If you do all the ministry yourself – or try to – your people will lose their serving and leadership muscle. They won’t be as effective and neither will you. If you are trying to do all the ministry yourself, you are most likely working too hard on the wrong things. It’s time to create some systems for your sake and the health of your church.
McDonald’s has been and still is the master of systems. A person can walk into any McDonald’s and know what to expect. Thousands of employees, many of them under the age of 21, are able to flawlessly create a consistent product using systems. It’s said that if rising McDonalds employee attends Hamburger University, she is not learning how to make hamburgers, she is learning the systems about how to make hamburgers.
The church, too, needs leaders who don’t always just work in ministry, but who work on the ministry, creating systems for ministry, service, discipleship and growth.
There’s nothing wrong with hard work. In fact, I have utmost respect for pastors and staff who have given their lives to the church, selflessly serving people, assuming many different hats, and giving their time day and night for the cause of Christ. I know there may be a few exceptions, but many pastors I know are some of the most diligent leaders in the world.
With the call to ministry comes a desire and pressure to get the ministry done. All the while, there may be folks in your in your congregation silently begging for an opportunity to serve with their gifts and can’t seem to engage or become mobilized in serving in ministry and mission.
A shift needs to occur – from doing ministry to creating systems for ministry. This intentional step allows the leader to invest time on the structures and frameworks that will help everyone in the church participate and grow. This does require time and effort, but it’s worth it.
Strong churches, who reach out, serve the poor, make disciples and care for their community, are full of working systems that allow members to use their time and gifts wisely. Here are some thoughts on creating systems in your ministry:
Church Leaders Need to be Competent in Developing Systems.
It’s not glamorous work. Developing systems take time, require meetings, and is a never ending process. It causes the leader to begin relying on others in profound ways. It’s not easy, but church leaders need to become comfortable and competent putting the right systems in place. A new trend in staffing the local church is more money spent on fewer, less specialized staff. Instead of a leader in each department it will be fewer, high capacity leaders who are able to develop the system for many people to carry the load.
Church Leaders Need to be Comfortable Deploying People.
As the early church began, leaders emerged and risks were taken. There weren’t enough leaders to spread around to all the areas, so people had to be raised up and counted on. If there is a system in place for raising leaders, then we must be comfortable deploying them into meaningful ministry.
Church Leaders Need to be Able to Trust the System.
Trust what you put in place. Let it play out and work. if you have handed something over to someone, check on them, support them, encourage them, and trust the process that is in place. Whether it be membership process, growth in giving process or a discipleship process, trust God to use it.
Church Leaders Need to be Able to Critique and Tweak the Systems.
Always be willing to change the system. It’s a tool for effective ministry, not a goal. Critique and tweak the systems so they serve you well. As with any people-focused mission, we need to be flexible. You don’t want the system to overshadow the goal of changed lives, rather, you want the system to enhance it. Be ready to change when needed.
Church Leaders Need to Articulate the Vision of Systems.
Document your system so people are able to easily engage. Folks in your church need to know what the next step for discipleship is (or membership or getting connected in serving, etc). It needs to clear and compelling. Clarifying the steps in the process is some of the most difficult work for any church leadership team, but the work is worth it.
Church Leaders Need to Include Everyone – Not Just a Few.
Church leaders need a red-hot vision to include every church member/attender in the ministry, ultimately reaching more people and taking care of the community around them. Too often, a leader’s vision is undeniably too small. They might even admit that they are only expecting a handful to get involved. When we are creating opportunities for life-changing ministry, we must include the whole church! They must be inspired and motivated. And they must know what you are calling them to do – they need to know the system.
You’ve probably heard the acronym: A System will Save You Stress, Time, Energy and Money!
Systems are needed for worship planning, for inviting people, for developing leaders, for assimilating new members, for growing givers and more. The specifics of each of these areas (and all other systems in your ministry) differ based on the current size of your congregation, the number of pastors and staff, and your context of ministry.
But, well-defined and documented systems will help people in your church more than you can imagine! They will understand more clearly what they need to do and how they can begin doing it.
I encourage you to pick one area and get a system in place that will be helpful to you. Don’t start with who will do it. Start with what would be done. Determine something in your current ministry that is requiring lots of time, but many other people could do. Pray over it, write down the steps to what you currently do, ask the Lord to lead you to someone who could help you accomplish it, turn it over and then use the extra time to begin tackling another system that can help your overall church. This is spending time working on the ministry and not just in it. You are opening doors for people to be the church in a variety of ways.
I recently heard Bill Hybels speak about vision from the book of Nehemiah. The key to moving people (and ourselves) to a new sense of vision for the future is to clearly articulate the current reality and share why we can’t stay here. Nehemiah did this by saying, “Look around you – the walls are in shambles. We can’t live like this – we’re living in fear, we have no confidence. Our city is in ruins… but, we can do this! Arise, let us rebuild the wall together.”
There are people in your church who can have the leadership ability to help build systems and organize ministry. Utilize them!
As a church leader, you will always be in process of transitioning from “doing” ministry, to helping the church do ministry through well-designed frameworks and systems that pull people in, equip them, and sending them out to serve!