will assist in completing it.
- The applicant revises and refines the application
- At the third meeting consultation they review the revisions. This process could be repeated as many times as necessary until the application is fully completed and all the questions have been answered adequately.
- The applicant is provided with a list of staff supervisory personnel with whom meetings must be scheduled. Before each meeting with staff, the notebook is sent to the staff person for study. When they meet, the staff person has already identified the questions or potential problems with the ministry. Since staff supervisory personnel will be responsible for overseeing the ministry, they are trained to settle any problems in advance. Therefore, these meetings are not rubber-stamp meetings.
- If the staff person feels modifications are needed, the application returns to the consultant and applicant for additional work.
- If all agree that the ministry is needed and appropriate, the applicant meets with the division coordinator for the division in which the ministry will fall if approved. After one or more meetings, the division coordinator determines whether to recommend accreditation of the ministry team. The coordinator sends copies of the ministry team abstract to each elder, along with his recommendation to accredit or to defer accreditation.
- The elders have two weeks to study the abstract and raise any questions they may have about the ministry. At any time during those two weeks, any elder can call for formal discussion at the elder's meeting before the decision is final. If no elder interrupts the process at this point, they automatically approve the recommendation of the division coordinator, either to defer or to accredit the team at the end of two weeks.
- If the team is accredited, a letter is drafted and sent congratulating the applicant and new leader on the success of their application and pointing out where to go from there. If the team is deferred, the division coordinator may call or meet with the applicant to explain why the ministry is not being accredited at this time, and to suggest ways to enhance the application for consideration no sooner than one year later.
- If accreditation is successful, the church is notified with a news item and description of the ministry. Other forms of introduction, such as ministry highlights or introduction at the Servant Team meeting are also likely.
As tough as this process is, around 70 teams have completed it successfully. We know of no other church where such a process exists.