The 5 Levels of Freedom is a useful tool when there is a need to clarify roles in a church or an organisation. The application of this exercise is broad and can be adapted for use wherever there is delegated authority. It may be between board and CEO, between governing elders and pastoral staff, between a pastor and leadership team, staff and volunteers or a director and personal assistant.
In the example below, I have used a senior pastor and associate youth pastor as a model. However the levels can be adapted to any structure.
Step 1: Document the levels of freedom in terms of the roles you would like to clarify.
5 Levels of Freedom
Level 5: The Associate is empowered to decide and act, and reports to the Senior Minister routinely as part of a normal reporting process. This is the level for most areas covered in the associate’s job description or by documented policies of the organisation. The majority of tasks sit at this level. It is important that the Senior Minister grants the freedom to operate, equips the Associate, makes provision for the resources needed and delegates the authority to lead in these areas.
Level 4: The Associate is empowered to decide and act, but communicates with the Senior Minister immediately certain events take place or decisions are made. This applies to situations and areas in which it important that the senior minister is kept up to date. It often concerns people situations such as the appointment or resignation of youth leader, or the existence of a conflict.
Level 3: The Associate has the delegated right to make the decision but is expected to consult with the Senior Minister prior to acting. Any decision which is in the responsibility area of the Associate but represents a change to the way the church has operated or is not clearly covered by policy should be run past the senior leadership. New projects or programs should always be checked.
Level 2: The Associate is expected to provide input and bring recommendations, but the Senior Minister has to decide whether to approve or not. There will be projects the Associate would like to see happen and decisions she/he would like to make but because of the impact on the whole church, the decision must remain with the senior leadership. There will always be areas of church life which need the input of all staff. The Associate may recommend changes to her or his role, or for the organisation, but the final decision will be with the Senior Minister or whole staff team. It is important that the Associate knows where the boundary between levels 2 and 3 lies.
Level 1: Consideration of the issue and the decision is with the Senior Minister, the Associate may or may not be consulted. Some issues and decisions which impact the Associate may necessarily be made at a higher level. A typical decision at this level is the appointment of the Associate to his or her position, the appointment of other staff in other areas and higher level direction for the church.
Step 2: Construct a list of around 15 recent projects, decisions, or issues which have been in some way either delegated or part of the joint responsibility of both Senior and Associate Pastors. It is especially valuable to list tasks or projects in which the level of delegation was not clear or the task not satisfactorily completed. Work down the list and allow both Senior Pastor and Associate to document the level of delegation they thought the project was at and why. Discussion often reveals important assumptions which when clarified can significantly improve the working relationship.