(Other posts in this series: Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6)

A growing number of Australian churches are adopting a version of the ‘purpose-driven church’ model pioneered by Rick Warren, in particular structure the church’s ministry and staff around 5 purposes:

  1. Magnification
  2. Membership
  3. Maturity
  4. Ministry
  5. Mission

The version people look to as a reference point in Reformed evangelical Australia is that of EV Church.

As pastors get drawn to this model’s strengths, they can fail to fully understand the model, and therefore why it is actually powerful. This leads to a whole bunch of dangers:

  1. To assume that all the benefits of the ‘5Ms’ model can only be gained by adopting the 5M’s model: but this series of posts will show that there are a number of strengths to this model, and these strengths are not exclusive to the model.
  2. To assume that as long as the labels are adopted, you are ‘doing the 5Ms’: but it is possible to transfer the nomenclature and structure of 5Ms while really embodying few or none of its driving principles.
  3. To think it’s all or nothing: but in fact you could adopt one, several or all of the driving principles of this model, without naming any ministry area with the letter ‘M’.

In this series of posts, I am going to dissect the model in its Reformed-evangelical Australian incarnation, as best as I understand it. I hope we can be a bit clearer about what’s effective in the model, so we don’t say the MODEL is the key, but rather principles it embodies. I hope more people who choose to adopt it will be able to adopt it better. And I hope those who choose NOT to adopt it, will be able to adopt some of its principles and incorporate them into their own ministry structure.

Portfolio Structure to Ministry
One foundational strength of the 5Ms is building the ministry and the ministry teams and staff around ministry AREAS rather than groups of people/congregations.

The driving teams and structures are not target groups of the 10am Congregation, the 6pm Congregation, the women’s ministry and the youth ministry, but rather Ministry Recruitment and Training, Evangelism, Discipleship, Community and Spiritual Devotion. Those who are involved in these different portfolios are responsible for these different things across a whole range of congregations and target groups and ministry structures.

This principle is often contrasted to the ‘congregational pastor’ model to point out its power. It is enables specialisation and focus: rather than pastors being generalists, trying to cover all the bases, portfolios enable pastors and other leaders to focus on doing 1-2 things really well.

A second advantage of portfolios is the efficiency and scalability it gives to the ministry. You can duplicate variations of the same structures wherever you need do to Evangelism, or Community or whatever.

You could have 5Ms and not really do the portfolios thing

You could badge all your ministries and staff with the 5M labels. You could group all your existing work and ministry structures under one or another M. And yet not really be working with ministry portfolios, nor really benefitting from the power of specialisation and efficiency.

  • You could still give too much diverse work and responsibility to these teams, so the portfolio dimension of their work gets lost in the busy-work.
  • The portfolios could be an appendage to the church’s ministry rather than the central force. They are not especially influential.
  • You might appoint leaders who are not capable, or not give them enough training, so that they never really become that good at what they do, so the value of specialisation is limited.
  • You could still allow too many exceptions, where ministries and staff duplicate the work of these portfolios. Not really allowing them to take this off other people’s plates.
  • You could really just use the Ms as umbrella departments for grouping a bunch of ministry activities and jobs. I suppose in one sense this is a very simplistic form of portfolio, but it is not really a portfolio system, so much as a management system.

You don’t need 5Ms to benefit from portfolios
You could actually get these benefits without 5Ms. As soon as you have a ‘music leader’, a ‘small groups pastor’ or an ‘evangelist’, you will start to benefit from the power of the portfolio principle.

  • How could you give grow the responsibility for these leaders?
  • How could you allow them influence and eventually organise all the areas of your church with their area of specialisation?
  • How could you encourage them to think, learn and plan deeply in their area of specialisation?
  • How could you help them to do their ministry area in such a way that it can be easily duplicated and implemented in new groups?


Xian Reflections is written by Mikey Lynch.

Mikey graduated from the University of Tasmania with a Bachelor of Arts in 2002. In 2000 he became one of the founding leaders of Crossroads Presbyterian Church where he was the lead pastor for 7 years from 2003.

Mikey now works as the Campus Director of the University Fellowship of Christians, University of Tasmania, Hobart. Mikey is the chairman of The Vision 100 Network (Tasmania) and a founding director of Geneva Push (national) – both church planting networks. He is also a chaplain at Jane Franklin Hall and the chairman of New Front Door: the Church IT Guild.

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