If you haven’t already, you may want to first read the summary of this series entitled, “The Ten Strategies of the Local Church“.
My hope in writing this series is simple: I want to challenge your thinking and equip you for future success. By writing about the ten strategies of the local church I hope you will identify areas where your church and leadership is excelling as well as areas that need growth. I expect you will develop Strategic Plans to develop your weak areas and celebrate your strengths.
‘Ten Church Strategies’ – Getting Started
I’ve discovered that when it comes to strategies and systems, pastors and church leaders can quickly get confused or disheartened. To better prepare you for this “Ten Church Strategies” series I’d like to make 20 observations that may help you along the way.
- I Owe a Big ‘Thanks’ To Nelson Searcy.
Nelson Searcy, Lead Pastor of ‘The Journey Church Of The City‘ in New York City, first introduced the idea of systems for the local church in his free e-book entitled “Healthy Systems, Healthy Church” where he introduced the “8 Systems of the Local Church”. Over time, and after much discussion with others (including Elim Fellowships Vice President, Mike Cavanaugh), I’ve made several tweaks and changes. First, I’ve changed the term from ‘Systems’ to ‘Strategies’ because I believe the big idea behind each subject area represents a strategy that needs developed. The systems come into play in tactically implementing each strategic area.
- I Am Not Trying To Overwhelm You.
But it’s possible some of you may get overwhelmed. The Ten Church Strategies series is not for the faint of heart. I’ll be outlining a lot of ideas that you might not be doing, or that you know aren’t going well. That’s OK. The point of this exercise is to get the truth on the table so you can evaluate what you should or could be doing next. The Ten Church Strategies will provide a ministry benchmark that you can use to measure the current ‘health’ of your church and to guide you toward something better.
- Size Matters.
The size of your church does make a difference in church strategy and systems development. The bigger your church is, the more likely that you will need more subsystems to support your systems. For example, it’s going to be more challenging to develop a strategy for tracking guests if you have 800 people attending 3 services each week compared to 60 people attending one service each week.
- Size Isn’t An Excuse.
The size of your church shouldn’t be used as an excuse to bypass systems development. Being ‘small’ doesn’t mean you don’t need a system – it just means the system you use will be very different than in other church settings. For example, if you don’t have a system for tracking your guests, then you need to develop that system (no matter what your church size is) in order to help attract and keep people at your church.
- Strategies and Anointing Are Not the Same.
Since I’m such a big fan of systems, I thought it would be good to clarify – I’m a bigger fan of God’s anointing. They shouldn’t be confused. I believe a smart, caring, and committed business person could build an amazing church that attracts thousands of people and provides amazing activities and services – without God ever showing up. In fact, it sort of reminds me of the Jehovah Witnesses and Mormon churches! Strategies should never replace God’s anointing. If I ever had to choose between the two, there’s no question which I would pick.
- Systems, Strategies and Anointing Work Together.
When God’s anointing for ministry meets a well implemented system, exponential potential for ministry is released. I believe that. I believe God is the one who made up systems, not man. He expects us to use every physical resource we can muster together to provide the best possible environments for His anointing to have the greatest impact. God has always operated that way with man. We do the “man” part and He does the “God” part. Elijah on Mt. Carmel is a classic example.
- This is Scary.
For most of us, change (or even thinking about change) is scary. It’s risky. It’s wrought with the potential for failure; for making mistakes. It means trying something that we really don’t know how to do. It forces a new, and often steep, learning curve on us and our leaders. But if we really think the ministry we lead is ‘stuck’, or worse, headed for a cliff, it’s better to try something new and scary than stay on the train where it’s leading us. (Check out “Strategic Quitting“).
- This is Healthy.
We all know what it looks like and feels like to live in an unhealthy body. Perhaps you still do. The same is true for the church. We can survive and be unhealthy or we can thrive by making changes that bring health to our church. Ironically, most unhealthy churches are completely clueless how dysfunctional and unhealthy they have become – and anyone who knows is afraid to tell them. (Check out “Healthy Church, Healthy Systems“).
- This is Uncomfortable.
There’s something really weird about building a bus that will seat 55 when you only have 25 people to transport. It can seem awkward, not just for you, but for everyone else. However, there’s no way you will accommodate growth in your church until you’ve expanded your borders. (Check out “Ready for the Rain“).
- You Are Your Worst Enemy.
The biggest road block to change is hurtling the barriers inside yourself that resists change. Like me, you take pride in what you’ve accomplished and are currently doing for the Lord. Unfortunately, sometimes our pride clouds our judgement and we come to the conclusion that things are doing just fine, when they really aren’t. (Check out “The Big Road Block“).
- You Can’t Do It Alone.
I don’t think the sign on your office door says “Pastor Jack OATS” or “Pastor Jack Of All Trades”. Nehemiah didn’t build the walls by himself and he probably didn’t know every trade necessary to do it right. He had a team of people. The Ten Strategies rely on a team of people too. You can’t expect to fulfill every role necessary to run your church. You aren’t analytical, relational, visionary and administrative in equal parts. Building effective church strategies includes developing a leadership and volunteer team who have the skills and resources you don’t. You can’t do it alone. (Check out “Pastor Jack OATs“).
- You Can Do It.
If you’ve made it this far then you’ve already taken another step in developing one of the ten key strategies of the local church. It’s called “The Strategic Strategy”. If you glance back through the above points, you’ll discover that most of the battle is fought between our ears, not in the pews. A final step to getting started is in believing that God has called you to this time and this place. (Check out “Pastoral Ministry by Paul“).
- I Do Not Condone Legalism Through Systems or Strategies
I think it’s important to make a distinction between strategies/systems that serve the mission of the church and those that everyone ends up serving. It is possible that a strategic plan can turn into a bottleneck, sacred cow, or legalistic activity within the church. This is why it’s so critical that ministries regularly evaluate the various strategies within the church to ensure they are enabling rather than hindering ministry.
- The Ten Strategies Cannot Be Prioritized
It is a trap to think of the Ten Strategies as independent strategies that have little to no bearing on one other. What you will discover is that every strategy either feeds or is fed by one or more other strategy. Although you may choose to focus on one strategy or another at different stages in your ministry journey, it’s important that each one receive appropriate attention.
- Not All Strategies Carry the Same Weight
Some strategies will require very little time and energy to develop and maintain in comparison with others. For example, The Weekend Service strategy includes more than a dozen subsystems to function effectively while The Stewardship strategy only requires a few.
- No Strategy or System Works Forever
Just like your car, your systems will become less and less effective and relevant over time, unless they are strategically and systematically evaluated and adjusted.
- Formal Versus Informal Strategies
You will discover that even though you haven’t specifically thought of some of the things you are doing through the lenses of The Ten Strategies, you already have many in place. Some of these strategies are informal ones that just ‘get done’ each week; others have been well developed and documented. Whether a strategy is informal or not isn’t quite so critical as whether the strategy is accomplishing the goal in the best possible way.
- I’m Still Learning
I’m sharing what I have learned and know about the development of these church strategies. That does not mean everything I suggest or say should be written in stone. Feel free to question my thoughts and ideas – just don’t throw them all out because we occasionally disagree. I recommend you read this series with a heart to hear the voice of the Lord whisper to you what He intends you to hear and disregard all else. In other words, ‘chew the meet and spit out the bones’.
- I Intentionally Do Not Describe HOW
Every church is led by a unique mix of pastors, elders, and leaders in a unique geographical location and culture. It would be presumptuous and inappropriate for me to tell you HOW you implement the various strategies I propose your church embrace. This series is meant to help you identify what areas you want to develop – not HOW you develop them.
- I Am Available To Help You Discover HOW
I can’t create a cookie-cutter strategy that everyone can use, but I am able to make myself available to a few churches and leadership teams individually. I would be very happy to meet with you to determine if we could establish a coaching relationship that would serve to guide and motivate you in future strategic planning.