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View Chapter 11 - Orchard

Church Planting Resource Manual

Download MS Word version:
File:Chapter 11-Orchard 5-09.doc

Chapter 11: ORCHARD - The Covenant Movement

This article contains text only. For the full version with graphics and charts, please download the MS Word version above.

Orchard Development

Theme: For true fruitfulness, it’s more than one new tree or one new church, it’s about more churches, a larger orchard, and a growing movement.

Objective: To Connect with the Covenant and Contribute to the Church Planting Movement.

Chapter Goals:
1. You will understand why the Covenant has become a strong church planting movement.
2. You will review the Covenant Agreement and the mutual commitments that result in a strong plant and an increasing movement.
3. You will understand how to organize the Church for mission and ministry.
4. You will understand the process of officially joining the Covenant.

Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” … and God saw that it was good. 
  Genesis 1:11,12  

“The Heritage of the Past is the seed
that brings forth the harvest of the future.”
On the National Archive building in Washington, DC

The Fruit of an Orchard:

One Church is great, but a Movement is better.
How can your church leave a legacy?

1. You will understand why the Covenant has become a strong church planting movement.







o   First Names and Family Names:  You have a first name and a family name.  You are uniquely associated with your first name.  However, your family name is also important.  It identifies your heritage and the family values you were raised with.  Your family name helps your family continue their legacy.
o   Your Church Name: For a new church, your First Name may be something like: Faith, Christ, Life, Journey…
Your First Name gives your unique identity.
But your Family Name is Covenant or Evangelical Covenant. 
We ask churches not to hide their Family Name, but to use it.  This helps your people understand their family values and family heritage.  And, this helps others understand who you are.
o   Therefore we ask each church plant to:
•  Have Covenant or Evangelical in your official name.
•  Participate in ECC and Conference “Family” events like annual meetings, retreats, etc.
•  Identify your Covenant affiliation on your
•  Web-site
•  Printed material
•  And provide ECC information and links to ECC and conference websites.


Go to your local grocery store, and walk down the cereal aisle. You are immediately confronted with a paradigm decision. Should I buy the name brand cereal or a generic brand? If the price is the same, which will you buy? Of course, everyone would buy the “name brand.”  Why? Because you trust the quality of the name brand product. You know it will meet your expectations. You know what you are going to get.

The question of whether to have ‘Covenant’ in your new church’s name is akin to the brand name / generic issue.  But first, a little history of church names.

1.  The moniker ‘Community’ was popular in the 1980’s, but has diminished greatly since then.
2.  Churches with ‘Community’ span the whole theological spectrum. For example, one block away from a new Covenant church plant in Minneapolis is ‘Lake Harriet Community Church’. That wonderfully-named church is a New Age Center for the community.
3.  Although denominations have been criticized as being irrelevant in modern times, research shows that very few independent churches can maintain a vital ministry for over one generation. Think of the metro area you know best – who were the thriving independent churches a generation ago, and how are they doing now? On the other hand, tens of thousands of denominational churches have been able to maintain vitality, often over a century of time.
4.  Certain denominational names carry significant baggage – Baptist is the classic example. ‘Covenant’ tends to be either a neutral or slightly positive name in virtually all communities.
5.  The two best-known denominations that emerged in the 1980’s and 1990’s were Vineyard Christian Fellowships and Calvary Chapels. In both cases, they created ‘branded’ names that gave great cohesion to the movement.

Branding helps create a brand identity in the US and in your area.

In the Covenant, we are trying to create church planting movements in every geographical area. Sacramento, California is a good example of the power of a branded name. The Covenant has started 6 new churches there in the last 6 years. Add to that the 5 strong existing Covenant Churches, and Covenant presence has grown from 2,500 in attendance in 1993 to over 12,000 today. Christians in Sacramento will tell you that the Covenant has quickly become one of the strongest evangelical group in the area. Word of mouth for Covenant churches is very strong, and enhances the ministry of each church. Every new Covenant church started in Sacramento gets a great advantage because of the ‘brand name’.

If you are planting a Covenant church, we ask that you use the word Covenant in the primary part of your name. It carries no negatives with it; it creates group identity; it identifies quality and ministry excellence; it will enhance your church’s ministry over generations; and it will create cohesion and attraction to our church planting movement.


Low __________/High ___________     High _________/Low __________
Low ________/Low ___________         High _________/High __________

Low ________/High ___________         High _________/Low ___________
Low __________/Low ____________     High _________/High __________

2. You will review the Covenant Agreement and the mutual commitments that result in a strong plant and an increasing movement.

Sample Covenant Agreement

The Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC) and its regional conferences are convinced of both the Biblical mandate and demonstrated wisdom of church planting being a clearly effective means for bringing God’s grace and compassion to a lost and hurting world. This Covenant Agreement delineates the parameters of partnership among the parties herein to see the mission of God move forward through the ministry of church planting within the ECC.

A covenant is an agreement among parties to be committed to each other’s welfare over time by contributing to the relationship in specific, predictable, and enduring ways. In ECC church planting there are three primary parties: the ECC through its department of Church Growth and Evangelism (CGE), the regional conference within which the church is being established, and the new congregation and pastor. The conference and CGE look to the interest of the church plant by taking responsibility to provide the best support system possible for the new church to take root and grow strong. The congregation takes responsibility to advance its ministry, care for its pastor and staff, and to take its responsible place in the overall mission of the ECC and regional conference. The pastor takes responsibility to lead the congregation in its local mission and, by extension, to strengthen the whole of the ECC and conference mission. With this reciprocal spirit among all parties, all parties are strengthened to accomplish God’s work together in the local community, larger region, North America, and around the world.

A new church typically goes through three distinct developmental aspects in its first ten years. The first aspect is the launch phase. This relates to the initiation of the project, the gathering and growing of the young congregation, and early developmental issues of congregational life and organizational effectiveness. The first phase generally lasts three years. The second phase is the maturation phase. This relates to building effectiveness over time. This second phase generally stretches into years four through ten. The third aspect is the permanent facility phase. This relates to permanent facility acquisition and utilization. In timing it frequently overlaps parts of the maturation phase. This agreement is designed to seamlessly segue a project through all three of these developmental aspects and thereby lay the foundation for enduring ministry for years beyond.

Project Goal: By the end of the Appropriation Phase, for the church to be self-sustaining with an average of 200+ in attendance.

Part One: Parties to the Agreement and Duration

1.  Parties: The parties to this agreement shall be the ________Conference, and the Department of Church Growth and Evangelism of the ECC (CGE),
2.  Duration: This agreement shall be in effect for 10 years.10 years is the typical length of time necessary to move from inception, through developmental phases, starting with the three (3) years of external appropriation and past all coaching issues related to the planting and maturation of a new congregation. The duration of the agreement may be lengthened as developmental matters dictate by the consent of all parties, but it will not be shortened.

Part Two: Responsibilities of the Department of Church Growth and Evangelism and the ____________ Conference.

CGE and the Conference shall provide the following over the span of this covenant agreement:
1.  Pastoral assessment for church planting. The Conference and CGE will provide for all costs associated with the assessment process for church planting candidates established by the ECC.
2.  Initial training for church planting. The Conference and CGE will provide for all costs associated with the required training process for church planting established by the ECC. This includes attendance for up to four people (including the pastor) in the foundational ECC training event for church planters and lay leaders.
3.  On-going training for church planting. The Conference and CGE will provide for all costs associated with additional required training events that are a normal part of the training sequence for church planting established by the ECC.
4.  Land and facility training. CGE will provide for all of the costs associated with the training of church leaders in preparation for securing permanent land and facilities. This training is mandatory and must be completed prior to land and facility options being investigated.
5.  Optional subsidized training. Optional subsidized training events will also be made available by either the conference or CGE with reduced costs to the church as detailed in the invitation. These are not required but do provide additional spiritual development, strategic value, and relationship building among peers.
6.  On-site coaching. A primary coach for each phase shall be provided to the project. Costs associated with coaching, including transportation for on-site visits, will be covered by the conference or CGE. The coaching frequency shall typically be at the rate of monthly the first year, and less frequently as needed after the first year..
7.  External financial support. The Conference and CGE shall ensure external funding to this project over the first three years in the aggregate amount of $____________. This will come from a combination of the conference budget, CGE budget, and additional supporting churches. A detailed schedule is attached as addendum #1 to this agreement. By the conclusion of this funding schedule, a congregation will be responsible for providing for all of its own financial obligations. A congregation must demonstrate at least one year of financial self-sufficiency before pursuing permanent land and facility options.
8.  Computer hardware and accounting software. One lap top computer will be purchased for the church and in the name of the church at the outset of the ministry. The purchase will only be valid if made by the technical services group of CGE. Included will be mandatory accounting software for use with all church finances.
9.  Covenant External Orientation Program tuition. Should the Covenant Orientation Program (CO) be a condition of credentialing in the ECC for the lead pastor, the tuition amount for the lead pastor shall be paid for by the Conference and CGE. The tuition is currently $4,750¬¬¬¬. The congregation shall be responsible for other CO costs, such as transportation.
10.  Coaching in land and facility acquisition. CGE will provide professional staff assistance in site identification and negotiation in the leasing, purchase and construction on all land and facility matters. Use of this staff assistance is required.
11.  Assistance in capital-campaign efforts. The Conference and CGE will provide professional staff assistance for major fundraising efforts related to land and facility matters at no cost to the congregation other than contributing the agreed upon portion of the proceeds to additional church planting in the Great Lakes Conference.
12.  Kingdom Builders Grant. At the point of either the purchase of property or the construction of a permanent facility, CGE will arrange the eligibility of the church for a one-time grant (generally in the range of $20,000) to assist with associated purchase or construction costs through the Kingdom Builders program.
13.  Purchase and construction loan. At the point of purchasing property and/or construction, CGE will work with the congregation to establish eligibility to secure a loan through National Covenant Properties. All loans must meet loan qualifications and protocols prior to approval.
14.  Loan guarantee. CGE and the conference will provide a loan guarantee to National Covenant Properties for a qualified land or facility loan originated with National Covenant Properties.
15.  World Mission vision trip. The pastor will be invited to participate in a mission awareness trip to an ECC world mission field within the first three years of this agreement. One-half of the cost for this trip will be covered by the ECC Department of World Mission. The balance shall be covered by means outside of the ECC and conference.
16.  Missionary connection. The congregation will be given the opportunity to designate a portion of your ECC mission giving to particular ECC missionaries or countries with whom you would like to establish an on-going relationship so the congregation from the beginning can see its mission contributions at work.
17.  Seminars in prayer and evangelism. CGE makes available three seminars at no cost to the church within the first five years of this agreement related to prayer, evangelism, and cultivating a deeper personal spiritual walk with God.
18.  Website. The congregation will be listed on the ECC website directory of churches. A link will be made directly to the congregation’s home page.
19.  Covenant Companion. A subscription for 10 copies of the Covenant Companion, the official magazine of the ECC, will be entered for the church for the first year for distribution as determined by the congregation. By request of the church, this may be raised to a maximum of 25 copies.
20.  Access to all ECC and conference resources. In addition to the above items that are specifically tailored to new congregations, as an ECC congregation the church will have access to the entirety of expertise and resources across all departments and institutions of the ECC and conference. This includes a wide range of seminars, consulting, assistance in times of ministerial staff search, assistance in times of conflict, camping and retreat opportunities, national conferences for pastors (Midwinter), youth (CHIC), women (Triennial), and families (FEAST), access to participation in mission projects around the world, various curricula, print and video materials, and more.
21.  Moving Costs.  If needed, CGE and Conference will pay for reasonable moving costs for the family based on getting 2-3 bids from moving companies.
22.  Future. It is the expectation that the provisions of this section unrelated to church planting processes will endure into perpetuity.

Part Three: The Responsibilities of the Congregation

The congregation shall provide the following:

1.  Adequate compensation for staff. The congregation shall annually set and review   compensation for its staff, taking into consideration the compensation guidelines of the ECC. The budget shall contain funding to allow for participation in the conference pastor’s retreat and the ECC Midwinter Conference. See addendum #2 for the year 1 compensation agreement for the church planter and sample budget.
2.  Vacation.  The congregation shall provide three (3) weeks of vacation for the pastor each year.  After the 3rd year, this can move to four (4) weeks of vacation per year.  These weeks are to be used each year. 
3.  Pension agreement. The congregation shall become a member of the ECC pension plan and make full contributions for its ECC credentialed staff members.
4.  Insurance.  The congregation shall pay for full medical insurance for the pastor and family including major medical, term life insurance of $75,000, long-term-disability insurance, and dental coverage.  They are encouraged to use the Covenant program through Bethany Benefits; however, if they use another carrier for commensurate medical and dental insurance, they should keep the Life Insurance and LTD through Bethany Benefits.
5.  Polity. The congregation shall incorporate and operate under church governance patterned after an ECC model articles of incorporation, constitution and by-laws. The initial governance documents must be approved by the ECC prior to their adoption by the congregation in order to become a full member congregation of the ECC.
6.  Name. The name “Covenant” or “Evangelical Covenant” shall appear in the name of the church, and in public usages including signage and website.
7.  Identification with the ECC. The church shall be identified as an ECC member congregation on its website and other appropriate public usages. A link from the website to the ECC shall be established.
8.  Reporting. The congregation through its pastor shall ensure that ECC reporting requirements are met.
9.  Annual ministry review. The congregation shall participate in the annual ministry review process of the ECC and GLC for new churches. For this first five years, this entails written materials and the in-person attendance of at least the lead pastor and one lay leader. Beginning in year six, this shall be through written materials unless any of the parties requests an in-person review.
10.  Engagement in the life of the ECC and Conference. The church shall regularly send delegates to the conference annual meeting, ECC annual meeting, and find additional ways of engaging the common life of the ECC and conference.
11.  Mission giving. The congregation shall contribute 10% of its local general fund offering income in support of the global mission and ministry of the ECC and 5% to the mission of the conference.  These mission commitments must be fulfilled prior to the church adopting additional mission commitments.
12.  Covenant Companion. The congregation shall maintain a minimum bulk subscription of 10 copies of the Covenant Companion for distribution as determined by the congregation.
13.    Membership.  The congregation shall complete the administrative process for becoming a full member congregation in the ECC and conference. Should the congregation fail to become, or cease to be, an ECC member congregation, the congregation is obligated to immediately repay all appropriations, grants, and loans received over the lifetime of its corporate existence.
14.  Future. It is expected that the provisions of this section unrelated to church planting processes will endure into perpetuity.

Part Four: The Responsibilities of the Pastor

The pastor shall provide the following:

1.  Mission Leadership in reaching many for Christ in _______ city and the surrounding areas.
2.  Covenant Agreement. The pastor shall work a minimum of a 50 hour week and lead in ways consistent with all of the items contained in this document.
3.  Collegiality. The pastor shall engage the collegial life of the conference and ECC through regular participation in conference and ECC events. This shall include regular attendance at the conference ministerial retreat and the ECC Midwinter Conference, including mandatory participation at each for the first two years of this agreement.
4.  ECC credentialing. The pastor shall fulfill all of the requirements necessary to receive and maintain ECC credentialing. This shall include the timely completion of CEOP if CEOP is necessary for credentialing.
5.  Well-being. The pastor shall exercise personal spiritual, emotional, physical, relational, and ethical self-care by adhering to the ECC Rules for the Ordered Ministry, the Ethical Guidelines for Covenant Ministers, and other sound practices to protect heart, soul, mind, strength, family, and congregation.
6.  Future. It is expected that the provisions of this section unrelated to church planting processes will endure into perpetuity.
Part 5:  Exceptions and Termination of the Agreement
1.  Amendments.  Amendments to this agreement must be agreed to by all parties. Amendments must be documented in writing and on file for the duration of the agreement.
2.  Termination of Agreement. The agreement is subject to termination in the following circumstances: 
a.  failure of the congregation to receive and maintain membership in the ECC.                 
b.  failure of the project to maintain progress against goals as determined jointly by CGE and the conference.
c.  failure of the congregation or pastor to adhere to this agreement as determined by CGE and the conference.

Thankful for God’s grace through Jesus Christ, and depending on the strength and wisdom of the Holy Spirit, we enter into this agreement as a sign of our commitment to one another to work together to further God’s mission to a lost and hurting world


Church Planter

Member of the Transitional Leadership Team for Church Plant
Or Representative of the parent Church

                      Date     _____
Representative of the Conference

Department of Church Growth and Evangelism

NOTE: For pastors who need a credential with the ECC, go to

Or pastors who need to take Orientation Courses as part of their credentialing process, go to

3. You will understand how to organize the Church for mission and ministry.

Preparing for Effective Polity Systems

When you enter a new home, you do not see the plumbing and wiring hidden behind the freshly constructed walls. However, that which is unseen is the exact source making that home comfortable, convenient and efficient. Likewise, good organization and the smooth operation of a church at its best is largely unseen behind the more visible aspects such as worship, children’s ministries, outreach efforts, and ministries of compassion. Good “behind the scene” organizational and governing processes are indispensable to sustained accomplishment in mission. Church plants that start strong but then erode almost always have issues that trace back to poor attention to organizational and polity matters.

There are three stages to establishing well-rooted structures in your congregation.

Stage One:  Identify which ECC constitutional and by-law model you will follow. Early on in the project timeframe, and before you are incorporated with your state, your coach will make available to you the three model constitutions and bylaws available in the ECC. At that time you will be asked to select the model you will use. When you incorporate with your state, this is the document to supply when asked to submit a constitution and bylaws or articles of incorporation.

Stage Two: Operate with the PAT > TLT.  These are provisional, interim teams that help assist in the planning and launching of the new congregation. These will be in place until the congregation becomes a full member congregation of the ECC at which time the congregation will begin operating under the full provisions of its chosen constitution and bylaws. These will operate under a “mini-me” version of its chosen model provided by the ECC.  For example, for a congregation choosing the Leadership Team model as its eventual constitution and bylaws, the advisory team will operate under an abbreviated version of that model with special provisions until such time as the full constitution and bylaws are implemented. The pastor will consult with the conference coach in recommending names to serve on these teams. Team members may be nominated and added at any time according to the needs of the ministry. All team members shall be reviewed for re-nomination each January. The conference may remove an advisory team member in consultation with the pastor. The congregation may change from one ECC model to another ECC model if it so chooses, but it will always operate with the appropriate abbreviated provisions with an advisory team. 

Stage Three:  Transition to Full Constitution and Bylaws.  In the year in which the church plant is moving towards full member status in the ECC, the congregation will begin its transition to all of the provisions in the previously identified chosen constitution and bylaws. Since the PAT and TLT will have been operating under an abbreviated version already, the transition should flow smoothly. Minor changes to the permanent constitution and bylaws are possible but may be made only with the approval of the ECC. Your coach will walk you through the transition process, which includes final approval of the constitution and bylaws prior to the congregation being conferred full member status in the ECC.

Transitional Leadership Teams
First and Second Years in a Church Plant
From Church Planting Landmines
Tom Nebel and Gary Rohrmayer

Note shaded area for this stage:
Because you don’t know who really buys into you and into the specific vision of the church plant and because you don’t know the character or spiritual leadership of your growing core team, here are key principles:
1.  Multiple leadership phases are recommended before the official leaders are elected.  (We don’t want the “cement to set” too early – we want to continue to mix in new people.  Or, to change the metaphor, we want to keep more lives developing and feeding new life to the growth of the church.)
2.  Church-sounding nomenclature should be avoided.
3.  Titles which imply permanence (such as “board”) should be avoided.  Don’t give titles, instead invite people to get involved in ministry.
4.  A clear purpose and time-frame for each phase must exist.
5.  A changing of the guard must occur at each phase.  Many new leaders will come with future growth.  They’re not all there at the start.
a.  You can find some leaders from outside your core in the first two phases.  This is particularly helpful if you don’t have many leaders to choose from at the outset.  Some of these outside leaders (or advisors) could be a trusted friend of the planter, another church planter or pastor in the area, missional leaders from the parent/partner churches.
b.  The multi-phase approach can allow middle adopters to get into leadership; since they often will not be willing in the earliest stage.
6.  Be looking for spiritual fruit and specific giftedness from individuals at each phase.  Use an annual evaluation of leaders to help determine fruitfulness and help them know what is expected.  (see end)  Don’t be hasty in the laying of hands…  I Timothy 5:22

Phase I: PAT – the Pastor’s Advisory Team
-  to help the planter make key decisions up until the Launch of the Church (phase 4 of the 4-stage launch)
-  included in this group is someone who will work as the financial assistant to write checks and make financial reports.
-  included also is someone who will tally the offerings (with another volunteer) and make desposits.

Phase II: TLT – the Transitional Leadership Team
-  After the Launch of the church, the PAT meets one more time to celebrate and be dissolved.
-  The planter will prayerfully consider a new TLT to continue to help the planter with big decisions, prepare the church for receiving members and getting ready to approve the permanent constitution.  Some from the PAT will be invited onto the TLT, but others will step aside to make room for new leaders.

Phase III: LT – the Leadership Team (or other form of ECC Governance)
-  When the church receives their first members and adopts the Leadership Team constitution, the TLT members will meet once more to celebrate progress.  At the church business meeting where the new leaders are elected, the TLT members will be thanked.
-  The duties of the LT are spelled out in the LT constitution of the ECC.

Evaluation and Annual Check-up of Leaders:

The Church Planter needs to work with their leaders and evaluate them in 4 areas.  Give each leader the following list and then meet with them one-on-one to evaluate the past year and to set goals for the upcoming year:
1.  Who am I?  What is my role on the team?  What is God calling me to do?  AND, how am I contributing to the team?
2.  Who are we?  As a church, what is our unique calling?  AND, how am I helping or hindering the church in this unique calling?
3.  Who is coming along?  How am I developing as a leader?  What do I need from the point leader to do better?  Am I developing at least one other leader – and what am I doing to help them grow as a leader?
4.  Where are we going?  What is our primary destination?  What should be the result?  AND, how am I helping us get to our goal(s)?
5.  How are we going to get there?  What specific methods and processes will be use?  AND, what is my unique contribution?


Local Church Governance in the Evangelical Covenant Church

When you enter a new home, you do not see the plumbing and wiring hidden behind the freshly constructed walls.  However, that which is unseen is the exact source of making that home comfortable, convenient and efficient.  Likewise, the good organization and smooth operation of a church at its best is largely unseen behind more visible aspects such as worship, children’s ministries, outreach efforts, and ministries of compassion.  Good “behind the scene” organizational and governing processes are indispensable to sustained accomplishment in mission.

This document introduces local church governance in the Evangelical Covenant Church.  It will review key purposes for good governance, articulate central principles of congregational polity (polity = governance), identify basic characteristics of congregational polity as practiced in the Evangelical Covenant Church, and introduce the process for new churches gaining approval of their constitution and by-laws.

Key Purposes of Good Governing Documents

A well-crafted Constitution and By-law document accomplishes four primary functions.

A.  Identity.  The document is able to instill an enduring sense of identity by articulating key principles and processes that transcend changing circumstances and leadership.

B.  Operation and Decision-Making.  The document is able to clearly articulate specific processes for decision-making and operation so there is no ambiguity about who is empowered to take what actions under what circumstances.  This allows for good operation and protects relationships.

C.  Conflict management.  By identifying processes for resolution of differences, the document protects a congregation from charges of unfair treatment on the part of any particular individual or group.  It creates appropriate forums for the airing of differences and coming together in the spirit of unity.

D.  Transition.  By identifying processes to be undertaken during times of leadership transition, good documents allow for direction, continuity, and stability.

Central Characteristics to Congregational Polity

The story of the early Church in the New Testament is the story of a rapidly expanding movement seeking to both catalyze its mission and stabilize its advances.  It sought to lengthen its external impact to reach new populations while at the same time strengthening its internal ability to manage itself.  As a young, dynamic, unfolding movement, there is no unarguable singular pattern discernable in the New Testament for either local church governance or for how local churches related to one another.  Instead, it is a picture of fluid development with varying patterns at varying times and places.

However, out of the Biblical witness, three basic models have emerged, all of which have Biblical and theological underpinnings.  Groups have made particular choices for a variety of theological, historical, and practical reasons for why one particular model or another is reflective of their own identity.

The first category is episcopal, taken from the Greek word episkopos, or bishop.  This model favors an external positional model of authority, where an office external to the congregation has strong influence or control over the affairs of a local congregation.  The Roman Catholic Church, the Episcopal Church, and the United Methodist Church are all examples of movements from this stream.

The second category is presbyterian, taken from the Greek word presbuteros, or elder.  This model favors a specific ruling group from within the congregation empowered to make decisions on behalf of the total congregation.  The United Presbyterian Church and the Reformed Church of America are two examples from this stream.

The third category is congregational, based on the Pauline teaching that the Church is the Body of Christ.  Christ alone is the Head.  Each part of the Body is valuable and has a contribution to make toward the functioning of the whole.  Likewise, each part has a responsibility to discern the “leading” of the head and to coordinate its actions with the rest of the Body.  It therefore looks to the congregation acting as a whole as the center for discerning direction.  This is the stream of the Evangelical Covenant Church.

Particular Marks of Congregational Polity in the Evangelical Covenant Church

The Covenant has a strong and abiding tradition of congregational polity.  It is as much a part of our approach to faith and practice as a presbyterian approach is to Presbyterians and an episcopal approach is to Episcopalians.  Indeed, our choice of the word “covenant” is deeply rooted in how we relate to one another: we are covenanted, mutually committed, to a spirit of collaboration, unity, and mutual respect in living out faith and ministry.

Here are some of the central ways congregational polity works itself out as practiced by the Covenant:

1.  The core principle to congregational operation is this: the congregation retains authority and delegates responsibility.  This means that the congregation reserves for itself certain specific actions and always reserves for itself final voice on any matter of its choice.  However, for effectiveness and efficiencies, it likewise delegates responsibility to appropriate leadership positions.  One of the central purposes, then, of a congregation’s Constitution and Bylaws is to articulate just what is delegated under what circumstances to what leadership.  In the Covenant models, you will notice that varying amounts are delegated in varying ways.

2.  In practice, the congregation retains for itself the following areas: the calling (and dismissal) of the pastor, the selection of lay leadership, the incurring of capital indebtedness, the approval of the budget, the approval of the reception and dismissal of members, the amending of the Constitution and Bylaws, and the right to final voice in any area it chooses to act. 

3.  In practice, the congregation delegates significant particular responsibilities to various ministry staff and board or committee structures (although these are called by various names in varying models), who are empowered to work within those areas.

In addition, there are certain marks of Covenant identity and position that are required of Constitution and Bylaws seeking approval:

1.  The preamble to the denominational Constitution and Bylaws is also the preamble to the Constitution and Bylaws of local Covenant churches as a way to articulate a consistency of historical and theological context across the diversity of the Covenant. 

2.  The Covenant believes that any person of appropriate giftedness and character is eligible for any leadership position in the church regardless of gender.  Therefore, the document shall be styled in a permissive neutral voice, without references to gender. 

3.  The name “Covenant” or “Evangelical Covenant” shall be in the name of the church.

4.  In the event of a schism where competing claims to the property and assets of the congregations are under challenge by competing factions within the church, the dispute is resolved by the executive board of the regional conference of which that congregation is a member.

5.  In the event of dissolution, the assets of the church revert to the regional conference of that church and to the Covenant.  These are most commonly used to help in the planting of new congregations in that region so that out of the conclusion of ministry, the beginning of others may begin. 

6.  Areas of ministerial credentialing, care and discipline must conform with the Covenant Rules for the Ordered Ministry.

Introducing Three Model Constitutions

The Covenant has developed a range of models that all meet the criteria for congregational polity.  In applying the key principle that congregations retain authority and delegate responsibility, the three models differ in how much is delegated and how many are involved.  At one end is the Board model.  This delegates the least, involves the most people to carry out, and is relatively fixed in its design.  At the other end is a new pilot draft called the Leadership Team model, which delegates the most, involves the least number of people, and has the most flexibility.  In the middle is the Council model, which experiences some of the strength and weaknesses of the other two models.

The Board Model 
Think of the toy series “The Transformers”.  Through ingenious engineering, these toys are really two toys in one.  What looks and plays like a jeep can with a few twists and turns be transformed into an airplane.  Which is it – a jeep or an airplane?  It is both.  The Board system is like that.  On the one hand, there are actually three (sometimes four) different individual boards that carry out specific functions.  These are the Diaconate Board (spiritual care), the Trustee Board (property and fiscal matters), and the Christian Education Board (age level discipleship).  Each of these individual boards carries out ministries in their respective areas.  However, these three boards then combine (along with the officers of the Church), and are collectively transformed into the Church Board, which acts as the chief governing point between congregational meetings in areas assigned to it.  The chief advantages to this model are communication and ownership of decisions.  Because of the large number of people involved, more people hear about what is going on and more people are involved early on in making decisions and recommendations.  The chief potential drawbacks are that its size and process do not always allow for efficiency of decision-making (especially in complex or rapidly changing circumstances), it requires a good number of people to implement (who may then choose not to serve in other needed capacities), and a rather fixed instead of flexible configuration.  This is the model with the longest history.

The Leadership Team Model (pilot project)
Think of a set of Tinker Toys.  The round tinker toy is the anchor element.  From that center are added spokes to other elements.  As circumstances warrant, spokes from that hub can be added, replaced, or connected to additional elements.  The overall effect is a strong center with flexible configurations.  The Leadership Team is like that.  The Leadership Team is the round piece, providing a strong center point of coordination.  To it are added ministry teams to carry out and accomplish specific ministries.  More can be added as needed.  Those no longer necessary can be removed.  The chief advantages are efficiency in dealing with complex and fast-paced issues, and freeing up more people for direct ministry areas.  The chief potential disadvantages are communication between ministry areas and lack of broad ownership of decisions (if those decisions are viewed as out of step with the congregation).  To use this model during its pilot phase, you must have the approval of your regional conference superintendent.

The Council Model
Think of a mobile.  Its rings are constantly moving, but in a fixed and connected orbit around a center point.  The Council model is like that.  The council provides a center point for coordination and balance.  It is comprised of the officers of the church and the chairs of the various commissions.  The commissions orbit around the council and carry out specific ministry areas.  The “thread” between each commission and the council is the chair of each commission, who is a full participating member of both the church council and that ministry commission.  It is in many ways a midpoint between the Board and Leadership Team models.  The chief advantage is that it takes some of the benefits of both the Board model (by ensuring communication between different ministry areas through representation on the council), with some of the benefits of the Leadership Team (in relation to the efficiencies of a somewhat streamlined size).  The chief drawbacks can include overload on the ones who both serve on the council and chair a commission, and a council with some members who are most energized by their commission rather than the ministry as a whole (or vice-versa).  This is the most commonly used model. 

The Approval Process

A congregation must have an approved constitution and by-laws fully consistent with the entirety of this document in order to be accepted into membership in the regional conference and the Evangelical Covenant Church.  The following outlines the process for that approval.

1.  The congregation researches which of the three model constitutions best fits its circumstances.  These may be attained from the Department of Church Growth and Evangelism.

2.  The congregation particularizes a draft of one of those models for review.  Broad and substantial conformity and patterning to the model is required.  All areas must be consistent with the entirety of items delineated in this document.  The congregation is encouraged to consult with regional conference personnel or the Covenant Director of Church Planting if there are any questions.  The deadline for submitting the draft is January 15 of each year.

3.  The draft is then reviewed by the Constitutional Review Committee of the Covenant, consisting of the President, the Vice President for Administration, and the Executive Minister of Church Growth and Evangelism.  It is either approved or returned for changes.  Notification generally comes by February 28 of each year.

4.  The window for changes and final approval, if needed, is March 1 – March 30.

5.  Assuming all other requirements are met, the church then proceeds to join the regional conference and the Covenant as a full member congregation

For more information, contact David Olson, Director of Church Planting for the Evangelical Covenant Church, at, or phone 916-718-6112.

Below is one interpretation of how ministry gets done and how decisions are made with the ECC constitution and bylaws.  Additional interpretive descriptions of each section are available at


4. You will understand the process of officially joining the Covenant.

Overview of Steps and Responsibilities

New churches are received into denominational membership each year at the Covenant Annual Meeting, held in the latter part of June.  The following outlines important thresholds in the months leading up to that milestone.

1.  Determination to proceed, made jointly by the church leadership, regional Conference, and the Department of Church Growth and Evangelism.  Point person: Covenant Director of Church Planting.  Deadline: September 30.
2.  Instructions forwarded to the church.  Point Person: Covenant Director of Church Planting.  Deadline: October 15.
3.  Constitution and Bylaws.
  a.  Selection of proposed constitution and bylaws, based on one of the Covenant models.  Point person: Pastor.  Deadline for submission of draft for review: January 15 (earlier, if possible). 
  b.  Review of proposed constitution and bylaws by denominational review committee.  Point person: Executive Minister, Church Growth and Evangelism.  Notification of approval or needed changes:  February 28.
  c.  Window for changes and final approval, if needed: March 1 – March 30.
4.  Submission of application, pension agreement, and copy of articles of incorporation.  Point person: Pastor.  Deadline: March 31
5.  Membership process to establish charter membership, and chartering service including conference personnel.  Point person: Pastor and Conference staff.  Deadline: June 15
6.  Delegation from the congregation to the Conference Annual Meeting.  Point person: Pastor and Conference staff.  Deadline:  Conference Annual Meeting.
7.  Delegation from the congregation to the Covenant Annual Meeting for official action.  Point person: Pastor and Conference staff.  Deadline:  Covenant Annual Meeting.

Summary of Necessary Elements:
1.  Determination to proceed
2.  Approved Constitution and Bylaws
3.  Application
4.  Church pension agreement
5.  Copy of Articles of Incorporation
6.  Chartered membership
7.  Delegation to the Conference Annual Meeting
8.  Delegation to the Covenant Annual Meeting

If any of these elements is not complete, then the process will be delayed until the following year.


Here is a helpful checklist as you prepare to send in your material for review.  Please include a copy of this checklist when you do send materials.

•  Completed Application for Membership
•  Completed Covenant Pension Fund Agreement
•  Copy of the church’s Articles of Incorporation
•  Hard copy and electronic version of Constitution and Bylaws draft for review

Constitution and Bylaws
(note: each area must be covered appropriately in the document in order to be approved)
•  Use of the Covenant Preamble as the preamble for the church document
•  The use of “Covenant” or “Evangelical Covenant” in the name of the church
•  Congregational action to call and dismiss pastor
•  Congregational action to approve budget
•  Congregational action to affirm and dismiss people into or out of membership
•  Congregational action to select lay leaders to officer/board/council/leadership team positions
•  Congregational privilege of final voice in any area of its choice
•  Congregational action on incurring capital indebtedness
•  Ministerial credentialing, care, and discipline areas conform with Covenant Rules for the Ordered Ministry
•  Congregational action to amend the Constitution and Bylaws
•  Schism dispute resolution occurs through Conference Executive Board
•  Asset distribution reversionary clause assigned to Conference and Covenant
•  Written in a gender permissive neutral voice

Please send in all materials to the Department of Church Growth and Evangelism, 5101 North Francisco Avenue, Chicago, IL 60625.  Electronic documents can be sent on diskette or as email attachments to


A great way to connect with the Covenant:
- World Mission
  - Go on a mission trip to one of our mission fields.
- Arrange to “adopt” a specific mission field or Covenant missionary.  Call the Dept of World Mission 773-784-3000 about the options.  You can designate a portion of your ECC mission giving to this mission field.
- Your Conference
- Get involved in conference ministries and attend conference events.
- Arrange to feature and pray for a different church plant each month or each quarter.  You can share a video from them, have a Skype call, etc.

Brochures and More

There are many excellent brochures and dvds available from the ECC for you to display and to use in helping people understand our family of faith.  Millie Lungren would be happy to introduce you to these at
A Sample Listing:
-  Covenant Affirmations – dvd and brochures
o   Great for use in membership classes or as a sermon series
-  Mission To Serve – dvd
-  Various resource papers, including
o   How the Covenant Reads the Bible
o   Women in Ministry
o   Baptism

Some churches in the Great Lakes Conference also use the brochure below to share about their affiliation with the ECC.


It get printed on high-quality paper.  The GLC purchases paper from that has a multi-ethnic and multi-generational theme.  It’s called the “Hope Brochure” and is product # IB1140001.  Cost is $20 per 100 sheets.  You can run off as many as you want on your own copier. You can find the text of this brochure here.


DRAFT Strategic Ministry Plan For Our New Church

1. Theological Basis >>
  2. Spiritual Foundation in Prayer >>
      3. Mission Field - Need of our Area >>
        4. Evangelistic Strategies >>
          5. Our Specific Vision >>
              6. The Strategy of the 4-Stage Launch >>
                Stage 1 - Roots: Launch Team Gathering
                Stage 2 - Leaves: Preview Services
                Stage 3 - Branches: Preparatory Worship
                Stage 4 - Fruit: Launch
                  7. Leadership >>
                      8. Covenant >>
                        9. Finances>>

8. Covenant Connection

Our plan and understanding of the Covenant Agreement.


How we will communicate that we are a part of the ECC and how we will share in the mutual ministries and mission of the Covenant and our Conference.

We know how to organize the Church for mission and ministry.


Our process of officially joining the Covenant.



Category:Interconnectedness - Coaching & Counsel
Church Planting Resource Manual