Where do you go from here? It’s been a rough couple of years for everyone, and that’s certainly also true of the church. You have been thinking for some time about the new normal—about moving forward on mission to share the love of Christ with a weary world. But where to start? What needs to be dropped? What essentials are needed moving forward? How might they need to be tweaked in order to not just survive but to thrive in the coming years?
Moving forward, you will need these 8 Essential Systems
These 8 systems are essential to a thriving ministry. You likely already have them in place. However, the methodology with which they are implemented may need some rethinking in order to thrive in the post pandemic world. As you read through, think about how the system is related to moving your mission forward, how it is currently organized in your ministry, and how effective it is in its current state.
1. How you empower leadership
You need a leadership structure that empowers others. If there was any doubt that a top-down leadership structure where the professionals do the work of the ministry wasn’t a good idea, that ministry approach has now been thoroughly debunked. When the congregation is separated from the lead pastor, we now see and experience the absolute importance of lay leaders. One pastor cannot effectively shepherd 300 people. The ratio needs to be about 1:10. Even Jesus only did 1:12.
A highly relational, high touch, high contact kind of leadership really helps people grow in their faith in personal, meaningful ways. Find ways to make your leadership structure as flat and as grassroots as possible if you want to be ready to reach the world as it emerges from Covid. Moving forward, consider how you can empower others through:
- Mobilizing and equipping
2. How you help people develop their spiritual gifts and empower their use
You need relentless focus on developing and ministering out of spiritual gifts. Everybody needs to be doing the ministry, not just the paid staff. Fortunately, this is how the Holy Spirit set things up in the first place at Pentecost: by giving spiritual gifts to every man, woman, and child with faith in Jesus. I have written quite extensively on my blog recently about developing spiritual gifts in people. It’s more essential than ever in today’s world.
Consider: if the main ministry of the church is producing an online service for viewing, who is reached? Possibly someone new may tune in and watch it, which is wonderful. But what about if every single person in that congregation made use of their spiritual gifts every week in some small way. Who might be reached then? You see the difference, and it’s stark. Imagine your church’s impact if you provided a way for everyone to:
- Understand spiritual gifts
- Discover their own spiritual gifts
- Confirm their giftedness through practice
- Become a part of a ministry-wise gifts mobilization system
3. How you help people experience God everyday
You need to consider the practice and presence of a passionate spirituality in daily lives of each person in your congregation. Connection with God can certainly come from watching or participating in a worship service, but it needs to go beyond simple church attendance.
How can we help people experience God as part of their everyday lives? Most people have no church-based activity 5 to 6 days out of the week. What about those days? How can they experience the presence of God? That’s especially important in times of social isolation, fear, and hopelessness… which is where many of us have found ourselves lately. We each one of us need ways to anchor ourselves in Christ, ways that work for us uniquely. That means:
- Finding ways to love God with your whole, heart, mind, soul and strength
- Developing a personal passion for God through a variety of spiritual disciplines or practices
- Worshipping God alongside others in sometimes creative ways
- Embracing the mission God is calling us toward, both individually and corporately
4. How you help people do what God has called them do to
You would do well to revisit and re-examine the actual structures built into our congregations. Consider… during covid, which structures collapsed? Which structures did you need to rely on even more? Which needed to be revamped completely? This area of basic structures in the church is one we need to reexamine periodically anyway, but at the same time one we are most likely to forget about.
Structures matter. Ineffective structures that no longer accomplish their intended purpose can actually serve to prevent and restrict ministry. They become blockages. Structures are the ‘hows.’ How do you determine vision for the new year? Or how do you safeguard church finances? What is your decision-making process? How do you handle conflicts? Make a list of the often-unspoken systems in your church, and then evaluate them in the following ways. Does this structure:
- Support the church’s values, vision and mission?
- Accomplish the intended results?
- Promote ministry more than hindering it?
- Have a positive effect on the people and the culture of the church?
- Make use of a wide variety of people’s giftedness?
- Contribute to reproducibility?
5. How you worship God together
You need to rethink corporate worship. That is the area we have most visibly needed to change during the pandemic, and it’s worth considering what worked well and what didn’t. Obviously, many services went online. Varying attempts, with varying success, were made to make the online experience interactive.
Moving forward, as we can in many cases meet in person again, what new practices would be helpful to take with us? What other pre-pandemic practices can we re-embrace? Areas to especially consider are participation and interactivity, music and singing, and communion. We can also consider worship as part of our weekday lives, and worship in smaller group settings. The era of experimentation is upon us. Everything we evaluate and try can be measured against the following categories:
- alive to the presence of God
- cultural appropriateness
- worship modeled by leaders
- a clear theme and response goal
- effective transitions and flow
- maximum participation
- meaningfulness to both regular attendees and newcomers
6. How you meet everyone’s needs
You really do need holistic small groups. Small groups have become more important than ever before. In many times of difficulty and persecution, the church has found refuge in small groups of people meeting together. We do not actually need a full corporate worship service to be the church; everything we need is found in a small group of people. God has provided spiritual gifts to be used, a means of corporate prayer, community support and encouragement, and a forum for reading and discussing the scriptures.
Consider what happened when the pandemic began: those who were already part of a small group often found themselves drawn closer to that group of people for support, being a part of text threads, sharing and praying together virtually, connected to some kind of support system bigger than themselves or just their own household. Those who were not a part of a small group may have watched church services online, or they may not have. And often no one noticed they had left the church until after in-person services began again. It’s time for a full reexamination of the essential role small groups of people play in the life of faith and worship. Moving forward, be sure to consider the following elements:
- integrating small groups into the rest of the church
- implementing a functional small group ministry
- training and coaching leaders
- starting and multiplying groups
- including children and youth
7. How you connect with the community
You need to engage with your wider community in fresh ways. If the church is only focused inward, it has lost its mission and even its reason for being. If we are not helping the world, reaching the world, and serving the world, why are we here? For decades I have been preaching that we as believers need to come outside the walls of the church and meet people on their own turf, where they are comfortable, out in the world of work, home, and recreation. This is the public sphere, the great marketplace and town square of our times. Today, if we reach out at all, we have no choice but to do it in the public sphere.
The whole concept of “inviting people to church” has fallen by the wayside in the last couple of years. The ways the church has been decentralized during the pandemic are many… and that reality presents opportunities. Look for those opportunities. How can we serve? What needs can we meet? Not only spiritual, but emotional emotional, and physical as well? How can we communicate the gospel relationally? Who needs to experience God’s love? How can the church facilitate that experience? It’s time to find new ways to reach out… ways that:
- communicate the gospel in a culturally relevant manner
- serve to meet real needs of the community
- empower others in the congregation to reach out
- assimilate newcomers into the life of the church
- establishing new Christians in loving obedience
8. How you connect to each other
You need healthy relational connection. How connected are we relationally as a congregation? Pre-pandemic we would often track attendance at events, socials, worship services, or small groups as a means of tracking relational connection. But how accurate is that as a measurement? How else might we assess true relational connection? To what degree do people feel part of the community, noticed, cared for, and reached out to by others? What was your system like for keeping track of your people during the pandemic? How would you know if someone was struggling? Did you rely on self-reporting? Or did others who were connected relationally take notice first?
How well the church fosters healthy relational connection is a telling litmus test for the health of the church. The love we have for one another is to function as a practical demonstration of the love God has for us. Moving forward, the relational connection at your church must address these elements:
- Close relationships rooted in honesty
- People who are a part of each other’s daily lives
- An intentional spurring on of one another toward love and good deeds
- A cultivation of authentic Christian community
- The development of health interpersonal relationships
- Reflecting God’s love to the surrounding world
Spend some time this week thinking through each of these areas as they relate to your congregation. What is currently working well? Which areas are not functioning well? What have you learned from the pandemic about this area? Moving forward, what do you want to see change? How might you take the first steps in doing that?
The Leadership Difference– If you are running up against barriers that aren’t specifically theological but are more about how to lead people and get along with them as you work together, this is the book for you.
Leadership Skills Guides- Develop your people into leaders by meeting them where they are at and helping them take the next appropriate step. This download covers 37 skills across 6 topics and includes a leader guide and a participant guide and is meant to be worked through in a nonlinear fashion.
Leadership Multiplication Pathway- This series is a power system to identify your purpose, focus your ministry, become an effective leader, and multiply your mission. This is great to walk through with a coach!