Systems Thinking: Personal Prayer

prayer2I’ll admit it: I struggle with prayer.  I always have.  I understand how it works, I know lots of different ways to do it, and I believe in its power.  But I have always struggled to pray well because it has always been outside of my systems thinking.  I’ve always thought about prayer as needing to be “authentic” – and by authentic we normally really mean spontaneous.  And I don’t do spontaneous.

But this week I was challenged by a prayer warrior to have “established and formal” prayer.  That sounds like a System to me!  And that I can get my mind around.  So what does a Personal Prayer System look like?  Here are some aspects I think need to be in place:

An Appointment

A Prayer System starts with having a time designated to pray.  It is important to have the time blocked out or it will get used for something else.  Just like anything else, if we don’t make time to pray, we won’t do it!

A Direction

Once you have time set aside to pray, a Prayer System needs a direction for the prayer to go in.  There are lots of ways to pray, and lots of things to pray for.  So choose one!  Choose a way (or many ways) to pray, and what you are going to pray about regularly (family, self, sins, church, the lost, etc).  Then stick to the plan flexibly – there are times you may need to shift your plan.

A Team

A Personal Prayer System starts with you praying, but it also needs people praying for you!  Find 2-4 reliable, trustworthy people and ask them to pray for you – as part of your system.  Then work them into the system by creating a scheduled sharing of praises, needs, and answers to pray.  Make sure to include those answers as encouragement to them to keep praying!

An Evaluation

Finally, a Prayer System, like all systems, needs some way to evaluate success.  Define what success looks like for you (time in prayer, answers to prayer, daily impact on life, etc).  Then create the scorecard – what you are going to track and evaluate (days I prayed, number of prayers clearly answered, number of times God clearly moved, etc).  Now evaluate, redesigning the system as necessary.

When we have a Personal Prayer System, our prayer becomes “established and formal”, and our lives, families, and ministries will be covered continuously in prayer.

How can systematic prayer transform your personal prayer life?

Advertisements

to the Center

English: A of . This church is situated in Sym...

None of these things is bad in itself.  We should belief the right things, act the right way, and have outer signs of our faith (faith without works is still dead).  But a church that is focused on the perimeter loses its focus on the center, which is Christ.

Rather than focus on the line between “us” and “them”, what would it look like if the church was focused instead of Jesus and Him Crucified?

A church focused on the Center will understand that we are all journeying toward Jesus – sinners and saints.  This journey then becomes a unifying thread between the found one and the lost one.  Both need to be moved in the same direction, just in different increments and ways.

A church focused on the Center will allow the lost to experience the community of the found, for there the lost experience Jesus.  This experience becomes a common experience between the lost and the found, a starting ground for conversation.

A church focused on the Center will view evangelism as discipleship, as it draws the lost toward Jesus and the found closer to Jesus.  They will see that discipleship begins before conversion, not just afterwards.

The Center focused church creates less distinction between the lost and the found, as it views both as travelers journeying in the same direction and moves to create commonality between the two.  When the lost and the found are together, the commonalities between them are readily apparent.

But the Center focused church will also create more distinction between the lost and the found, for the fruit of their lives will quickly display who is drawing close to Jesus and who is far from him.  When the lost and the found are together, the differences between them are readily apparent.

This is a church I want to be a part of – a church that takes seriously Jesus’ call to full discipleship of those found and those lost.

What do you think a center focused church might look like?

Segmenting Church Leadership

How should the local church be governed? I can’t provide an adequate answer to a question that we’ve been divided on for two thousand years. But I do want to point out some benefits to a local church having a segmented leadership structure. The idea is to have multiple leadership boards rather than one “megaboard” that handles everything from replacing light bulbs to spiritual discipline. The model can have two, three, or more leadership boards, but is probably most effective with three – a lead board that handles purpose and direction, a board that focuses on resources (volunteers, budgets, and facilities) and a board that focuses on care of people.

Manageable Workloads

Megaboards never get anything done because they are trying to do to much. There isn’t enough time in the day for one group to do all that needs to be done to lead a church. By segmenting leadership, each board has a manageable workload. This allows the church to move forward because the leadership can accomplish things. It also lets the board members feel like they are doing something, which leads them to be more engaged.

Better Decisions

Because of their massive workloads, megaboards tend to be inefficient. Segmenting leadership optimizes board efficiency by narrowing the focus of the agenda. Since less things are being considered, they are given full attention. This leads to better decisions, and more of them. When people are asked to make many decisions in one sitting, they tend to make poorer decisions.

Gifted Leaders

The likelihood of a person being gifted to lead in spiritual oversight, administration, and care at the same time is fairly low. But on a megaboard, you have people who are gifted in one or two areas being asked to lead in all three. When you segment leadership you allow people to serve in their area of giftedness. And when people are serving in their area of giftedness they lead better.

Multiplying Leaders

With one board, leadership is limited to a select few. This can lead to an amalgamation of power among the board and a lack of new leaders being developed (as there is no need for them). By contrast, with segmented leadership leadership development becomes necessary as more leaders are needed. And the segmented boards naturally prohibit power plays by the few. The more leaders a church has the better off it will be, and those leaders all own the purpose and strategy of the church.

I think there are many benefits to segmenting leadership, but help me out – what potential issues might crop up with this model?

4 Obsessions of an Extra/Ordinary Pastor

I love Patrick Lencioni’s writing. His case study style fits my learning style, and he says simple, yet profound things. Randy Richards, one of my professors said “You know something is true when you hear it for the first time but think you’ve known it all along.” That is what Lencioni does. You are reading a new insight, but you could swear you knew it for years. The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive is like that.

But I find that pastors often have a hard time taking business insights and translating them to their realm. So here is my “church translation” of the Four Obsessions

1. Build and Maintain a Cohesive Leadership Team

The first obsession lead pastors must have is the obsession to build and maintain a cohesive leadership team. Obviously, this refers to the staff, but even more so to the leading board of the church. The pastor must have a Board that understands the vision and mission of the church and is sold out to making it a reality. To make this happen, the lead pastor must have a large part of (if not the only part of) choosing the members of the Board. Then, he has to take the time it takes to get them to the point where they trust each other and know each other personally. This might mean that some meetings are all about building the group and leave “mission critical” issues off the agenda. I recommend Larry Osbourne’s Sticky Teams as a guide to this area of your leadership.

2. Create Organizational Clarity

The second obsession of the lead pastor must be to create clarity about the church. This means that they do need to take the time to really seek God’s face on the mission of their church. Why is your church there as opposed to another? What is your church supposed to do that another could not? And how are you going to do it – what is your strategy? If the lead pastor is unsure of the purpose and strategy of the church, everyone else will be too. And a church with no direction is going to go nowhere fast.

3. Over-Communicate Organizational Clarity

Thirdly, the lead pastor must over-communicate that clarity to the church. You have to tell the leadership, the staff, the congregation, and maybe even the community what your church is about until you are blue in the face. This means carving out time on Sunday mornings. It means using email, newsletters, thank you notes in giving statements, the church sign, the business meeting, staff meeting, board meeting, and personal conversations. As Lencioni says, when your people make jokes about how much you talk about it, you are starting to talk about it enough. Talk about it often, and in multiple media.

4. Reinforce Organizational Clarity through Human Systems

Last, the lead pastor must reinforce the purpose and strategy of the church through all of the human systems. You must choose leaders based on it. You must choose volunteers based on it. You must decide what programs to have based on it. You must “fire” volunteers when they don’t own it. You must reward people publicly who are getting it. You must create your budget around it (if you don’t think that creating a church budget is a human system, you must not have done it before). Every place that you have a system that touches leadership, staff, volunteers, donors, or congregants, you have to alter the system to support your purpose and strategy.

In sum, a pastor’s role is not just to preach and teach. It is to lead the church. Leadership requires having a direction, knowing that direction, communicating that direction, and making that direction strategically correlated to everything about the church.

I think this is hard for a pastor in our church culture because it will require him to say no to a lot of things people want him to do. What do you think? Is this doable, or will it require a paradigm shift for a lot of churches?

 

What’s in a Name? Part Three

Part Three of a Three Part Series

Since many churches are changing their names or considering doing so, it is worth looking at why they do so and whether it is necessary or biblical.  Two assumptions lie behind most church re-branding: the idea that denominational affiliation is a detriment to evangelism and the idea that church attendance is somehow equivalent to evangelism.

In Part One and Part Two I set aside two of the main assumptions that lead churches to rebrand themselves.  In fact, denominational affiliation does not have a negative impact on the perception of the church by non believers, and getting people into the doors of the church is not evangelism.  If these assumptions are false, then is there a reason to rebrand a church?  Is it potentially necessary?  Is it biblical?

Brand or Mission?2010-06-churches-no-denominations-big

The name of your church is not important.  Period.  Call it whatever you want.  The mission and culture of your church is what is going to move it forward.  Even the most “authentic”, relevant, non-denominational church name is going to flop if the church isn’t about furthering the Kingdom of God.  And even the stodgiest 19th century church name is going to rock a community if the church is loving, caring and missionally oriented.

So even though I spent several blog posts musing on them, spend less time on thinking of a name for your church and more time loving justice, showing mercy, and walking humbly with God.  However, in the midst of the mission, you have to call yourselves something.  And that something is going to represent your mission and culture.  So spend enough time when you launch on your church’s name, just not too much.

Reasons to Re-brand

Is there a time when a church can or should re-brand itself?  There is, but not often.  Is it biblical to re-brand our church?  It is.  In fact, re-branding happens in the Scriptures.  Abram becomes Abraham.  Sarai becomes Sarah.  Simon becomes Peter.  And in Genesis 35, God takes Jacob and re-brands him as Israel, “one who struggles with God,” and he becomes the namesake of God’s people.  Looking at these examples, here are some reasons it may be beneficial or even necessary to change your church’s name.

A New Land:  Abraham was given a new name as he moved with God into a new land.  Your church may need a new name if it moves into a new location.  If you are First Church of Dallas, but your new location is in Fort Worth, it is probably time to re-brand.

A New Stage of Life:  Sarah was given a new name as she moved from the married class to the married with children class.  Her new life stage was an impetus for a new moniker.  Is your church moving into a new stage of life?  The transition as a long time lead pastor steps away.  A shift from being a church plant to a settled church.  A church split.  If you have a life-stage change, re-branding may be beneficial.

A New Mission:  Simon takes on a new mission and becomes Peter.  In the same way, if your church is changing its mission, it may fit to have a new name, especially if the new mission will have you encountering a new people group.  Your name represents your mission, so a major change in one may need to affect the other.

A New Multiplication:  As the promise to Abraham began to multiply through Jacob, the people of God took on the brand of Israel.  As a church multiplies itself, becoming a church planting church or moving to a multi-site model, it may be time to re-brand.  These multiplying ministries move the church into more locations, into influence with more people, and reach more cultures.  This may be the time to re-brand with a more universal name – from First Church of This Suburb to First Church of The Suburbs, or First Church.

Re-branding is biblical, and it can be necessary (moving the building to a new city).  But it should always be driven by mission and culture.  What are some other reasons a church may want or need to re-brand?

Why Your Church Needs a Constitution

As we move into a new generation of churches, I hear more and more church planters and lay leaders questioning the idea of a church constitution.  Whatever their reasonings (a constitution is  old-fashioned, restrictive, or they just had a bad experience with one), they are wrong.  Every church needs a constitution, and here’s why:

It Cements Your Tax Status

In order to be tax-exempt and receive tax-deductible contributions, an organization must apply for and be recognized as a 501(c)3 organization.  Churches, however, are automatically considered tax exempt and are not required to apply for and obtain recognition of tax-exempt status from the IRS if they meet the 501(c)3 requirements.  Among these requirements is:

  • The organization must be organized and operated exclusively for religious, educational, scientific, or other charitable purposes.

Your church’s constitution is its organizing document.  It shows the IRS what purposes you are organized for.  The other requirements have to do with how your church acts, but for this first requirement, you need a constitution.  Without a constitution, there is no proof that your church meets the requirements of a tax-exempt organization.

It Guides Future Ministry

How do you choose what direction to take the church?  How do you know what opportunities to move forward on and which need to be left well enough alone?  Your church’s constitution is its guiding document.  Taking the time to draft a constitution makes your choices in the future easier, since you have already laid down guidelines for what things your church does and does not do.

It Settles Disputes

When (not if) disputes occur in your church, a well drafted constitution will often help solve things.  It will already have spelled out how the church is run (no more arguments about who makes what decisions), what the church’s statement of faith is (no more questions about what we believe on what), what the church’s values are (no more wondering how we do things), and what the church’s mission is (no more arguments on what we should be doing).  A good constitution will no get rid of all your problems, but it will put an end to many potential issues, allowing everyone to focus their arguments on other things.

I’m convinced that constitutions still have value to the church.  How have you seen them have value or get in the way in your church?

Starting Out

Hello-1782

Welcome to ORG Church.

ORG Church is my canvas to put out my thoughts on Church Organization, including musings on Church Constitutions, Volunteer Management, Ministry Alignment, and Church Leadership.  I have a passion to equip the Church and hope that putting my ideas out there will further the Kingdom of God in small and big ways.  In addition, I will often review resources that I think will further the Kingdom.

Please:

Check back. There will be new content 2-3 times a week.

Speak up. This is a discussion, not an essay.

Spread the word. If ORG Church is helpful, let others know!

– In Christ,

Matt McClelland