The Eight Systems of the Church

The Eight Systems of the Church

We may look different on the outside, but underneath we all have hearts that pump blood, even though we are different blood types. We all have senses that take in the world, though in some of us one sense is more elevated than another. In the same way, all churches are made up of the same exact systems, even though we may view and utilize them in slightly different ways based on our individual calls to ministry. The question isn’t whether or not these systems are in place, but whether or not they are being maximized.

The eight systems of every church are interconnected. While some may be more developed than others, none of these systems can stand alone. And since a church is a living entity, like us, the well-developed systems run whether we are thinking about them or not. Just as you breathe while you sleep, strong systems operate without constant supervision.

Still, to make sure that all of our church systems are running correctly, we should take them in for a periodic checkup. If we are disinterested or lazy about growing and maintaining them, they will not produce the results we want. When we become slack in taking care of our systems we experience lack, and therefore, our church fails to live up to its God-given potential. We have to do our part to make sure that all eight systems are set up and functioning correctly, so that our church will be healthy and thriving.
Here is how leadership at Grace and Peace approaches this:

1. The Weekend Service System:

How We Plan, Implement and Evaluate the Weekend Services at Our Church

This system helps us plan, implement and evaluate our weekend service(s). Sunday comes around with great regularity. The way you plan, implement and evaluate your music, preaching, transitions, offering, etc. is key. Sunday is game day. The day you need to be at your best. The day you need to have some assurance that things are going to go just like they should so that people will have the best possible opportunity to encounter God. If we are slack in our planning, the lack will be obvious.

We already have a way of getting these things done so we should look at how efficient our way is. 

To start building up any Weekend Service System, make a list of everything that goes into getting ready for the weekend. Think about what you can do to lower your stress and save yourself time and energy. As this develops, don’t forget to evaluate how well things are working in the service each week. How have you been evaluating each service to make sure the next one is better? When was the last time you watched a recent worship service DVD? How often do you work on communication with all participants?

Always be asking yourself and those you trust:

• What was missing?

• What was confusing?

• How can we be doing things better?

If you don’t pay attention to the details of your worship service, they will atrophy. If you slack, there will be lack.

Take some action steps. Think about the Weekend Service System. Jot down some ideas for how we can make our service better. Decide to give attention to areas we’ve been neglecting. The worst thing you can do is let Sunday run on auto-pilot. God is always up to something new. Make sure you are in a position to magnify whatever that is!

2. The Evangelism System:

How We Attract People to Our Church

Some refer to this as the Outreach System or the Marketing System. No matter what name you give it, this is the system that inspires you to ask, “How do we attract people to our church?” All churches grow through the incarnational and the attractional.

Ultimately, God is the one doing the attracting and the drawing, but have you ever wondered why some churches seem to get all of the new growth while others sit stagnant? How does God decide which church to draw people to?

The principle of spiritual readiness teaches that God will never give us more than we are prepared to handle. We have to do our part to let people know we are in town and ready to receive them. So, how do you get that message out? How do you invite people through your doors for the first time? As you begin to think about this system, make sure that you are maximizing the seasons of the year when people are most willing to come to church for the first time. Keep your culture in mind. Know whether your community will respond best to postcards, emails, phone calls, billboards, or a specific combination of outreach methods. Yes, God attracts, but we have to do our part of the preparation.

Step back and take an objective look at your Evangelism System. What has this system looked like in your church over the last six months? Is it in a baby stage or a well-developed one? If it has been well developed in the past, are you still seeing results? Are your methods of outreach effective? Are you seeing a lot of first-time guests? If not, there’s a good chance it’s because you’ve been slacking on evangelism. To start revving this system up, ask yourself these questions:

• When was the last time we did a big direct mail campaign?

• Have we invested in servant evangelism lately?

• Who was the last person I personally invited to church?

• When was the last time we challenged our people to bring their friends to a big day?

Think about specific steps you can take to reach your community this month. Lead the way in your personal evangelism. Give your people opportunities to invite their friends and then support them any way you can. Evangelism is critical to what we do.

3. The Assimilation System:

How We Move People from First-Time Guests to Members

The Assimilation System is our plan for taking people from their first visit to being fully developing members of our church. How do you get people to keep coming back until they are ready to plug in at a deeper level? Many churches have an evangelism problem, meaning that they have a hard time getting first-timers through their doors, but even more have an assimilation problem. You can’t just expect your first-time guests to come back without any intentional action from you and your staff. You have to make sure you are creating environments that make them feel comfortable and welcome, environments in which they will be eager to return.

Start thinking about how many first-time guests you have over the course of a year. An average of just three guests each week means that we influence over 150 new people every twelve months. How many of those are sticking around? To grow consistently, we need to be keeping one in five of our first-time guests. What can you do to see those results? How do you bring your new person’s assimilation full circle so that they start inviting their friends? To get a gauge on how well we are keeping on top of our assimilation, try asking yourself these questions:

• How many of our first-time guests end up becoming members? Are we happy with that number? If not, where is the problem?

• When was the last time I looked at our church through a guest’s eyes?

• Have I filled out our communication card to make sure it is user-friendly?

• What do people say is their first impression of our church?

A little bit of assimilation tweaking can reap big results. Simply by keeping our finger on the pulse of this one system, we will see a huge difference in growth.

Be honest about how well your Assimilation System is working and what kind of improvements we need to make. When God blesses us with guests, we need to make sure we are doing our part to give them unhindered access to learning His truth!

4. The Life Groups System:

How We Fill and Produce Life Groups at Our Church

Have a strong Life Groups System in place that focuses on the core question, “How do we fill and reproduce life groups at our church?” You have to have a specific plan in place for filling current groups and multiplying new ones. How do you start groups that get off the ground quickly and then sustain their momentum?

A good Life Groups System is based around four key activities: Focus, Form, Fill and Facilitate. By setting up an ongoing system that focuses, forms, fills and facilitates groups for success, we maximize participation with low stress, time commitment, expended energy and outgoing money.

If a church has a weak Life Groups System, you will see problems in many of other systems as well. But a strong Groups System will help you solve leadership, pastoral care, volunteer, and hospitality issues across the board.

Think about our Life Groups System. Would you say that it is healthy? How are things going? Are we doing our part and seeing God’s blessing? Or have we been slacking off and experiencing lack? To take the pulse of this system in our church, ask yourself:

• How many of our regular attendees and members are actively involved in a life group?

• Are we competing against our own groups by offering too many other activities?

• How many passionate group leaders do we have?

• Am I involved in a life group? Is everyone on my team?

People won’t engage in what we aren’t modeling. Secondly, take a hard look at the state of your Life Groups System. Be honest about the level of excitement in our church over groups. Be honest about our participation numbers. Sketch out some ideas about what we can do to improve our system in the near future.

5. The Ministry System:

How We Mobilize People for Significant Ministry

The Ministry System, also known as the Volunteer System, determines how we mobilize people for significant ministry at our church. God created people to serve. It’s part of how they grow as disciples. If you don’t have a system in place that helps them get plugged in, you will be hurting both yourself and your potential, untapped leaders.

Our goal is to get 50% of our people involved in serving at least one hour each week. Try asking volunteers to serve at one service and attend another. We can never have too many volunteers. Check up on our Ministry System by asking yourself these questions:

• How many passionate volunteers do we have?

• How many passionate volunteers would we like to have?

• What are we doing to make people want to serve?

• When was the last time I personally put some time into investing in our volunteers?

What steps do we need to take to create a volunteer system that makes people want to get involved and do the things that we can’t hire people to do? Think about what we want our Ministry System to look like one year from today, and jot that vision down.

6. The Stewardship System:

How We Develop Extravagant Givers at Our Church

Most of us, as church leaders, tend to separate the issue of giving from other spiritual disciplines, like praying, reading our Bibles, and gathering for service. This is because we are afraid to hold our attendees accountable in the personal area of money. But, let’s face it – money is essential to Kingdom growth. It’s also an essential issue in the hearts of our people. We will never develop strong disciples until we learn to develop strong givers. This is where the Stewardship System comes in.

How do we encourage people to give for the first time? How do we know when they do? Once they give that first gift, how do we follow up with them? How do we turn sporadic givers into regular givers and teach them the importance of giving the full tithe?

Most new givers don’t go from 0% to 10% right away. There is a path we have to lead them down, as they mature in their understanding of stewardship. Growth doesn’t happen haphazardly. We will never disciple a church of extravagant givers if we don’t have a system in place that allows us to train, educate and nurture them.

So, how effective is our Stewardship System? Have we been slack in doing our part to fund the kingdom? To test your level of proactivity, ask yourself:

• Am I modeling extravagant giving?

• When was the last time we taught on the spiritual discipline of giving?

• Have we put forth a “tithe challenge” in the last year?

Spend some time with your Stewardship System over the next few weeks. Think through our process for explaining the importance of giving. Think about how we follow up with those who give. Write out your own financial testimony. If you give this system some true attention, you can begin to recast the sticky issue of money as the important spiritual discipline it really is.

7. The Leadership System:

How We Develop Leaders at All Levels of Our Church

As church grows, you need to develop staff, lay leaders, and high-powered volunteers. What kind of plan do we have in place to make sure we are developing people in the right way? What tools are we using? How do we determine the qualifications of a leader? Your Leadership System will help you with staff management, organizational efficiency, and personal development. To get an idea of how things are going with our Leadership System, consider:

• When was the last time I invested in developing new leaders?

• How am I helping my current leaders grow personally and spiritually?

• Am I modeling the kind of leadership I want to see from my leaders?

• Are any of my levels of leadership in need of more people?

To structure this system for health, define the expectations of every leadership position in our church. Assign requirements for each role, and make sure that you don’t let anyone blindly climb the leadership ladder. Put deadlines on service roles, so that everyone who agrees to serve in a high-level volunteer position knows that it isn’t forever.

Spend some time thinking through our leader development process. Take a hard look at who is moving up through the ranks and make sure that we have enough leaders at all levels of service. Pick up and scan a book on leadership that you might want your staff to read together. And don’t forget to make the connections between systems. The Ministry System is a direct inroad to the Leadership System. Everything works together for optimal success.

8. The Strategic System:

How We Constantly Evaluate and Improve Our Church

The Strategic System sits above the other seven systems, and serves as the evaluation tool that ties them all together. It gives us the opportunity and means to make sure that we are constantly improving, rather than living by the status quo. Without strategy, we continue to re-invent the wheel week after week, month after month and year after year. A well-thought-out strategy will help us become more faithful and fruitful in every area of our ministry. To that end, the Strategic System makes sure that we are continually evaluating and improving all of our other systems.

How healthy is our Strategic System? Ask yourself these questions:

• When was the last time I checked in with my eight church systems?

• How prepared am I for what God wants to do in and through my church?

• Do staff members know and understand our strategy?

Think of the Strategic System as our church’s annual physical. Just as with your body, if you don’t pay periodic attention to how the systems are working, disease can creep in.  The Strategic System keeps our church humming along efficiently and ensures that we are always proactively looking for ways to improve.

Pull out your calendar and block out some time for reviewing our strategic system. Meet with a strategic team and discuss ways to improve your strategy. As you sow some time and effort into your Strategic System, you will reap the reward in your other seven systems. Don’t skimp on strategy. It’s the thread that ties your church systems together.

The Relationship Factor

No matter how strong your eight systems are, they can never be fully maximized until you have the right people around you. Relationships are the tracks on which successful systems run.

The best results come from having good people working within good systems. As Deming found in Japan, good people working in bad systems just leads to a lot of frustration and misunderstanding.  Perhaps some of the people problems you’ve experienced haven’t really been people problems at all. Then again, maybe you have well-developed systems in place, but some of the wrong people working in them.

If that’s the case, you’ve probably been seeing better than average results, but can’t quite break through to the next level. Systems will never be enough on their own. The people inside have to be motivated to work together in pursuit of a common vision; in this case, the vision to give people the best possible opportunity to become fully-developing followers of Jesus.

God has shown us since the beginning of time that He is into systems. He wired the planets to operate through systematic patterns. He created the soil to produce through strategic systems of sowing and reaping. He wired you and me to function with certain cycles and beneath certain time tables. Following the trends that God has put in place is the best way to reach this world with His glory. If you look at the way He set things up, and then align yourself and your ministry accordingly, you can be assured that you are pursuing His will.

God wants to work in the church. He wants more for our church body than we can even dream. And He has given us not only examples of His systems but also systems of our own to help us accomplish all of the plans that He has for us. God is not haphazard in His execution, and neither should we be in ours. Let’s do our part to maximize these eight systems fully so that God can work through them mightily.