Always make one person the leader. Always make it clear that, in the case of a disagreement, one of them gets to make the call; one of them bears the responsibility.
If you don’t appoint a clear “leader” the two (or more) leaders will have to come to a consensus on every single issue… And that’s fine for most things, but sometimes you just need to make a call and run with it, rather than spend hours, days, months trying to make the other person happy.
So, appoint two leaders, but always then say, “if you can’t decide on something, I want Person A to make the call, ok?”
Recently we had our AGM which gave us another opportunity to try and help our church see itself. That might seem like a strange idea, but for most people, they only see (or even hear) about the aspects of their church they’re involved in. This can lead to misunderstandings about why the staff are never around, or a feeling that God’s not at work in your church, when there might be things to be very excited about.
We want our church family to see itself well… see how God is at work in it, and how God is at work through it.
So, we came up with this infographic that tries to display something of the messiness of church. A growing church family is organic and interrelated. It’s interdependent. This info graphic isn’t meant to make church “understandable”, but rather it’s meant to make the messiness of church understandable. (See it large here).
There seems a common argument that small churches are – not just a valid alternative, but – a better alternative to big churches. Some of the arguments go…
- Myth: “Small-churches are more needy… Big churches have heaps of people!”
Really? This is an argument that small churches are “better”?!? From a church-leader’s point of view, surely you’d want to be in the less needy option?
But there’s an error in this perception about “neediness”… Big churches are in fact more needy that small churches. Big churches have more programs, more people, more gaps that need filled, more budget that needs to be met. They might not be as visible, but they are much greater. It’s like saying that a sparrow’s body is more needy than your body… because it doesn’t have a fridge. No. Your body needs more than the sparrow’s. The fact you have a fridge is a right reflection of that.
So, the large-church is harder to lead and it has more needs.
- Myth: “There’s no room for exceptions in big-churches”
Really? I’d say this is true of all church sizes, and just displays itself in different ways. If the ESL family arrives in a small church, and there’s no-one with gifts or time to welcome them and pastor them well, there’s no room for the exception they bring. However, in a large church, there’s a greater chance of already having people who have those gifts and time and can invest in that family. In fact, there’s a greater chance that you’ll have a structure or program especially set-up for those exact type of people. Its a simple fact that the bigger your church, the more “types” of people you can welcome better.
What about people who just don’t fit the mould? Again, I would suggest that the small church has just as much problem with these people as the big church does. A small church will usually handle the issue through one person (or family) bearing the full weight of responsibility to look after that person. A large church will try to encourage that person into existing structures that are slightly modified to suit their issues. Both options have pros and cons; the small church looses one of the their best people for (sometimes) years as they look after that person. The big church can struggle to modify existing structures enough.
But… I don’t mean this to sound unloving, but… in my experience, even after years of faithfully loving the “don’t fit the mould” people, many of them deep down just like the attention they get and resist changing and self-sacrifice for the sake of others and the church. It can regularly end up with one church member who’s very very exhausted after years of loving the “don’t fit the mould” person, and the “don’t fit the mould” person leaves to find another small church where they’ll get the one-on-one attention they want.
- Myth: “Only certain people can “do” big church – like extroverts. Introverts need small churches.” (here)
- Myth: “Small churches grow faster” (here)
- Myth: “Small churches see more conversion growth” (here)
At a recent MTS Training day, Col Marshall explained some of the potential risks of the church that’s sermon-driven…
– potentially limits the audience to those who can deal with that type of sermon
– potentially limits the maturity of some people, because you’re trying to make it suitable for a wider audience
– potentially limits the servant attitude of people, who are only spoken at and not encouraged to speak encouraging gospel words to each other
– potentially leads pastors to be sermon focused, rather than sermon-hearer focused
They are good reflections I think. They aren’t conclusive, as the word which is preached is able to cross all these limitations. But humanly speaking they’re right.
The interesting thing is that Col’s conclusion was that churches need to make sure they run really good gospel-shaped structures around the Sunday sermon to alleviate these risks.
Vine-Growers always start with great seedlings and brilliant trellises.
Structures take a lot of effort. They take time. Human hours.
Sometimes structures can get so big they no longer justify the number of human hrs it takes to make them happen.
But how can you make that call? How can you know if a huge amount of human effort is better directed somewhere else?
One way (but not the only way) is to ask the question, “what if we ditched it all, and just did walk-up instead?!?”
What would be gained?
Well, you’d probably see HEAPS more gospel conversations. That’s a huge thing.
What would be lost?
Well, you’d probably only have half the people doing walkup. People will just opt out. Structures (even structures that aim to focus on evangelism) have more than one good outcome – they help people find ways of serving and belonging that “just doing walkup” wouldn’t let happen.
So, are you doing enough walkup?
People often get these two categories mixed up. Resources and Needs.
That is, they’ll see a church that doesn’t have many resources; it doesn’t have a youth worker, it doesn’t have many staff, it doesn’t have growth group leaders; scripture teachers, etc… and they’ll think that means that church has a huge NEED. In other words, what they mean is, that church NEEDS a youth worker, staff, group leaders, scripture teachers, etc.
Now, that church could probably use those things, but they are not NEEDS. They are simply STRUCTURES.
How do you determine a churches NEEDS? Look at the number of people in it. They are the NEEDS.
The larger the church, the greater the needs.
I’ve spoken to a fair number of people who’ve told me they’ve tried the “purpose based” model of church staff, or sometimes they call it the “portfolio model”. But when you dig a little deeper, it turns out they haven’t ally tried it, what they’ve actually done is just reshuffle the cabinet.
They’ve kept Pastor Joe on as the evening church/young adults guy, and on top of that, they’ve given him the evangelism portfolio. But by that, what they mean is, “you have to run the evangelism STRUCTURE/EVENT for the other two congregations!”
Now, this is stupid for so many reasons…
- what if the pastors of those other two congregations don’t want Joe to run an evangelism structure for them? What if they don’t like how he’s going to run it?
- so, are the pastors of those other two congregations just meant to ignore evangelism in their congregations because Joe’s doing it?
- if Joes is still meant to be the young adults pastor, when on earth is he going to haven the opportunity to develop an evangelism initiate with the other two congregations? It’s not his priority, and it never will be.
- structures don’t work. They only provide an avenue for people to express what they are convinced of. That is, if people are convinced and excited about evangelism, they’ll use a structure to help them do it. If they’re not, putting something on isn’t going to change their mind
That’s why you should give your staff Purposes, not structures and not even portfolios. Set them a purpose, a vision for the people across all their congregations; “make us a people who are excited about evangelism, trained for it, and doing it”. That’s a purpose to work towards. That’s a purpose to staff!
It’s hard enough to grow in the first place. But if you do grow, that’s not the only hurdle. That new growth produces its own problems to overcome.
So don’t let this list make you stop praying for more in Jesus’ kingdom, rather pray for more and pray for the ability to handle more.
If you’re going to run an evangelistic course, don’t wait until you have enough participants. Why would you? If you’ve got two people who are willing to hear the gospel, do it as planned. Just smaller to suit the numbers.
There’s an important principle here; interested people are more valuable* than uninterested people. Basically, if person A signs-up, but then you decide not to run the event, you’re telling person A that person X (who didn’t sign-up) is more important. It’s like you’re saying, “Yeah, thanks for signing up, but people who we REALY wanted can’t come, so we’re going to wait for them.”
Schedule the event, tell people that it’s going to be on, and run it for whoever comes.
Is something your running working well? Is your church growing? Are people coming along? Are people growing?
Don’t be too quick to assume its your amazing programs. Don’t be too quick to claim that God is blessing you specially.
Sometimes, things just work for a certain group of people. Churches grow at 5% per year because their suburb is growing at 10% per year. Maybe people just like your style. Maybe the time your running works better for people.
Don’t be too quick to over-spiritualise growth. Certainly God’s hand is at work, but it could just simply be through the the basic principles of the world he’s created.
An average structure with brilliant execution will always* do better than a brilliant structure with average execution
*’always’ is a gross exaggeration
So, you’ve planned, organised, delegated, ran and even cleaned up that big ministry event/thing. How do you conduct a review with the team?
1. Acknowledge the fears in the room; some people know they didn’t pull their weight. Some people know their thing didn’t really work. Some people are afraid they just about to get blamed. Acknowledge those fears, speak about them.
2. Go back and remind people of the purpose of the event. What was the big thing you were hoping it would achieve? Start by critiquing that. Was it a good goal? Would you keep it as the goal if you had the chance again? Did the purpose/goal slip from view in the planning/execution?
3. Avoid anecdotal evidence. As much as possible, try to use hard data. Numbers, ratios of new/existing, number of comments, time it started/ended.
4. Talk improvements, not mistakes. There’s a fine line there, but it’s a heart issue.