3 Ways to Reduce Complexity at Your Church

We know that leading a church is complicated. But why? Shouldn’t it be easier?

I’ve been thinking about that, and it occurred to me that writing down why it’s so complex could provide insights that help us lead better.

Most churches are a combination of elder governed, staff led, and volunteer driven. That alone makes the complexity pretty obvious.

Who’s driving?

Your church probably has some type of governing board. They have leadership and decision-making authority. Then you have staff. Something between 1 and 200 or more on your team. Theyalso have leadership and decision-making authority. And the real goal is for those two groups to work together in such tightly aligned harmony that you empower dozens to hundreds to thousands (depending on the size of your church) of volunteers to serve and also lead.

What could go wrong with that?! 

Now we add to the mix a spiritual realm in which we find our real power (God) and a real enemy who would like to shut your church down. (Satan)

If that isn’t enough, our bottom line measurement is subjective rather than a purely numbers oriented goal. Yes, we count several things from attendance to offerings (and we should), but the real focus is spiritual transformation resulting in life change. That means you could draw a big crowd, but it’s nothing more than a crowd if lives are not being transformed.

Ok, that’s a clear and concise description of what we do is so complex.

So what can we do about it?

1) Keep it clean and simple.

Clutter, distraction and busyness are enemies of the local church. As church leaders, it’s very easy to get pulled in so many directions that it’s difficult to actually move forward. It’s a deceptive reality because all that we do is good, but that doesn’t mean we should be doing it.

What are the irreducible minimums of your church ministry? The point here is not about not  working less, it’s about being more productive. Nothing is more frustrating than to work hard, and yet accomplish little results. Focus is essential.

  • Is your mission crystal clear among the leaders?
  • Is your congregation clear on the purpose of your church?
  • What is in print that doesn’t need to be in print?

Current culture inundates us with “stuff”. Don’t add to the “noise” in your church, but communicate what is important. Is your list of ministries lean and effective?

What can you stop doing?

2) Strive for unity and purity among your leaders.

Focus and clarity are not possible unless the leaders are aligned. The board and staff must be of one mind and heart or leading your church becomes unnecessarily complex and difficult. If there is unresolved conflict on the board or among the staff your church may get stuck as a result.

I’m not remotely suggesting leaders must be perfect, but God does call us to holiness. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written:

“Be holy, because I am holy.”

I Peter 1:15-16

When our hearts and motives are pure, and we seek to serve for the benefit of God’s Kingdom, He is free to grant the power we need to see real life change in people’s lives. You are gifted and talented, and no doubt work hard, but that’s not enough. We all need God’s favor and power, or church is not only complex, it just doesn’t work.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12

May God grant the favor and power you need!

3) Practice MVS (Mutual Voluntary Submission).

You can make progress in the never ending challenge to keep things simple, clear and focused. You can also live with purity of heart and mind, but if you and your church are anything like me and my experience, humanity is pretty much a 24/7 thing to wrestle down.

Yup, we’re human. We have fears, insecurities and egos to contend with. It is necessary to practice Mutual Voluntary Submission (MVS) in order to see this beautiful thing called church actually work.

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Dan Reiland

Dan Reiland

Dr. Dan Reiland serves as Executive Pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as Executive Pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as Vice President of Leadership and Church Development at INJOY. He and Dr. Maxwell still enjoy partnering on a number of church related projects together. Dan is best known as a leader with a pastor's heart, but is often described as one of the nations most innovative church thinkers. His passion is developing leaders for the local church so that the Great Commission is advanced.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
— Glenna Hendricks
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
— winston
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
— Russ Wright

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