Ten Church Strategies

Ten Church Strategies: A Strategic Culture


I’m convinced that healthy and growing churches result from BOTH prayer and strategic planning. I’m pretty sure you can’t have one without the other. I know that God expects us to both seek Him and make things happen. Jesus hit on this very idea in The Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25 when he described the pleased master as saying:

“Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things. I will put you in charge of many things.” Matthew 25:21

In this final installment of ‘The Ten Church Systems‘ I will talk about perhaps one of the most important (and least attended) aspects of a growing church and organization: Strategic Planning. I recommend you also read some of the ‘Getting Started Thoughts and Disclaimers’ I wrote prior to this series on systems. It was written in three parts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

Key Sub-Systems of the Strategic System
Following are the key sub-systems of strategic development in the local church. Ironically, we’re discussing what your strategy is for ongoing strategic planning.

  • The Strategic Team & Strategic Meetings
    Strategic planning is not a solo sport. Although one individual can plan and implement plans, that’s not how a healthy church will function – nor is it very effective. This system will build the best possible team (or teams) of leaders and will include regular, consistent and well led strategic meetings throughout the year. 
  • Philosophy of Ministry Development (mission/vision/values)
    It’s very difficult for your church leaders and staff to get where you’re going when it hasn’t been defined. Howard Hendricks said, “If it’s a mist in the pulpit, it’s a fog in the pew.” This system includes the development of your church mission statement, core values, and long range vision statements. Once that is done, this system will also ensure that your philosophy of ministry is integrated into every area of church life. 
  • Strategic Evaluation & Feedback
    Feedback is the bread and butter of successful strategic planning. Without regular and unbiased input your church will create amazing strategic plans that lead in the wrong direction. It can be the difference between hitting the target in the bulls eye and simply hitting the target. This system will create ways to evaluate every aspect of church life. It will include evaluating how well the Philosophy of Ministry is being integrated throughout church events and activities. It will also include occasional or regular evaluation of each of The Ten Church Systems. Finally, this system will evaluate the effectiveness of all major sub-systems and tactical plans.
  • Strategic Metrics & Benchmarks
    Metrics take evaluation and feedback to a whole new level. They will play a big role in setting agenda items for future strategic meetings. Besides revealing possible areas of weakness in the church, they will also bring great encouragement when your team is doing things right – resulting in growth and an increase in positive life change in your congregation. This system will track important areas of growth over a period of months and years. Common metrics often include giving, attendance, and small group participation.
  • Strategic Coaching & Training
    It is rare for the average pastor to be knowledgeable in every aspect of church life and development. Most pastors have been trained in the Bible, public speaking, and other aspects of spiritual care and oversight. Strategic planning and organizational development usually are at the bottom of their repertoire of skill sets. This is why it is critical the pastor and church leaders gather around themselves others who excel in those areas. This system will ensure that strategic planning happens through regular input from ministry coaches and/or a strategic leader. This system will also include ongoing training in areas of strategic planning for the pastor and all church leaders. (tip: subscribe to this blog!)
  • Ongoing Strategic Planning
    If you’ve followed along at all, then it’s very likely you’ve become overwhelmed reading through all of the ‘Ten Systems’ and their various sub-systems. No church can focus on every area at once. This system will ensure the feedback, metrics, and strategic team are all utilized in the best possible way in order to focus on the most important areas of church health and growth each year. It also includes basic training in strategic thinking for all key staff and leaders. Ideally, strategic planning will take place at every level of leadership and for every area of ministry in the church.
  • Strategic Roll-out & Tactical Planning
    At some point, everybody needs to stop talking and start doing. Surprisingly, this can be very difficult to do. Strategic Planning can easily become a sinkhole that leaders and teams can never find their way out of. This system will finalize strategic development through the creation of tactical plans. This system will also include intentional strategic steps to ‘roll-out’ new plans to other church leaders and the congregation without creating mass discord or dissension.

Note: Inspiration for the Ten Church Systems comes from Nelson Searcy and the Eight Systems of the Local Church he proposed in his free e-book entitled, ‘Healthy Systems, Healthy Church‘.

Ten Church Strategies: The Discipleship Strategy


I remember when I heard one of my children tell my wife that they hoped to grow up and be just like daddy. Nothing is more honoring than having someone want to emulate you. Discipleship in it’s purest form reflects the believer’s desire to emulate Jesus Christ. The childlike faith inside us says, “When I grow up I want to be like Jesus.”

I’ve never met a pastor who doesn’t have discipleship as a primary goal of ministry. Many would argue that it is THE primary mission of the church. In this installment of the Ten Church Systems I will discuss how the local church can strategically develop a balanced discipleship plan. If you haven’t already, I recommend you first read my ‘Getting Started Thoughts and Disclaimers’, written in three parts: Part 1Part 2Part 3.

Key Sub-Systems of the Discipleship System
Following are the key sub-systems necessary to ensure the ministries, events, and services at your church lead to discipleship opportunities for your congregation. Note: This system will normally interface with every other system in the church. It will also tend to be more ‘strategic’ in nature than the rest of the systems (except for the Strategic System).

  • Discipleship Clarity System
    The local church will not facilitate discipleship effectively without first clarifying what constitutes discipleship. This system will strategically define the key facets of discipleship including all essential themes to plan and implement each year. As an example, Elim Gospel Church has defined six areas of discipleship (with some help from Rick Warren’s book ‘The Purpose Driven Life‘). Those areas include: Worship, Fellowship, Discipleship (which includes areas of practical life management like finances/workplace/parenting/etc.), Service, Outreach and Power. EGC has also identified the key themes surrounding each of those six areas.
  • Discipleship Method System
    Once the key facets of discipleship have been defined, it is necessary to determine what methods (experiences/events/activities) the church has available to facilitate discipleship. The most common methods will include the Sunday service, classes, Sunday school, small groups and retreats. Others may also include pastor blogs, websites, publications, social media, conferences, etc. 
  • Discipleship Implementation System
    Finally, every theme of discipleship will carry a strategic plan for implementation, utilizing the church’s list of identified discipleship methods. This system will determine how each key area of discipleship will be offered to the congregation or community. Although not every theme and area of discipleship will be offered in equal measure, the best discipleship system will ensure all are included. For example, at Elim Gospel Church the theme of ‘Parenting’ is strategically implemented by making group materials available to small groups, pulpit teaching throughout the year, a special ‘Parenting’ class every other year, and a blog from the children’s pastor which includes regular encouragement to parents.

It is important to note that nearly every method of discipleship will require several ‘sub-systems’ to effectively fulfill the goal of discipleship. Most have already been covered in The Ten Church Systems, but there are a few that haven’t been mentioned to date and should be recognized as an important system that facilitates ministry. Again, examples may include a church sponsored three day conference/retreat, a simulcast, a missions trip, a food pantry, an outreach into the community, and more.

One of the most important aspects of this system is in ensuring that each method and it’s implementation is realistic and balanced with the overall life of the church and that it remains central to the church’s overall mission.

NEXT – Go to ‘Ten Church Systems: The Strategic System

Note: Inspiration for the Ten Church Systems comes from Nelson Searcy and the Eight Systems of the Local Church he proposed in his free e-book entitled, ‘Healthy Systems, Healthy Church‘.

Ten Church Strategies: The Leadership Strategy


A few years ago, Bill Hybels ‘REVEALED‘ to the church at large that they (and probably many others) had missed something important in running the church over the years. They discovered that church leaders and mature members tended to feel sidelined or unneeded in the church. That’s a very broad summary, but true nonetheless. Sometimes us pastors can focus so much on guests, new believers, and the hurting/needy in our community that everyone else could easily get bored and frustrated.

In this installment of ‘The Ten Church Systems‘ I will discuss some ways pastors can ensure that leaders stay loyal to and integrally involved in the mission of the church. If you haven’t already, I recommend you first read my ‘Getting Started Thoughts and Disclaimers’, written in three parts: Part 1Part 2Part 3.

Key Sub-Systems of the Leadership System
Following are the key sub-systems I recommend every church to utilize to maintain unity and purpose among the core influencers within the church. It’s important to keep in mind that these systems should supplement ‘The Ministry Partner System (Volunteers)’.

  • Ministry DNA System
    Before you can release potential leaders to serve alongside you, it’s critical to affirm that they are ready for a place of increased influence and authority in the church. This is one of the main reasons why many pastors don’t release others into leadership – out of fear that by doing so, the results may one day lead to major conflict. This system will allow the pastoral leadership to evaluate prospective leaders through the lenses of the Four C’s, will provide DNA training about the church’s mission, vision, and values, and will require a commitment from the leaders to support that church mission and the direction of it’s key leaders. This system may also include standards/procedures on what to do if it is no longer appropriate for a current leader to continue in their ministry role. 
  • On-Ramp System
    Leaders won’t naturally glide towards places of influence; they need to be asked and given opportunities. This system will determine when a volunteer is ready to move to the next level of influence in their respective areas of responsibility and how they will be encouraged into that next step. It will also include a means through which he or she can serve as a ministry coach to other volunteers or potential volunteers (apprentices). 
  • Ownership System
    People want something to believe in; they want to make a difference. This is what motivates leaders to get involved and give of themselves extravagantly. Ownership is a key to developing committed leaders. This system will ensure that leaders have a voice in select church strategies and incentives (Note: that ‘voice’ will be based on their level of influence and will apply to their respective areas of involvement). It will also include regular leadership training and ongoing communication about new church strategies and vision adjustments.
  • Support System
    It can be so easy to allow productive and committed leaders to serve for months, even years, in the background with little to no support or encouragement. This system will provide consistent feedback, meaningful resources, and systematic encouragement, with the occasional public recognition thrown in for good measure. It will also provide a clear, easy way for leaders to get the help or assistance they need at any given time, should they need it. Ideally, every leader will have his own ministry coach/mentor who he/she can turn to for advice.
NEXT – ‘Ten Church Systems: The Discipleship System’ . . . Coming Soon

Note: Inspiration for the Ten Church Systems comes from Nelson Searcy and the Eight Systems of the Local Church he proposed in his free e-book entitled, ‘Healthy Systems, Healthy Church‘.

Ten Church Strategies: The Stewardship Strategy

I’m not sure which is more difficult for pastors to talk about from the pulpit, sex or money. I suspect the latter. Talking about money is personal. It can feel (and be) risky. We can get nervous that our listeners will tell stories in their heads about our real motives. The fear of being misunderstood ends up leading the charge. This is so completely unfortunate. Often, the local church ends up limping along because it lacks necessary resources and God’s people live in bondage because they haven’t learned about biblical stewardship.

In this installment of ‘The Ten Church Systems‘ I will talk about putting money in it’s place both for the church as a whole as well as for individual attendees. If you haven’t already, I recommend you first read my ‘Getting Started Thoughts and Disclaimers’, written in three parts: Part 1Part 2Part 3.

Key Sub-Systems of the Stewardship System
Following are the key sub-systems related to stewardship in the local church. It’s critical to understand that stewardship happens from the top-down. It is through pastoral leadership and their personal example that people truly understand and embrace this aspect of personal discipleship.

  • Church Budget System
    Whether you are operating from a budget of $50,000 or $5,000,000 you need a plan. That’s biblical stewardship 101. This system will include how the church builds and maintains a realistic and effective budget. Budget items should include operational income/expenses, savings, depreciation savings, etc. 
  • Financial Accountability System
    In a society where overspending and debt are the norm, the church needs to be extra careful not just in balancing the budget, but in doing so with integrity. This system will ensure money is collected, handled and managed appropriately. It will include some form of board oversight, occasional audits, as well as clearly defined policies and procedures.
  • Organizational Generosity System
    A critical foundation of biblical stewardship includes the principle of giving. Pastors and church leaders will model this with their own checkbooks as well as with the generosity of the organization as a whole. This system will clarify how much the church gives to the needy, missions, and other meaningful God-inspired initiatives.
  • Bookkeeping System
    Of all the systems in the church, the bookkeeping system should be among the most well defined and managed. This system will tactically manage finances and includes financial software, trained staff, bank accounts, etc.
  • Giving On-Ramp System
    Surprisingly, people often WANT to give, but don’t have easy ways to do so. This system will clarify all methods by which people can give. It may include methods like traditional offering baskets, offering envelopes, giving drop-boxes, and online giving.  
  • Regular Teaching System
    Since nobody openly talks personally about money, everyone assumes that everyone besides them is doing well financially. The general myth says, “I’m drowning in debt, but the people I know and respect aren’t.” This system provides the biblical instruction your congregation and community are desperately craving, but will never admit. It will include annual sermon series, random pulpit messages, as well as regularly offered classes on personal finances and stewardship.
  • Giving Campaigns System
    If people are going to give, they will only do so if it’s for a good cause, something they believe in. This system gives people something to give to and for. It will include all aspects of effective giving campaigns, whether long range or short range. Giving campaigns may focus on missions, building, a needy family, community outreach and more.

Note: Inspiration for the Ten Church Systems comes from Nelson Searcy and the Eight Systems of the Local Church he proposed in his free e-book entitled, ‘Healthy Systems, Healthy Church‘.

Image compliments of renjith krishnan at freedigitalphotos.net.

Ten Church Strategies: The Ministry Partner Strategy (Volunteers)


Check out this quote from Bill Hybels from his book, ‘Volunteer Revolution‘:

“It’s as if God has work gloves on. And he calls us to roll up our sleeves and join him with our talents, our money, our time, and our passion. He wants his mission to become ours. ‘If you’re chasing the wind,’ he tells us, ‘you can keep right on doing that. Or you can hook up with me, and together we’ll transform this hurting planet.'”

The Ministry Partner System is the local church’s answer to God’s call for everyone to ‘roll up their sleeves’ and partner with Him. The problem is that individuals often view the local church as an organization meant to serve him or herself instead of seeing themselves as being a vital part of a body of believers. Ephesians 4 clearly defines a key role of the pastor (among others): “…to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up…” In this installment of ‘The Ten Church Systems‘ I will outline how the church can identify, equip, and release people to ‘partner’ together in fulfilling your church’s mission. If you haven’t already, I recommend you first read my ‘Getting Started Thoughts and Disclaimers’, written in three parts: Part 1Part 2Part 3.

Key Sub-Systems of The Ministry Partner System (Volunteers)
Following are the key sub-systems needed to develop and sustain this system. Please note that the term “Ministry Partner” and “Volunteer” are interchangeable throughout this article.

  • Ministry Identification System
    It can be very frustrating to potential volunteers when they actually want to serve somewhere in the church, but have no information about what volunteer positions are available and what the commitment is for each one. This system will identify every ministry position in the church as well as clarify each one’s basic job description, ministry expectations and requirements. 
  • Ministry On-Ramp System
    It seems the traditional method for filling volunteer positions in the church is through direct recruitment. Although this method can be very effective if done properly, it can become grossly inadequate, plus it means potential volunteers won’t find a place to serve until they get that phone call or email. The ‘Ministry On-Ramp System’ will develop simple ways for church attendees to get plugged into each person’s best possible position. On ramps may include web based solutions, signup tables, ministry fairs, ministry partner classes, sermon series and more. Depending on your church’s Ministry Partner strategy, it may also include a volunteer apprenticeship program.
  • Ministry Partner Resource System
    As the Systems/People Matrix so aptly illustrates, putting great people into bad systems leads to frustration, resentment, and often a high turnover of some of your best people. This system is a critical part to your church’s health and growth. It will include volunteer training (helping them understand how to do the job as well as allowing them to develop and grow in it), resourcing (making sure they have everything they need to be a success), and encouragement (providing meaningful and regular feedback).
  • Ministry Partner Communication System
    Although communication could really fall within the above mentioned ‘Ministry Partner Resource System’, it deserves it’s own mention since it is so critical to a healthy volunteer system. The fact is, good communication breeds loyalty, trust, and commitment while bad communication develops the exact opposite. This system will ensure your volunteers are on the same page with you regarding schedules, expectations and potential problems.
  • Ministry Partner Celebration System
    It’s OK that we have volunteers who serve ‘behind the scenes’. It’s not OK that they are so incognito that weeks, months, even years go by without a ‘thanks’, ‘we are so proud to have you on this team’ and ‘your contribution makes a difference’! This system will ensure everyone is honored and cared for during their tenure as volunteers (instead of just at the end of their tenure!) This system may include simple ‘thank you cards‘, emails, phone calls, and perhaps even an event like a ‘Volunteer Appreciation Banquet’. It is recommended that the celebration system also utilizes the occasional gift certificate and acknowledges milestones (5, 10, 15+ years of service).

Note: Inspiration for the Ten Church Systems comes from Nelson Searcy and the Eight Systems of the Local Church he proposed in his free e-book entitled, ‘Healthy Systems, Healthy Church‘.

Photo from mangostock on istockphoto.com

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Ten Church Strategies: The Small Groups Strategy

The local church can make a lot of mistakes, and people won’t leave if it can get one thing right: relationships. I’ve seen this happen many times. People will learn to deal with leadership weaknesses and minor inconveniences in a church setting when they have developed authentic relationships. You have probably heard the terms ‘front door’ and ‘back door’ in terms of people joining or leaving a church. Developing a relevant and effective small groups ministry will make a huge impact on closing that ‘back door’.

In this installment of ‘The Ten Church Systems‘ I’ll talk about creating a means by which church attendees can grow, express care, and ultimately ‘be the church’ through small group environments. If you haven’t already, I recommend you first read my ‘Getting Started Thoughts and Disclaimers’, written in three parts: Part 1Part 2Part 3.

Key Sub-Systems of the Small Group System
Following are the key sub-systems related to small groups. These systems have been left somewhat vague to allow room for various small group strategies a church might adopt. That said, each system will be fairly complex and time consuming to maintain. A special thanks goes to Pastor Doug Cowburn at Elim Gospel Church for his help in refining these thoughts.

  • Group Leader System
    You can’t have good groups without leaders (facilitators) and hosts (hospitality). This system will oversee the recruitment, training, care and ongoing development of group leaders, hosts, and apprentices. 
  • Group Connection System
    This system will provide opportunities for attendees to get connected into an appropriate small group (whether a new group or existing group) with ease. It will service both longstanding attendees as well as guests. The group connection system may include group campaigns, events, website sign-ups, and more.
  • Group Content System
    This system will ensure the approved group content is communicated, purchased (if applicable), created (if applicable), distributed, and implemented. This system will also include a feedback element to ensure the content is remaining relevant to group members.
Note: As in all of the Ten Church Systems, church leaders will need to determine their group strategy. This will include asking questions like, “How long will groups last?”; “What will we choose to study within our small groups?”; “Will we ask all groups to study the same thing (full alignment) at different times?”; “How many groups/participants are we shooting for?”; “What requirements do we have of groups (if any)?; etc.

Ten Church Strategies: The Marketing Strategy

Here’s another one of those words that make some pastors and christian leaders cringe when associated with the church: marketing. I contemplated just calling this the ‘Outreach’ system since it is primarily about encouraging the community to visit the church. The problem is that we also associate Outreach to much more than that (like missions, and ministry to the poor/needy). So I’m keeping ‘Marketing’ as the word to describe this system.

Despite the uncomfortable connotations of the word, nearly every pastor believes in marketing the church. If a church has a website, ads in local papers, info in the white pages, or a sign on the front lawn, then that church is into marketing. In fact, I recommend you check out this page located at, interestingly enough: www.churchmarketingsucks.com.

In this installment of ‘The Ten Church Systems‘ I will outline several areas every church should develop in order to effectively attract the unchurched, overchurched, and dechurched (been there, done that) in their communities. If you haven’t already, I recommend you first read my ‘Getting Started Thoughts and Disclaimers’, written in three parts: Part 1Part 2Part 3.

Key Sub-Systems of The Marketing System:
Following are the key Sub-Systems related to The Marketing System. You’ll notice that a core value of marketing is effective and relevant communication.

  • Website System
    The church website is a vital part of The Marketing System. This system will include the development of a powerful website that is both attractive and easy to navigate. The best website will serve both prospective guests as well as longstanding members. The Website System will also ensure that content is consistently updated and relevant. (Check out ‘Guest Friendly Website’.)
  • Traditional Advertisement System
    This system will include a clear analysis and implementation of the most appropriate forms of traditional advertising. It may include things like newspaper ads, TV or radio ads, and telephone book ads.
  • Social Media System
    Unless the church is reaching a very narrow group in the community, social media is and will continue to become a very important part of church promotions. This system will include determining the best types of social media to engage with and will keep each one relevant and up to date. Social media systems may include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and more.
  • Special Event Promotion System
    This system will focus on the effective promotion of special church events that may draw the community. Church productions, Christmas programs, unique outreaches, upcoming message series, and key classes are just a few examples of possible events to promote outside the church. The Special Event Promotion System will get the word out to the community in the most effective ways possible. It may include touchcards, posters, billboards, radio ads, and more.
  • Word of Mouth System
    The best marketing happens informally through attendees who are excited about the church. The Word of Mouth System will equip attendees to ‘talk it up’ through effective communication and hands-on materials they can use to supplement their invitations. Pastors and church leaders will intentionally tell church attendees about upcoming exciting events or services so they can get the word out. The best system will also put something in their hands to use as an invitation – like posters, flyers, or touchcards. Obviously, an updated and exciting website and social media should support and supplement this system as well.
  • Church Communications System
    Church communications is probably one of the most challenging systems to develop for pastors and church leaders. This system will ensure all church activities get promoted appropriately. It will prevent some events from getting over-promoted while others are under-promoted. The Church Communications System will provide a simple way for church leaders to submit communications requests. Those requests will eventually be approved after consideration has been made as to what methods of promotions they will receive – for example, verbal promo, newsletter, e-blasts, bulletin inserts, website page, etc.
  • Branding & Graphic Arts System
    This system will determine what needs to have a specific brand within the church. Of course the church itself should have a relevant logo, but sometimes specific ministries or events should be branded as well. Often, individual message series, sermons, or special events will have a unique brand too. This system will develop brands and graphics and distribute them to the other Marketing sub-systems.

Note: Inspiration for the Ten Church Systems comes from Nelson Searcy and the Eight Systems of the Local Church he proposed in his free e-book entitled, ‘Healthy Systems, Healthy Church‘.

Ten Church Strategies: The Care Strategy

Very strictly speaking, the local church is a service organization. That’s way over-simplifying, but it’s still mostly true. The local church serves the Lord, the body of Christ, communities, and the world. One of the ‘services’ everyone hopes and prays the church never stops offering is care. When people are hurting, needy, lost, or simply confused we want them to know they can turn to the local church.

In this installment of ‘The Ten Church Systems‘ I’ll talk about creating an outstanding response system that will ensure the church does what the church should do better than anyone else – show the love of Christ to those in need. If you haven’t already, I recommend you first read my ‘Getting Started Thoughts and Disclaimers’, written in three parts: Part 1Part 2Part 3.

Key Sub-Systems of The Care System:
Following are five key sub-systems that support The Care System. As with all systems, care will be most effective when it is distributed throughout the congregation, rather than centralized with the pastoral team.

  • Attendee Response System
    This system clarifies what will happen when a church attendee is facing a major life transition or crisis. This will include events like a new baby, a family moving, major illness, stays in the hospital, death of a loved one, a lost job, and more. The Attendee Response System will engage the congregation in providing care for one another.
  • Special Services System
    This set of sub-systems will clarify how the church will respond when a special service is necessary to accommodate an attendee’s life transition. Special services will most often include funerals and weddings.
  • Counselling System
    Church attendees will occasionally need professional help to resolve a personal crisis, like addictions, marital difficulties, and other forms of relational conflict. The counselling system clarifies how the pastoral leadership will respond when those needs present themselves. Trusted professional counselors and services in the area will be a critical part of this system. Pastors should not assume that ongoing counselling should fall within the scope of their weekly responsibilities.
  • Benevolence System
    This system enables the pastoral leadership to financially assist attendees and the community during times of need and crisis. It will include annual benevolence budgeting and policies regarding how benevolences are determined and distributed as well as procedures regarding transients who pass through looking for money.
  • Member Care System
    Your church members are a critical part of church life. This system will administratively keep track of membership as well as deal with needed conflict resolution necessary to maintain unity in the church. Finally, this system will ensure members with specialized and ongoing care concerns are taken care of; like the elderly and shut-ins. 

Note: Inspiration for the Ten Church Systems comes from Nelson Searcy and the Eight Systems of the Local Church he proposed in his free e-book entitled, ‘Healthy Systems, Healthy Church‘.

Ten Church Strategies: The Assimilation Strategy


Just an FYI – I didn’t make up that word: assimilation. It sounds very, well, official and businesslike (or Star Trekish – I notice we all leave the Borg’s tagline off: ‘Resistance is futile’. Wise.). That word does represent what we hope will happen to our guests. Dictionary.com defines the word ‘assimilate’ as follows: ‘to take in and incorporate as one’s own; absorb.’ This is what most church leaders desire regarding the guests who darken their door each week. We hope they will start coming to church, like it, and stay – eventually becoming members and leaders themselves.

In this installment of the ‘Ten Church Strategies‘ series I’ll talk about creating your Assimilation Strategy, or what I prefer to call your Guest Friendly Strategy. Check out more posts on Guest Friendly right here

Key Sub-Systems of The Assimilation Strategy:
Following are SIX key subsystems necessary for guest friendly assimilation at your church. These systems will intersect with many of the other ten systems, but most notably The Weekend Service Strategy, The Small Group Strategy, The Discipleship Strategy, and The Marketing Strategy.

  • Guest Friendly Campus System (Facilities & Grounds)
    First impressions matter. No matter how big or small your building and grounds, it’s critical that each area is built and maintained to serve both attendees and guests. This system will include outdoor signs, the cleanliness of the grounds, the parking lot and parking spaces for guests, your entry areas, interior signs, restrooms, sanctuary, and much more. (Check out ‘Guest Friendly Parking‘, ‘Guest Friendly Signage‘.)
  • Guest Friendly Host Services System
    I’ve heard it said that ‘people’s perception is their reality’. We create guest’s reality, whether it is true or not, by how well we host them. Unlike our regular attendees, who know what to do, where to go, and who to talk to, guests are mostly clueless. This system includes the development of all the people who will welcome and take care of guests, like ushers, greeters, and various kinds of hosts (cafe, parking, etc.). This system should also include all preparations surrounding the materials guests will receive when they arrive at church for the first time (welcome packet, gifts, new info. cards). (Check out ‘Guest Friendly Welcome‘.)
  • Guest Friendly Service System
    Next up is the guest friendly church service. This system actually fits almost entirely within The Weekend Service System, but is worth noting here for a few reasons. This system will focus primarily on the few small things that can be done in a service to ensure guests feel comfortable participating in the service. It may include things like reserved seats near the back, but more notably the language being used during the worship, announcements, offering, and message. Additionally, this system will help keep ‘insider‘ activities that would alienate or confuse a guest to a minimum. (Check out ‘Guest Friendly Perspective‘).
  • Guest Friendly Follow Up
    A successful Assimilation System should always include relevant and timely follow up. This may come in the form of phone calls, personal visits, letters, emails, Facebook or any number of other means. This system will help guests know they were noticed during the service and will welcome and encourage them to return again someday. (Check out ‘Guest Friendly Follow-Up’, ‘Guest Friendly Website‘.)
  • Guest Friendly Next Steps
    Probably one of the most important pieces of The Assimilation System will be the ‘Next Steps’ you create as a church to help move people from ‘guests’ to ‘regular attendees’ and eventually members. These systems will communicate next steps to your guests and will facilitate all of the follow up activities that you will ask guests to attend, view, or listen to. For many churches, the final assimilation ‘next step’ would be a membership class.

Note: Inspiration for the Ten Church Systems comes from Nelson Searcy and the Eight Systems of the Local Church he proposed in his free e-book entitled, ‘Healthy Systems, Healthy Church

Photo compliments of wragg on istockphoto.com

Ten Church Strategies: The Weekend Service Strategy


What is your Sunday Morning or Weekend Service strategy? What are you trying to accomplish and how are you planning on doing so? This is the Weekend Service Strategy.

In this installment of the “Ten Church Strategies” series, I will outline some of the Systems that should be clarified, developed and regularly evaluated for effective Sunday services. Since Weekend Services are usually the primary focus of most church’s weekly schedule, it is understandably the most complex of all of the Ten Church Strategies. If you haven’t already, I recommend you first read Ten Church Strategies – Getting Started.

Key Systems of the Weekend Service:
Following are the various systems that directly impact the effectiveness of Sunday morning services. You will notice that the vast majority of these systems don’t actually occur on Sunday mornings, but in the days, weeks, and months prior to each Sunday morning experience. Here they are:

Systems Supporting The Message:
The message is primarily dependent on the Lead Pastor’s preparations and planning. Developing these systems will expand the message’s influence by allowing others to be better prepared to support what will be said.

  • Message Series Planning System
    This is the system whereby the Lead Pastor and his teaching team create a tentative schedule of message series for the upcoming months. Ideally, message series’ will be planned out for six months or longer. 
  • Message Preparation System
    It’s critical that the Lead Pastor or teacher has a system in place to regularly study, pray, and prepare for the Sunday morning message. Ideally, the requisite hours are etched in stone in his weekly calendar. The best system will accommodate advanced planning for future weekends and extra speaking engagements.
Systems Supporting Worship
There are many necessary subsystems to accommodate relevant worship ministry on Sunday morning. A few of the more notable ones include:
  • Song List System
    This system includes developing a ‘Master Song List’, keeping it updated with relevant songs, and determining when new songs are introduced and old songs are removed. This system will also take care of details like CCLI licensing and lyrics administration. 
  • Worship Team System
    This system will recruit, train and develop the various instrumentalists, vocalists, and technicians necessary to support Sunday morning worship.
  • Practice & Rehearsal System
    The best rehearsal system will allow room for worship teams to practice (building unity, communication skills, song dynamics and team-building) and rehearse (specifically preparing for upcoming worship sets). 
  • Worship Leader System
    It’s important the worship leader has systems in place allowing him/her to pray and prepare song lists, transitions, scripts, etc. Ideally, this system will include learning new songs; preparing for future weeks, series, and events; and developing his/her own worship leadership skills.
Systems Supporting Service Planning
Service Planning is a necessary part of exceptional weekend services. These subsystems will add creativity and increase excellence each week.
  • Service Planning System
    There are no surprises regarding what’s happening in upcoming weeks with a service planning system. The ministry team will know exactly when upcoming special service elements (water baptism, communion, guest missionary, baby dedication, etc.) will be taking place. Additionally, details concerning what will be announced each week, what handouts will be included in the bulletin, when creative expressions will take place and what prayer needs will be publicly addressed will also be clarified. Finally, this system will ensure each week’s Service Plan is developed, scrutinized and effectively communicated to key players each week. 
  • Creative Expressions System
    Creative Expressions (skits, music specials, video clips, etc.) during a Sunday morning service are most effective when they are planned in advance. With this system, creative brainstorming and planning take place for upcoming services well in advance of when the details surrounding fulfilling them must be made. Tactical assignments, preparations and rehearsals are also included in these systems.
Systems Supporting Children’s Programming
Most Weekend Services will offer programming for children during some or all of the adult service. This allows parents to participate in the services uninterrupted and provides child appropriate programming for kids. 
  • Safety System
    It is critical that children are safe and parents have peace of mind leaving their kids each week. Safety systems will include volunteer applications and security checks, enforced children’s ministry policies and procedures and a secure child check-in/check-out system on Sunday mornings.
  • Curriculum System
    This system will include ordering, developing, organizing, and preparing age appropriate curriculum for each age group.
  • Volunteer System
    This system will ideally be fully integrated in the church’s “Ministry Partner System” and includes recruitment, training, support, and appreciation of all kids ministry volunteers.
  • Facility & Resource System
    This system will ensure all kids ministry rooms are stocked with age appropriate toys and supplies. It will also include procedures for regular cleaning and maintenance of the rooms.
Systems Supporting Service Programming

The remaining Weekend Service systems will support the various elements and portions of each service.
  • Staging/Tech System
    Stage and technical preparations are vital to a distraction-free experience each week. This system includes developing unique stage designs related to a sermon series as well as the purchasing, maintenance, and care of all technical equipment. 
  • Materials Production System
    Most Sunday services will include materials that attendees receive to enhance and support the Sunday experience and upcoming activities. Preparation and production of the morning bulletin, sermon notes, handouts, offering envelopes, etc. should be systematized and streamlined.
  • Attendee Host Services System
    This includes all systems needed to host and serve attendees before, during, and after the service. Hosts (also referred to as ushers or greeters) will setup for the service, hand out bulletins, help seat attendees, distribute communion elements, etc.
  • Prayer & Care Ministry
    This system will address how leaders facilitate hands-on ministry to attendees each week both during and immediately following the service. This could include the traditional altar call as well as other means of personal ministry during or immediately after the service.
Note: Inspiration for the Ten Church Systems comes from Nelson Searcy and the Eight Systems of the Local Church he proposed in his free e-book entitled, ‘Healthy Systems, Healthy Church‘.
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