On a recent trip to visit North Coast Church in southern California to check out their multi-venue model, I had the opportunity to sit down with Chris Mavity, who heads up their training. Chris is a wealth of wisdom for church leaders. Our conversation quickly drifted from venues to church health.
Our church has experienced some setbacks in our dream of a new facility. We are already running 3 services on a Sunday morning and were really looking forward to the new space. But after 4 years of setbacks, it became obvious that the new building wasn’t happening. In the mean time, our church plateaued. We’ve added nearly 800 new members during that time, yet total weekend attendance has not increased. For years I have wrestled with this issue looking at it from a thousand angles. Why are we plateaued? What do we need to do? Where do we start? There are at least a hundred different variables in these questions. It’s enough to drive a leader insane!
Thankfully, God used Chris to bring the issues into perspective. He said, “you need to do three things – clarify, simplify, and unify (ok, I changed his words to be more preachery).”
Whenever you begin to feel lost in the WHAT, get back to the WHY! Nothing matters more than why we do what we do. As a systems person, I will always err on the side of processes. I see the world in formulas. A plus B equals C. This works great for creating structures to facilitate growth but can become confusing downstream for volunteers. It’s easy for people to get lost in the execution of the weekend and forget what it’s really all about. The number one responsibility of leaders is to clarify the mission. Keep the main thing the main thing. We use processes to develop people not the other way around.
Churches grow when their people are inviting. People invite when lives are changing. Lives change when we stay focused on changed lives.
The larger your church grows the more complex it becomes. Our systems, structures, processes, policies and programs all expand. Of course, most of these must expand or at least change. The problem is that we typically change these to accommodate the already found rather than the not yet here. We need to view all of our processes through the lens of the lost. What does our volunteer process look like? Hoops or helps? What does our membership class sound like? A check box or a seminar for a changed life?
Does this structure clearly communicate our mission? Does this process seem confusing or restrictive?
Every system in the church has to be reviewed for clarity and simplicity.
Okay, this is my substitute word for alignment. As the ministries of the church expand so does the potential for diffusion. Small churches dream of hundreds of ministries while large churches dream of only a few (see Simple Church). Every ministry of the church has its own miniature version of the mission. The problem is that it is often not aligned with the church’s mission and vision.
Misalignment in the church causes the same symptoms as your car’s:
- It’s harder to steer
- It’s moving you off course
- It’s costing more energy to move forward
- It’s burning out volunteers
Misalignment is a big deal.
The good news is that the opposite is also true. Proper alignment increase the forward momentum, energizes your ministries and volunteers, and gets you farther faster!
So if you’re in a fog and you’re not sure how you got where you are…CLARIFY, UNIFY and SIMPLIFY!