SBC Life Articles

Teamwork is Aim of NAMB Organizational Model

After months of thoughtful study and dialogue with consultants and a wide range of Southern Baptist leaders, the Implementation Task Force has formulated an organizational model for the North American Mission Board. In pursuing its assignment to implement all necessary organizational revisions required by the Covenant for a New Century, the ITF considered structures which delineated the work around geographical regions or which emphasized primary customers (constituencies) or products as the starting point. Committee members were acutely aware of the importance of selecting the best model for the organization. Ted Warren, chief operating officer of the Baptist Sunday School Board and ITF member, said, "No company or organization has a more noble or meaningful mission than the local church and the agencies which seek to assist them."

After considering the alternatives, ITF members determined that the most effective method of organization for NAMB was a process model. This approach begins with the mission statement and builds the organization around the processes (tasks or activities) that contribute to accomplishing that mission. It is a model often used in corporate structuring, Warren stated, "Many of the most successful organizations of the 90s have changed part or all of their organizational structure to be based upon a process model. It groups people together for natural 'work flow' which results in significant improvements in both efficiency and effectiveness. We believe this design can greatly facilitate the accomplishment of the goals of the Covenant for everyone in Southern Baptist life."

The Covenant for a New Century adopted by the SBC in 1995 called for the creation of the NAMB whose mission is "to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, start New Testament congregations, and minister to persons in the name of Christ and to assist churches in the United States and Canada in effectively performing these functions." The mission statement suggested an organizational model centered on the two primary processes: evangelism and church planting.

The Evangelization Group will give leadership to SBC churches in direct evangelism strategies such as witnessing to various faith, cultural, and age groups. They will also provide strategic assistance to event or mass evangelism. Teaching personal and church witnessing skills and spiritual preparation for evangelism is the assignment of the church evangelism section of the Evangelization Group. They will also assist local churches with resources designed to improve evangelistic effectiveness. Chaplaincy, immigration, and refugee ministries that were formerly performed under the Social Ministry section of the Home Mission Board have been placed in the Evangelization Group to emphasize their evangelistic intent.

The Church Planting Group will develop the process for achieving the objective of starting New Testament congregations. They will provide resources and strategy for enlisting and training church planting leadership, for creating and maintaining church planting partnerships across North America, and for establishing new congregations among various people groups.

The significance of the organizational model for the NAMB is that it is a matrix design rather than a hierarchical design. The advantages of the matrix, or grid, organization are increased cooperation, communication, flexibility, and rapid response. While the terminology may not be familiar to everyone, Warren said the concept is. "Most of us have some experience working on a matrix team in some area of life. For instance, in the local church, the church council members may represent different age groups and programs, yet they may work on a team to plan the overall Christmas program or evangelism strategy of the church. Or at work, the boss may pull together people from several different departments to solve a particular problem. Or mothers from every area of the city, and many occupations, may join on a team to fight against drunk drivers where they use the skills of each person to efficiently and effectively conduct a campaign," he said.

In this model, people are encouraged to work outside their own compartments as team members and guards against a bureaucratic mindset, the limitations of narrow job descriptions, and turf protection. It requires less middle management and more teamwork. In the NAMB model, the two primary processes, Evangelization and Church Planting, are assisted in their tasks by three support areas, the Media and Mission Education Group, the Strategic Planning and Mobilization Group, and the Business Services Group. The horizontal arrows moving left to right in the diagram represent the interaction of the support areas with the primary processes which they exist to serve.

The Media and Mission Education Group provides support to both Evangelization and Church Planting through the Missions Education programs and resources, media strategy and technology, publishing, and public relations. Coordination of volunteers for such work as disaster relief, World Changers, and short-term missions, is a part of the Strategic Planning and Mobilization Group. This group is also to conduct research and evaluation for NAMB and provide leadership for interaction with cities, associations, and state conventions.

The Business Services Group supports the whole organization in such areas as accounting, human resources, and information services.

It is anticipated that this process-based matrix design will greatly enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of NAMB in its mission of leading Southern Baptists in reaching North America for Christ. Emphasizing that wise organization is only one part of a successful formula, Warren said, "No organizational model is the answer by itself. The ultimate quality of the organization will depend on the people who will work for NAMB. A process model requires more individual flexibility, cooperation, communications, and competence. It also requires people who are not trying to build their own empire and are focused on God getting the glory. It is the antithesis of a traditional bureaucracy and entitlement mindset; a change in the culture as well as the way the work is done. But, the result is a much stronger, more relevant, and effective organization which meets the objectives embodied in their mission statement.

In addition to expected efficiencies, Warren predicted a greater sense of job gratification for those serving in the agency. He said, "It turns out to be a much more exciting and fun place to work. A properly functioning process-based, matrix-style organization should result in employees saying 'this is the way we really do work best together to solve problems and meet needs effectively and efficiently.'"



Expert "Denomination Watcher" Praises SBC Mission Effort — Past and Future

Lyle Schaller, nationally known consultant on American congregational and denominational life, in an exchange with Implementation Task Force members, expressed great admiration for what Southern Baptists had done in America in recent decades, particularly through the Home Mission Board. He also predicted positive results would flow from the creation of the NAMB. He pointed out that the SBC led by the HMB has been the most successful of all denominations at:




transforming an overwhelmingly Anglo denomination into America's number one multicultural denomination.





transforming a regional denomination into a national denomination.





launching new missions in the large central cities.





training staff that eventually gives leadership throughout the SBC at associational and state convention levels.





providing resources from a centralized national entity to local congregations within the context of congregational polity.





in continuing to experience growth in both number of members and number of congregations (The SBC is the only large religious body in the USA to have done this since 1970).


In a day when many denominations are downsizing their national agencies, Schaller was very optimistic about the future of the SBC. He said, "As a veteran 'denomination watcher' since 1960, my first reaction to the proposals for NAMB is delight. I am delighted to read the central organizing principles will be evangelism and planting new missions. That is a winning combination!" He suggested that NAMB concentrate on building partnerships with state conventions and large SBC congregations and focus the resources of NAMB on inventing, testing, and perfecting new models for planting new missions and encourage state conventions, larger churches, and associations to actually plant most of the new works. Schaller noted, "A big contribution by NAMB could be to create seventy to one hundred training networks for future church planters."

Schaller concluded his remarks with this appeal: "Please do not let the public image of NAMB be that it is an agency that is primarily concerned with collecting and redistributing money. I hope the image will be of the most creative missions agency on the continent."

    About the Author

  • David E. Hankins