Part 3 of 4
No organization thrives without setting goals. The goals of a church are spelled out in the Bible – principally:
- Teach and care for believers
- Empower them to go and make disciples
- Serve and witness to the hurting and lost in Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth
Within the context of those goals, pastors and staff can set specific objectives designed to reach them. For churches among the 93% not growing in America today, objectives are primarily aimed at growth and revitalization. However, most of their strategies to achieve those objectives point in the opposite direction. Repeating the mistakes that led to the current state of the church won’t result in a better future state. Today’s prevailing church growth strategy of “Invite, Involve and Invest” is the rallying cry of the internally-focused church. Internally-oriented organizations nearly always fail. Tactics to make your church “sticky” may grow your church in the short term but only engaging and caring for your intended “customer” will make your church healthy and vibrant in the long run.
The path to revitalization…
…is essentially the same for all organizations, but for churches it’s an ordained imperative:
- Take “Ground” – In business it’s called “market share”. Democracies call it “voting blocs”. Unfortunately, nearly all churches in America think of it as “membership”, “attendance”, or giving. Churches who measure their footprint in those terms are (possibly inadvertently and unwittingly) viewing members as “customers”. Because members ARE the church and the community is the marketplace, the amount of ground “taken” should be calculated in terms of lives “impacted”, regardless of whether they go to your church. The Biblical goals of the Church are rooted in building and sending disciples, who in turn impact the lives of those around them for Christ.
- Develop Genuine Relationships – We think of relationships as being between two people. However, the church itself has a relationship with the community (its “customer”). Church is the convening of the “body” and that collective body is commissioned to work together to reach the “customer” – not just as a bunch of independent agents or only on occasion. Yet the church today is far more transactional than relational in terms of how it reaches out to the community (as a collective body) – relying on infrequent outreaches, which are often viewed and intended as marketing. Society is waiting to see churches show sincere concern for them, not for their “own”. Likewise, society is not waiting for members to be generous in giving to the church, but for the church to be generous in giving to the community. You can see how the goals of communities and of churches are often in conflict.
- Fuel a Positive Perception – We each do life with Christ separately but when we’re part of a church, we are the church. Yet by highlighting pastors, buildings and brands, churches have caused society to see it as an institution, not a collection of individuals. In other words, our modern day emphasis on the institution has caused the unchurched to view church as an institution. As a consequence non-believers no longer assume that a churchgoer who is loving and caring means that the church is loving and caring. Many today think highly of a particular church member but have a poor perception of “church”. Unless pastors truly view congregants as the church, society won’t either. And unfortunately, studies show most unchurched (the intended “prospect/customer”) feel that the institution (of church) does not care about them.
Setting your church up for success
Taking ground, relational propagation and fueling a positive perception all hinge on a single, critical enabler – people. Businesses can’t grow market share without employees and raving fans. Politicians can’t win office without staff and volunteers out on the campaign trail. If your church doesn’t leverage the people at your disposal, equipping them to reach others, there’s little chance of accomplishing the Lord’s goals for your church. In other words, unless you empower congregants to BE the church through more decentralized organizational structures and flatten the church hierarchy, you’ll never reach your objectives of healthy growth and revitalization.
In consulting, too often we saw companies broken up into functional “silos”, each acting not in the interests of customers, but around their independent objectives, which often conflicted with those of other departments. Those companies experienced tremendous inefficiencies, mis-alignments, and far too much internal politics – and consequently poor sales and customer service. Our consulting teams restructured those organizations, uniting them through cross-functional processes designed around the needs of customers, not the interests of internal departments.
Likewise, churches should restructure around the Biblical goals laid out at the beginning of this blog post. Here are 5 proven organizational changes that will exponentially increase your church’s ability to pursue and win over your intended “customer” – the community where your church is planted:
- Turn Small Groups into Neighborhood Groups, responsible for “prayer, care and share” in their particular locations (this is the most grass-roots example of structuring a church relationally)
- Form teams assigned to work with particular local ministries and/or cause(s)
- Facilitate “planting” of ministries by members to fill cause-related gaps in the city
- Consider restructuring into semi-autonomous, medium-sized subgroups around geographic or cause lines (since entire congregations are hard to mobilize and small groups lack the scale to make a significant impact)
- Assign a staff or lay leader to manage your local missions efforts and another to lead discipleship and elevate those positions to a high standing within the church, commensurate with the reversion to defining the community and not members as your “customer”
Better leveraging your valuable resources
Implementing those types of decentralized, empowering organizational changes will require your church to rethink:
- Budgets – Reallocate your church’s budget to generously fund member-led and external local ministry efforts. You can’t launch and empower neighborhood groups, ministry teams, ministry plants, or semi-autonomous subgroups without funding. Stand behind your commitment – financially.
- Buildings – Is it good stewardship to own a building that only accommodates a large crowd 1 day per week? How often is a significant portion of the building in use? How many members visit the building between Sundays? How much space does management and staff activities take up during the rest of the week? What percentage of those activities could be done elsewhere much less expensively? Would you pay a full mortgage on a house you only lived in 20% of the time? Only the very rich have second homes where they spend a small fraction of their time, but in ministry aren’t we called to be better stewards (with Kingdom resources) than the ultra rich? With a proper definition of the “customer”, fewer resources would go toward facilities and more toward serving and engaging the community. Alternatively, keep the building but use it all week for ministry incubation and to bring in people from the community for career coaching, tutoring, recovery ministries, health/wellness classes, etc. – all geared toward demonstrating the love of Jesus Christ and His church.
- Content Delivery – Speaking of which, are there more efficient means in this day and age for content delivery by the pastor and staff? Too many people drive in Sunday morning, stay for a non-interactional presentation, possibly hang around a few minutes afterward to chat, then head home. That single sermon cannot deliver the depth needed by mature Christians – pastors have to design messages to accommodate the mix of “students” in the congregation. Aren’t tailored messages based on discipleship progress more efficiently delivered while people are out exercising or driving to work? As we’ve discussed extensively, properly equipping members to BE the church in the “marketplace” requires intensive training (discipleship) and deployment into local ministry. Yet there’s been little innovation in (or adoption by churches of) content delivery vehicles for discipleship or for serving others. Technology vendors invest in building solutions that churches have set aside budget to purchase, so there is significant innovation in online streaming of conventional church services, but not much around discipleship or local missions (besides Meet The Need, a non-profit ministry).
It’s your turn
Have you seen a church make the shift from an attractional, Sunday morning model to multiple-day engagement with the community throughout the week? What was the result in terms of that church’s unity, growth, impact, influence and perception in that city?