Many leaders and couples get into church planting or leading in a church because we care about people and want to see their lives changed; marriages healed, past hurts redeemed, addictions broken. This is why we labor, pray, vision cast, have meetings, preach sermons and sacrifice like we do.
But how does that happen?
The work of the Holy Spirit is one, but the other part of that is through relationships and systems.
God is a God of systems and relationships.
We see in Genesis 1 both of these.
God creates man and woman in His image, and we see the relational aspect of God in the Trinity.
We also see that he organized the universe with systems. Time is measured through a system. Think of your body, it is a series of systems: respiratory, digestive, nervous, just to name a few. And Paul when he talked about the church, talked about it as a body, a system.
For many church plants though, they don’t build systems.
At least not intentionally.
Many times when I talk to church leaders about assimilation, they’ll say things like, well I know who the guests are, I meet with them for coffee and help them get plugged in. This is a system (not a good one), but a system. It will break down the moment you go on vacation or when you start to average five, 10 and 20+ guests a week.
In the 1950s, the Japanese auto industry was transformed by one man, an American named Edward Deming. Deming went to Japan and after researching their industry for a decade told them, “Your system is designed to give you exactly what it is giving you.”
If you don’t like the results you are getting, it’s time to revisit your system.
Nelson Searcy was a mentor of mine that introduced me to church systems (I use many of his titles below) when we planted our church. He said, “A system is an ongoing process that Saves You Stress, Time, Energy and Money.”
This is important because most of the time in church, we decide if things are going well based off how we feel. Think about how you talk about a service; you ask people how they felt. Or that’s how people answer if you ask what they think. I felt ___ from your sermon or that song. But that isn’t always accurate. How many people showed up for VBS or that event? Many times people will say, “It felt full.” Feeling full and being full are two different things, just like feeling like people are growing in their relationship with Jesus in your groups and growing are two different things.
Lastly, systems are how you serve your people and help them grow into the people God created them to be.
Sam Chand in his book on systems, Bigger Faster Leadership, said, “The size and speed of an organization are controlled by its systems and structures.”
The Strategic System sits above the other seven systems and serves as the foundation of all the other ones.
Let’s be honest; people rarely leave your church because of vision or theology. Sometimes they do, but what I’ve found is the #1 reason people leave your church is that they disagree with your strategy. This is how you preach, the kind of worship you have, how you do discipleship and community, kids ministry, etc. This has to be clear.
Before you get depressed, this is also the #1 reason people love your church and come back (although they can’t articulate that).
For our church, we are a simple church that does Sunday morning and groups. Sunday is our front door; we target 20- to 40-year-old men, all to help people take their next step with God. Growth and community happen in the context of relationships in groups (“Circles are better than rows”). That’s our strategy. Notice something in that: It defines what needs we are trying to meet, who our audience is and what our definition of success is.
Nine times out of 10, people leave our church because they don’t like this strategy, and that’s OK.
System 2: The Worship Planning System
Think about the service or gathering. Sunday is a stressful day, especially if you are a portable church like we are. Who is your target on a Sunday morning? The answer to this question determines the elements you use, the language you use. It determines what you preach on, what songs you sing and prayers you pray.
To evaluate your worship planning system, after determining what lens you are looking at Sunday morning though, you can ask questions like: What was missing? What was confusing? How can we do things better?
System 3: The Evangelism System
This system asks, “How do we attract people to our church? How do people find us?” Ultimately God sends people to churches, but why do some reach more than others?
How many first-time guests have you seen in the last year? How many should you have? If you average 100 adults on a Sunday, your goal according to consultants is to average 100 first-time guests a year.
How does this happen?
This can be through social media, Facebook ads, google ad words, direct mail, invite cards, servant evangelism, creating big days around Easter, Mother’s Day (which is our second biggest day).
This comes through training your people in evangelism, you sharing your faith with people.
System 4: The Assimilation System
This system is your plan for taking people from their first visit to being fully-developing members of your church.
How does that happen?
By having a plan for how someone would do that. Often, our system for this is a hope and a prayer.
Here are some questions to ask your team about this:
- What questions does a guest have when they show up?
- What does a guest feel when they walk into our church?
- When was the last time you filled out your connection card? There are so many useless things on a connection card.
- What is your next step from a Sunday morning? Is it obvious? Clear? Is it too big of a step? If small groups are the only step from a Sunday morning for a guest, that is too big.
- What words do people use to describe their first impression? You need to get info from guests to know how you’re doing because every church describes themselves as friendly.
- How do guests who don’t know Jesus feel in your service? Can they connect? Know what’s going on?
System 5: The Volunteer System
This system determines how you mobilize people for a significant ministry at your church.
We used to see groups as the step before this, but we’ve found it easier and less intimidating for our target, remember system 1, to get onto a team before getting into a group.
Here are some questions:
- Who in your church serves exactly how you wish everyone did? How do you duplicate that person? What experiences did they have that got them that way?
- What are you doing to make people want to serve?
- How do people find out about serving opportunities in your church? Is it stage announcements, fairs or one-on-one recruiting. You should utilize everyone, but the reality is, do you know the #1 way people start serving? Someone asks them.
- What does the first serve look like for someone?
System 6: The Small Groups System
You should know how many adults are in your small group system and how many adults you hope to have. If you don’t have a goal, you don’t know how you’re doing.
As you think through this system, you need to ask if the goal is for this to be the primary vehicle for discipleship in your church. If it is, are there things that are barriers to this?
Your strategy will have an enormous impact on what your groups look like.
System 7: The Stewardship System
I remember an older mentor asking me one time, “Josh, how much ministry can you do with $100?” I didn’t understand the question, so I shrugged. He said, “$100 worth.”
We don’t like to talk about money in church, but the reality is, it’s needed for your church to survive. Giving is a spiritual gift, and this is crucial, in our culture, stewardship is a major battleground.
When it comes to stewardship, teaching and modeling is the most important combination.
Here are a couple of ideas to raise the value of stewardship in your church and onboard new givers:
- At least a series each year on stewardship. This topic is so broad and not just financial.
- Do two 90-day giving challenges each year.
- Do three to four special offerings each year.
- Tell stories in your monthly financial update on how the generosity of your church is moving the gospel forward and changing lives.
System 8: The Leadership System
If you want to see a healthy, growing church, you will see a clear plan to develop leaders. Sam Chand said, “Many churches measure the number of people as a benchmark of success, but the true mark of success is the size and strength of the core of leaders who shoulder the burden and spread the joy of God throughout the ministry of the church.”
If you’re a leader at your church, your main responsibility is to attract, recruit, place, train and nurture as many volunteers and leaders as possible.
Here are some questions to consider:
- How many leaders have you developed? When was the last time you invested in developing new leaders?
- How are you developing the leaders and staff that you have?
Systems & Relationships
Do you see the connection between systems and relationships? If you have bad people/teams and bad systems, your church will close at some point; your business will run out of steam. If you have a good system but don’t have good people or teams, you will get results. If you have good people but a bad system, you will get a lot of frustration, which is where I think a lot of churches sit.
But, if you have good systems and good people and teams, a lot of flourishing happens in that space.
This article originally appeared here.