The Complex Work of the Simple Church

During a recent podcast conversation with Doug Paul, one of the Pastors at East End Fellowship in Richmond, VA, the idea of keeping programming simplified came up. In thisMy Ministry Breakthrough episode, Doug talks about the strategy of developing and discipling people at his church. One stark realization came up: strategy takes more than three words on your website.
Every week I meet another church or pastor for whom their idea of simplicity, often inspired by the book Simple Church, resulted in simply organizing their website menus around three keywords. “Simple Church” ministry demands more than picking three words to put on your marketing pieces. True simplicity requires a conviction in a calling, courage to assess, confidence in a team and competency to lead forward. In most cases, the mountain of simplicity feels too steep to climb, so we turn around.
Here is why: it is a simple thing to maintain complexity, but it is a complex thing to maintain simplicity.
You really have to do nothing to keep a complex ministry calendar and confusing process of assimilation and growth. But to really become simple, you have some complex work that must be done. Hard conversations with people who love Jesus must be had. Stringent assessments of what effectiveness in disciple-making really looks like must be completed. Challenging seasons of sunsetting ministries that were once vital to the life of your church must be navigated.
For many of us, it is easier to fight the fires of week-to-week ministry and hope that those three strategic words we crafted will eventually work their magic. As a result, you keep doing what you’ve always done and then expect different results.
Here are 23 things you are probably still doing even though you read Simple Church:
  1. Still doing too much yourself without developing anyone else
  2. Still missing a clear path for spiritual development that is easy enough to draw on a napkin
  3. Still running on the assimilation class hamster wheel never really getting anywhere
  4. Still propping the back door open and wondering why unconnected people are walking out
  5. Still elevating participation above transformation because you’re just counting heads
  6. Still sustaining ministries that no longer contribute to your mission
  7. Still tiptoeing around sensitive leaders who confuse passion for purpose
  8. Still running events out of nostalgia, not conviction
  9. Still pleading for volunteers instead of developing leaders
  10. Still closing classrooms and blaming youth sports
  11. Still circling the wagons of theology instead of living the gospel in your neighborhood
  12. Still thinking that lots of activity must mean you’re doing a good job
  13. Still asking for more money to do the same things and get the same results
  14. Still building ministry calendars as if there are families out there just hoping for more to do
  15. Still programming as if the church were the center of life and community
  16. Still consuming members’ schedules with on-campus activity instead of giving them time to know their neighbors
  17. Still chasing past programming success instead of charting future gospel influence
  18. Still starting new, exciting initiatives without stopping existing, obligatory activity
  19. Still putting words on a wall one day and thinking that people know or care what they mean the next
  20. Still approaching discipleship in terms of products, instead of process
  21. Still trying to get somewhere with your mission without giving anyone a map of where they’re going
  22. Still running ministry that feels random instead of growing people in rhythm
  23. Still announcing every possibility of church connection instead of one next step into community
Developing a clear, and simple, ministry strategy may be vital, but strategy represents only 20% of vision clarity. If you have not also developed a shared understanding of the marks of a disciple in your context, the next steps will never be enough.
Find out more about what a fully-formed framework of real church growth looks like through Auxano’s Vision Framing process.
> Read more from Bryan here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bryan Rose

Bryan Rose

As Lead Navigator for Auxano, Bryan Rose has a strong bias toward merging strategy and creativity within the vision of the local church and has had a diversity of experience in just about every ministry discipline over the last 12 years. With his experience as a multi-site strategist and campus pastor at a 3500 member multi-campus church in the Houston Metro area, Bryan has a passion to see “launch clarity” define the unique Great Commission call of developing church plants and campus, while at the same time serving established churches as they seek to clarify their individual ministry calling. Bryan has demonstrated achievement as a strategic thinker with a unique ability to infuse creativity into the visioning process while bringing a group of people to a deep sense of personal ownership and passion.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Burying a Program

Since writing Simple Church with my boss Thom Rainer, a common question has been, “How can we eliminate a program or an event?” Those who ask the question often know that a program on their church calendar accomplishes very little for the Kingdom and is not aligned to the mission of their church. But they wrestle with the impact that canceling a program or event will have on the people they serve.

The reality is that canceling a program or event is very difficult, often painful. Several years ago when Google began to skyrocket and Yahoo plummeted, people wondered why Yahoo did not merely simplify their homepage. Why did they not learn from the simplicity of Google and streamline? A Google executive responded that it would be impossible for Yahoo to do so because behind every link was a “shareholder or a stakeholder.” Someone paid for those links or some team invested years in the ideas represented by each link. The same is true in a church program. Behind every program is a shareholder or stakeholder – someone who invested and people who love the program or event.

While burying a program is difficult, it is often necessary. Without a proper burial, the church will continue to rob energy, resources, and attention from more important programs to merely keep the unnecessary ones afloat. German philosopher, Goethe, wisely stated, “Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.”

The apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:15-16a, “Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk–not as unwise people but as wise–making the most of the time.” Paul could have used the word “chronos” for time – the word we get “chronological” from, a word that speaks of time in general terms. But Paul used the word “kairos” which speaks of time in terms of the short amount of predetermined time that we have to steward while living. In other words, you only have so much time – so live wisely. Don’t waste time and resources funding, promoting, pushing, or resourcing something that steals energy from the best.

As you move toward burying a program, here are three lessons I have learned from both observation and experience.

1. AFFIRM SHARED VALUES.

Before you cancel a program, do some digging on the original intent and motivation of the program. What need was being addressed? What was the heart of the leadership? Find the values that initiated the program and affirm the ones that are important to your church. Show how the new future without the program will be a continued expression of those values. Show how the original redeemable motivation behind the program is going to be realized in a new way.

2. GRAB THE ENERGY OF THE LEADERS FOR THE NEW.

If you cancel an event or program without attempting to grab the energy of the current leaders, realize that their energy will go somewhere. Instead of merely dismissing their investment, invite them to be a part of the future. For example, if you eliminate a specific program because you feel it steals energy from your ongoing group strategy, invite the leaders to be leaders in your groups. Pursue them for the new direction.

3. BE VISIBLE.

Change is hard, not only on the people but on the ones instigating the change. After all, the conversations in the hallways aren’t always pleasant. The tension is something we often like to avoid. It is easy to hide in your office during a change initiative.

But be visible. Love people through the change. The conversation in the hallway may end up being redemptive. Ultimately you are making the change for the good of the people you serve, so don’t forget about them in the middle of the process.

Make the most of the limited time you have. Do what is most essential for the Kingdom.

 Read more from Eric here.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eric Geiger

Eric Geiger

Eric Geiger is the Senior Pastor of Mariners Church in Irvine, California. Before moving to Southern California, Eric served as senior vice-president for LifeWay Christian. Eric received his doctorate in leadership and church ministry from Southern Seminary. Eric has authored or co-authored several books including the best selling church leadership book, Simple Church. Eric is married to Kaye, and they have two daughters: Eden and Evie. During his free time, Eric enjoys dating his wife, taking his daughters to the beach, and playing basketball.

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Tweets from The Nines | Growing Kids Ministry — 10/26/12 11:22 am

[...] Behind every program is a stakeholder–so how to simplify programming? @RealEricGeiger http://visionroom.com/burying-a-program/ …#nines2012 [...]

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

4 Foundations to a Simple Discipleship Strategy

As a football season is about to begin, imagine a head coach stands in front of the team he leads and, with great passion, declares, “Here is our strategy. We are going to win! We are about winning! Let’s go win!”

The team breaks from the huddle with no idea how they will win. Practice each day is a bunch of running around, hitting each other, and executing some basic drills. But as the first game approaches, the team has no clue what the game plan is. The team knows they are “in it to win it,” but lacks any direction on how they are to play as a team, what plays will be called, how those plays fit into an overarching team philosophy. What started as inspirational is now very burdensome. While winning may be the goal, the mission of the team, it is not a strategy. A big goal without a strategy will demoralize a team in the long run.

In the same way, church leaders who articulate the mission of making disciples without providing a strategy for accomplishing the mission can lead a ministry into frustration. Ministry leaders must not only preach the church’s mission of making disciples, but also must provide a strategy for how the church fulfills her mission.

What makes a good ministry strategy? In his book, Good Strategy, Bad Strategy, Richard Rumelt writes, “Good strategy almost always looks simple and obvious and does not take a thick deck of PowerPoint slides to explain. It does not pop out of some ‘strategic management’ tool, matrix, chart, triangle, or fill-in-the-blanks scheme.”

I agree with Rumelt; Good strategy is simple and this has implications for ministry leaders who seek to make disciples. There are at least four essentials in a simple ministry strategy to make disciples (articulated more extensively in Simple Church):

1. Clarity

People cannot engage in a strategy they do not understand. Understanding always precedes commitment, so a simple process for making disciples is straightforward and clear. The how must be articulated so people understand how all the church offers fits into the discipleship process.

2. Movement

Because discipleship brings us closer and closer to Christ, a discipleship strategy must seek to move people more and more into the image of Christ. A simple strategy utilizes the programs the church offers to move people towards greater understanding of Christ and greater commitment to Him. Instead of people being servants to programs, programs must be servants of a church’s discipleship process. In a simple discipleship strategy, programs are strategically placed along the discipleship process and used as tools to encourage people to be more and more like Christ.

3. Alignment

In a local church with a simple discipleship process, the discipleship process is embedded in every ministry in the church. Instead of a federation of sub-ministries that just happen to share the same facility, an aligned discipleship process moves the whole church in the same direction.

4. Focus

Without ruthless focus, ministries will always drift towards complexity and away from their essential core. A simple strategy can help a ministry stay focused on her core. Focus requires saying “no” to that which falls outside the discipleship strategy.

Leaders must remind people of the mission over and over again. But leaders must also ensure there is a strategy designed to accomplish the mission. A simple strategy is best.

>Read more from Eric.


Want to learn more about discipleship strategies for your church? Connect with an Auxano Navigator and start a conversation with our team.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eric Geiger

Eric Geiger

Eric Geiger is the Senior Pastor of Mariners Church in Irvine, California. Before moving to Southern California, Eric served as senior vice-president for LifeWay Christian. Eric received his doctorate in leadership and church ministry from Southern Seminary. Eric has authored or co-authored several books including the best selling church leadership book, Simple Church. Eric is married to Kaye, and they have two daughters: Eden and Evie. During his free time, Eric enjoys dating his wife, taking his daughters to the beach, and playing basketball.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.