There is no single pattern of organisation amongst Lutheran churches, as no particular organisational structure is regarded by Lutherans as essential for the life of the Church. In considering how to organise themselves, Lutheran churches are free to be pragmatic. They may organise themselves in a range of ways (with or without any formal links to the state) to carry out their mission, adopting forms that suit their particular historical and cultural circumstances.
Some Lutheran churches have maintained the ‘historic episcopacy’ (an unbroken chain of bishops from the early days of the church), others have not. Although many have bishops or archbishops as their senior pastors and administrators, others elect presidents, who may be laypersons, for set terms of office. In some churches the local congregation has a very strong voice, in others authority is more centralised. Most Lutherans have synods or church assemblies that play an important role in the election of bishops and other church leaders, and in approving church policies and programmes.