Managing Ministry Areas in large churches

A recent move forward in our church building programme forced us to backtrack for a moment (ironically) and ask the question:

How should we consult nearly 700 people on the church data base and an additional 100 or so regular attendees about what they think of the existing buildings?

The complexity became obvious very quickly:

30 or so ministries are split into teams around four main Sunday services and a couple of dozen midweek activities using any one of over 30 rooms. Some groups support main activities and some deliver main content. We have (it turns out) a tea towel rota, which I suppose is obvious (it can’t be fairies or angels) and a grass cutting rota, as well as rotas for preaching, music, food, hosting, and on and on …

This sprawling mass of people loosely formed around ad hoc lists of dates, times and telephone numbers didn’t help us shape an effective consultation, so first we had to design a simple structure to contain the information. To be more accurate, we added design to what was already practically happening, grouping ministries under appropriate headings. The diagram below is my simple solution – 6 ministry areas based on FOCUS.

This sort of thinking is not only useful for large churches I’m sure – many small organisations and churches need to manage complexity – and I’d be interested to know how others manage ministry areas … something for future research.


Parables of Leadership: Late Bob

Bob was a leader. He had strong values which had been developed over a few years of leadership. He shared his views about many subjects often and easily with people around him  (reflecting his values of openness and authenticity) but he  mostly shared his views about other members of the organisation (a high value on honest confrontation) and how they always resisted change and so would never grow personally or corporately (optimism wasn’t a key value for Bob).

Bob was in a team and Bob was always late. He never arrived on time for anything the team organised, and sometimes he didn’t arrive at all.

The team wanted to share Bob’s values but they also wanted him to appreciate theirs. They valued courtesy, restraint, consideration and kindness. But especially they valued their own time, and respecting other through promptness was one of their key values.

Bob’s carelessness over respecting their values made them sometimes wonder about Bob’s ….

No Action – No Change

I was recently discussing with a friend the tendency in organisations to TALK about ISSUES rather than ACT to solve PROBLEMS.

Teams tie themselves in knots wrestling with high level issues (which can never be fully resolved) and either no longer see local problems or won’t act on smaller problems in the fear of contradicting some higher level values. In either case, they have forgotten how to act to act quickly to solve presenting problems.

This friend had spent much of his working life in the military and told me about the OODA Loop, also known as the Boyd Diagram after Colonel John Boyd, a fighter pilot and military strategist. Boyd deconstructed the process of combat and realised that if he could cycle and recycle through four  activities quicker than the enemy he would win the fight.

The activities are:

  • Observe
  • Orientate
  • Decide
  • Act.

The essence is ACTION: nothing changes until the action is executed. Until then either nothing changes or the enemy strikes first.

My experience of most organisations is that they are more comfortable in Observe and Orientate and have a reticence Decide and Act to solve the problems waiting to be done.Here’s the OODA Loop:

The Boyd Diagram

12 Churches – 5 Points to Making Sunday Special

I recently had the opportunity to visit a wide range of different churches for their Sunday morning services. 12 of them. From Anglo Catholic to Brethren to New Wine to New Frontiers. The project (it became a project after about four churches) started with a simple invitation from two friends to visit the churches they lead. We enjoyed this variety so we went for a third church, and then a fourth, and then it became a project.

By the fourth church we had a routine, which was: agree a church, go to the church, go to the closest cafe to the church after the service, and discuss what we had just experienced. I made notes, but was after the sixth visit that I started to tabulate our observations. The more we saw and thought, the more we started to find it difficult to record the complexity of a ‘simple act of worship’ on a Sunday morning.

For example, we noticed how often it was difficult to find a parking space, or the front door, or a welcome. It became clear quite quickly that a morning service was not necessarily more liberated or creative where there was no written liturgy. In fact, almost all the churches not using a formal liturgy had a similar ‘deep structure’, that is, a similar pattern of music (same songs, same style) and speech.

Sometimes we were deeply uncomfortable, and although these times were few it was disturbing none the less to find ourselves ‘out of sorts’ with some churches. Other times we just felt as though we were there to ‘have church done to us’ by leaders who wanted us to be just … different people. The exercise required endless curiosity; without that it would have been a lesson in sameness.

Tabulating the different aspects of our experiences eventually became unwieldy, so to finish ‘The Project’ I wrote an Executive Summary with two basic rules:

  1. it had to fit on one side of A4 paper
  2. it had to result in Action Points; it must not be simply observational.

The result was a simple list of five of the most important points selected from many. Each point has one introductory sentence; one thought to expand it, and one action point dealing with each area.

The five points covered these areas, and expanded in five short blogs to follow:

  1. Values
  2. Creativity
  3. Accessibility
  4. Complexity
  5. Preaching

Growing the church in new housing estates

As part of a current project to shape the church in a new housing estate I was reflecting on the tasks facing the person who starts up the work in a new housing area. This is the ‘simple’ job description I came up with:

  1. Welcome and orientation of new residents in the area and networking across churches and community groups (pastoral)
  2. Lead/plan a coherent church response to changes in the area, working with parishes and deaneries (apostolic)
  3. Explain (and model) the distinctly Christian perspective on community – with stakeholders, with developers, with local authorities and local community leaders (teaching)
  4. Identify needs/promote action in the area, especially in the poorest and weakest parts of the local area (prophetic)
  5. Fan the flame of faith and mission inside and outside church (evangelistic)

Underpinning all these activities are the essential skills of administration and leadership, without which the work will lack coherence at best and descend into chaos at worst, with an associated waste of resources that most churches can’t afford.

And it’s worth noticing that this combination of roles are nothing new: it’s a job description that every priest in the Church of England (and any other denomination) should be able to fulfil.

Emerging Communities Group

The Emerging Communities Group has come out of my work to build community and support mission in Battersea and Nine Elms, the largest redevelopment site in London. With over 30,000 new residents and 25,000 new workers moving to the area in less than ten years, how can these new communities flourish? And what about existing inner city communities, and churches? We’re looking for members, sponsors and collaborators … (zoomable version here …)\r\n\r\nEMERGIN COMMUNITIES

Starting the church

I’ve heard debates about when the Church began.\r\n\r\nWas it when Jesus breathed on the disciples in a room in Jerusalem and said receive the Holy Spirit?\r\n\r\nOr was it on the day of Pentecost, when Jesus breathed on the disciples in a room in Jerusalem in a more dramatic way and 3,000 people became followers?\r\n\r\nI’ve never heard anyone say that Peter’s first pronouncement to his fellow disciples was the start of the church, but in some ways it had all the hallmarks of a functioning church.\r\n\r\nPeter’s first recorded discourse concerns the appointment of a new member of the ‘senior leadership team’, the Apostles. He stands and recounts the disappointment of Judas, framing it in scriptural terms, and drawing the conclusion that led to Matthias being appointed as the 12th Apostle.\r\n\r\nOne observation we can make is that by this time, between Jesus leaving and the Spirit coming, there was a strong sense of Assignment and Designation.\r\n\r\nPeter says that Judas had an ‘Assigned place’ in the ministry of Jesus, and his replacement has to be someone ‘Designated…as a witness to the resurrection’.\r\n\r\nThe Administration of the Designated calling of individuals to an Assignment to serve the community…\r\n\r\n… sounds like a church to me.