How to Develop Your Church, Ministry, or Organizational Model

Many leaders today are working hard to identify and create a church, ministry, or organizational model that will produce meaningful impact. Bookshelves are loaded with the latest strategies, ideas, and moles for building a thriving church or business. Books like Simple Church by Thom Rainer, 7 Practices of Effective Ministry by Andy Stanley, Reggie Joiner, and Lane Janes, and Missional Renaissance by Reggie McNeal are great tools for helping you think about your model.

Every model on the planet is unique, and each model has its strengths, as well as its weaknesses. So how do you create a model that’s right for you? Do you simply replicate the model that’s most in step with your values and organizational culture? While there’s nothing wrong with studying the models of other churches and organizations (which I encourage you to do), ultimately your model needs to address three key components: Mission, Methods, and Measurements (as illustrated below):

Mission – The development of a model must begin with the organization’s mission. Failure to do so results in the tail wagging the dog. The mission is the organizational trump card to all strategies, ideas, and opportunities. Without mission, the core of organizational identity does not exist.  What is your mission (why do you exist)?

Methods – Once the mission is clear, appropriate methods should be developed that will drive progress toward the mission. When methods are adopted that do not align themselves with the mission, organizational drift occurs. The tendency of many churches and organizations is to create methods (programs, strategies, etc.) without considering the mission. It tends to happen most in two scenarios. First, when an organization views itself as invincible (because of current and former success) and therefore engages in the mindless pursuit of “more.” Or, second, when the organization has stopped growing, and out of a sense of panic, irrationally pursues “the next big thing.” This “organizational attention deficit disorder” embraces opportunity without any sort of filter. However, great leaders understand that methods detached from mission are nothing more than black holes for time, money, and resources. What are your methods and do they fulfill your mission?

Measurements – This is the real test–the one that gets overlooked too often. You must ask, “How do we measure the effectiveness of our methods to fulfill our mission?” This is not easy. In church world we tend to measure the ABCs (Attendance, Buildings, and Cash). While it’s okay to measure these, they reveal very little about your effectiveness in fulfilling your mission–unless your mission is to attract large crowds, build lots of buildings, and make a bunch of money. Our mission is more about life-change, which is not as easy to measure. And just because people are showing up does not mean they are growing. Willowcreek is making some progress in this area through their “Reveal” research (www.willowcreek.com) and Reggie McNeal’s book, Missional Renaissance provides some good insight on developing a new scorecard for the church. The key is to determine what to measure and how to measure it (which will likely look different for each church and organization) and then turn your measurements into specific questions. The questions you ask reveal what’s most important to you, and, ultimately, what you’re measuring. What are you measuring? Are there gaps in your measurements? What questions have you developed that are tied to your measurements?

Mission, methods, and measurements are essential to identifying and developing a ministry or organizational model. Once that model becomes clear, work carefully to find a creative yet simple way to communicate it.