During our early years, we plateaued at about 230. It happened again at around 400. Then we bounced between 750 and 950 for several years.
Every time this happened I would pray, asking the Lord what we needed to do to reach more people.
Jesus promised that he would build his church, so I knew there was something I didn’t know, wasn’t doing, or was doing wrong that was keeping us from reaching more people. I just couldn’t figure out what it was.
You might be in the same predicament.
During our final plateau (the five-year one, where we repeatedly hovered between 750 and 950), I humbled myself and hired a seasoned pastor to help me get to the next level. This pastor approached church growth like an engineer. From him I learned that every facet of a church runs on a system.
Today, I love systems. They’re the process by which all ministry gets done.
What is a System?
A system is just a process that is well-thought out, written down, and spread around. Depending on how you number them, your church has eight or nine major systems that accomplish (or diminish) the work of God.
What a Good System Does for You
Your outreach system attracts newcomers; your assimilation system welcomes them. Your discipleship system helps them grow. Your worship system connects them to God. Your financial system teaches biblical stewardship and manages funds for kingdom work.
All of your systems provide:
- Quality: systems help your volunteers do it the best way
- Consistency: systems help all your volunteers do it the same way
- Reproducibility: systems make it easy to teach new people what to do
How to Create Good Systems
1. Develop a one sentence statement of the purpose for your system.
What is the name of the system and what do you want it to accomplish? Example: The purpose of the assimilation system is to welcome and connect guests to our church.
2. Think through a logical progression of steps.
Make a list or draw a flow chart of each step in the process. Example: What steps must be taken to ensure guests feel welcome on their first visit?
3. Break down the steps into a checklist of action items.
What needs to happen regularly and in roughly what order? Example: Someone is out front to welcome people thirty minutes before the service begins.
4. Define the roles in the process.
What people are needed to handle the items on the checklist? Group the steps into jobs that volunteers would want to do. Then, write ministry descriptions so volunteers can understand it. Example: Greeter, Usher, Team Leader.
5. Build up a team to work the system.
Get together with the team members to show them the whole process and their essential part in it. Apprentice them through on-the-job training until they know their responsibilities.
6. Test the system.
It’s all practice until you succeed, so set people loose and see how it goes.
7. Evaluate and improve.
Watch for gaps, for frustrations, for breakdowns. Try some solutions, then update the checklist, and ministry descriptions, when you figure out fixes.
One of the biggest mistakes I made was to think I was too busy working in my ministry to devote time to working on my ministry. This is the lesson I wish I could pass on to every pastor:
Work smarter rather than harder. Multiply your efforts by thinking through and developing systems that will enable others to do the ministry as well or better than you.
Figure out where to start to get your church unstuck by learning about the nine systems every church needs and how to pick which system to work on first.
In the meantime, pick a system in your church and think about these things:
- What is the purpose for that system?
- What are the steps in the process for that system?
- What goes on a checklist for that system?
- What ministry roles are needed to execute that system?
Start Here to learn more about the resources available for you at PastorMentor.