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ChurchLead is a collection of articles aimed at helping churches become more effective in their mission.
  • Visitor Connection and Closing the Church Back Door
  • Effective Communication and Processes in the church
Recent Articles 
Tuesday, 31 August 2010
Week in and week out, Christian churches across the world dutifully take attendance.  This takes great effort from both paid staff and volunteers alike.  It could be said, sadly, that we are more consistent in taking attendance than we are at living as Christ followers. 

One might think that I am about to take issue with the unnecessary expenditure of effort of taking attendance, but I'm not.  My biggest issue is not that we are wasting our time with attendance, it is that we are wasting the effort by leaving the collected data on the roll sheets or in the church management system.  Bottom line is that it is impossible to close the back door of a church unless you create ways to catch people on their way out.  Gone is gone.  I am convinced that part of good stewardship in a church is to be faithful with the lives entrusted to those in leadership.  Please indulge me in the following train of thought.
  • Attendance records are just attendance records until they are turned in to useful data.
  • Data is just data until it is turned into a useful report.
  • Reports are just reports until they are analyzed and turned into a plan.
  • A plan is just a plan until it is put into action.
  • Actions are just actions until they are managed to change a situation.
and finally,
  • Changed situations are just... wait a minute... this is what we are after!
 If we intend to fix the "back door problem" in our churches (and I hear this all the time in churches), we must make sure that we are measuring what is measurable, applying proper context and formulating good plans in order to act strategically. 

Now, let me be clear.  God causes the change in the situation.  We are merely being good stewards of those people with whom we have been entrusted.  That being said, do you want to close the back door?  Then guard it! 
Posted by: Rob Overton AT 10:00 am   |  Permalink   |  3 Comments  |  Email
Friday, 13 August 2010
Part 2 of Series: Leading the (Not So) Simple Church (view part 1>)

There are quite a few church models and concepts in use these days and my point in this article is not to promote (or bash) any one of them. The point I want to make is two-fold: Churches need models, and models are not enough.

Churches Need Models:  I have to wonder how many of the thousands of churches that have set out to become “simple” or “sticky” or “relevant”, have actually achieved this goal.  In my consulting work through recent years, I have spent thousands of hours in hundreds of churches of virtually every evangelical Christian denomination. I have found that the decision to change or refine ministry focus is not enough to result in missional success.  Many times, success or failure will be determined by what happens after the leadership retreat where the new direction was chosen.  I believe that a properly conceived model that is understood by the staff and congregants, and logically moves people and efforts toward agreed goals puts a church into a good position to achieve their mission.

It is important to understand the difference between a models and concepts.  A church model provides a systematic method of applying concepts to the various ministry processes.  A model is an illustration or map of the interconnected ministry processes in the church.  It should demonstrate the intended movement of people in areas such as connection, assimilation, evangelism, spiritual formation and responding to congregants needs.  A model will begin with the mission and vision of the church and it will have clear metrics for determining operational success.

A concept is an ideology or approach.  It is often confused as a model but concepts are not models.  I read a recent blog post by Thom Rainer where he commented on churches wanting to see the "Simple Church" model.  His response goes like this: 
"We struggle with that request because Simple Church is not a model. It is a concept that helps churches focus on disciple making that aligns with activities. And no church will ever “arrive.” It’s a process. It’s ongoing. There is no perfect example. There is no model church because there is no model."
The fact is, I like church models. (feel free to roll your eyes here) A model can clearly illustrate the intended flow of people, information and processes in a church and serves both as a filter and a reminder of what is supposed to be happening in a church. There is enormous value in church leaders critically considering all of the ministry activities and processes and then producing an illustration of how they all fit together.  hint: If your church is too complex to model, then it is probably just too complex.  Many church leaders have expressed to me that this process of creating their unique model was the most valuable part of our time together.  Its not easy, and I don't suggest this process unless you are willing to change!  It takes work to align everything, but it is worth the effort.

All churches have a model, but they don’t all realize it. It can be very formal, or it can be more organic in nature. In many cases, a church’s model grew out of a denominational approach to ministry. I don’t think that it is possible for a church to be intentional in their ministry if they do not formalize their model to a functional level. Chaos reigns in the absence of a consistent approach to ministry.

Models are Not Enough: 
As valuable as models are, they don't produce good outcomes on their own. For example, the fact that I have a map in the glove compartment of my car does not help me get to a place I have never been.  Only the correct use of a good map at the right time will give the driver much of a  chance of getting to their desired destination on time.

The problem in many churches is not the model or concept, but in the implementation.  Poor ministry processes always hurt a church's ministry.  There are plenty of examples where God blesses a ministry even though they have poor processes, but I believe that our goal in church leadership and management is to be good stewards of that which we have been entrusted.  I am afraid that in many cases, the new approach to ministry never had a chance of success.

Next Article: Attendance and the Back Door
Posted by: Rob Overton AT 09:00 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
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