Every local church should be making a difference – a notable impact – on and in their local communities. One of my favorite questions to ask people about their church is this:
If your local church literally went away tomorrow, would your community notice the impact?
To answer that question requires a gut-check and sincere honesty. A lot of us would say “well, our membership would notice and a few other local churches would notice.” The question is really “would the unchurched/formerly churched world even care or notice if your local body stopped existing?” No matter how you answer that question, there are things your church could be doing to become more effective and intentional about meeting needs in the local community. Change, though, can be difficult. A strong commitment by leadership coupled by an set of actionable steps are required to get people out of the pew and into service in your community. It requires – and will foster – growth. I think there are four “C’s” for this kind of healthy growth.
In identifying these four C’s, I’ve tried to help break down the component level issues so we can dialogue about the why? and the how? of impacting our communities.
Change – not simply modification – is often hard and usually requires the art of subtraction before applying the addition of new ministries or initiatives. Sometimes we have the best intentions with less-than-the-best results. Someone has a passion and some charisma so we give them a new ministry area. That’s great, but how are you evaluating the effectiveness of the myriad of groups, ministries and events that aren’t really resourced or promoted as part of the vision of the church? As leaders, we must apply the art of strategic subtraction by whittling down the ministries that are good, but don’t fit within the focused vision of the church. By freeing up leaders, resources and time, it’s easier to make changes that provide more impact and add to the mission of the church. What ministries, groups or events does your church need to rethink, reorganize or remove?
Cost – can be associated with budgeting for people, time and resources. If you’re not budgeting for all three, your true costs can add up very quickly. As important as hard costs, opportunity costs can also be very significant. Free, in particular, can turn out to be anything but free. For example, if you’re going to offer your facilities as free meeting spaces for civic, municipal or business events, your costs for cleaning, heating/cooling, projection/lights, audio technicians, etc. can all be expected. Those costs are very real, even though the venue might be “free”.
I know of a church that provides the manpower for an annual city festival for free. Their members simply sign up to work booths, concessions, cleaning or whatever it takes as a way to show their commitment to their city. The church does provide a simple T-shirt for their workers that includes the festival name and logo (notice nothing about the church is on the T-shirt!). This is a cost that the church pays for so as to look professional and help the event be more successful. What new initiative(s) is your church considering that has all of the costs mapped out?
Control – it’s hard to manage more than we’re used to managing. Most churches stay small because we can manage (control) a smaller size. In his book “Ladder Shifts”, Dr. Sam Chand tells us that may leaders limit their growth when they make the choice to stay in control of what they can touch and oversee. I won’t go into a full leadership discourse here as there are many far more qualified than myself to speak about this issue, but I will point out that when we have to have full control, we’re limited ourselves and the vision God has birthed into leaders. I believe we miss this point when we think that we’re the provider for all that needs to happen. Both on a personal and corporate (team) level, we must realize we’re only responsible for the stewardship of all that God provides (Jehovah-jireh – God-provider). In what areas are you holding on tightly to control and limiting your – and your church’s – healthy growth and community impact?
Commitment – to constant evaluation. Because it’s hard to manage that which we don’t understand well, many leaders will fail to evaluate the effectiveness of a “good thing” and stick with the programs and processes that have become comfortable. Leaders are often visionaries with the capacity to imagine the future and usher people into new processes, programs and paradigms (a little alliteration there for my pastor friends). Casting a vision from God is usually fairly straightforward; having the commitment to both see a vision come to fruition and honestly evaluate it (and re-evaluate it, again and again) requires more than charisma and good communication skills.
Using metrics (defining the parameters, agreeing on the benchmarks and analyzing the data) is an important part of being committed to constant evaluation. We have a tendency to shy away from things we have a hard time measuring or, for whatever reason, are held too closely to be honestly evaluated. What ministries, events, processes and metrics is your church using to make the necessary changes to accomplish the vision from the Lord? These are honest, somewhat in-your-face questions that may be hard to hear. My hope is that you’ll be honest and dialogue with us (comment below) about how you’re viewing the four C’s of growth.