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.
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.
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