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.
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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.

Simplify Your Church Calendar with Five Significant Steps

For many good reasons, church leaders often desire to simplify their schedules.

  • They know too many programs is paralyzing for new people, as the next step is unclear.
  • They know that it is impossible for their church to do everything well.
  • They see leaders exhausted and they know activity does not equate with transformation.
  • They want to see people in the church know their neighbors and interact in the community and not just attend a plethora of programs.

Yeah, there really are a lot of reasons to simplify. But it is easier desired, imagined, and said than accomplished. Yelling about it and taking a hatchet to your church’s schedule is not the wisest approach. What can a ministry leader do? Here are five steps to consider:

1. Clarify your discipleship process.

The biggest mistake leaders make when desiring to simplify their programs is to start with their programs.Start with your discipleship process, not with your programs. What is your overarching strategy for making disciples? Clarify and communicate that to people before you attempt to adjust your church schedule.

2. Show how your programs are tools in your discipleship process.

As you clarify your discipleship process, show how the programs you offer are tools in your discipleship process. Champion the essential programs in your process as important environments that facilitate discipleship. As you shine more and more light on the most important, the less important can begin to fade.

3. Emphasize personal mission.

What does mission have to with simplifying a calendar? A lot. The role of a believer is not to continually attend programs at church. Believers are to reconcile people to Christ, just as Christ has reconciled us to Himself. As Charles Spurgeon said, “Every Christian is a missionary or an imposter.” In God’s providence, He has placed believers in their professions, their neighborhoods, and in their school districts. And it is not so they could drive through those areas on the way to church five nights a week.

4. Show how an over-programmed calendar harms mission.

When people have a desire to serve people in the community, they don’t beg for more programs at church. Instead they value space in their personal lives to know their neighbors, to be involved in their kids’ schools, to coach in the rec leagues, and to get to know people who do not follow Christ. Ministry leaders are wise to point out how an over-programmed church calendar competes with personal mission. If people are at the church all the time, they are rarely in the community.

5. Simplify

Only after you have laid a foundation for discipleship and mission should you start to simplify your church calendar. As you do so, continually remind people of the why beneath the changes.


Connect with the Auxano team to learn more about simplifying your calendar to increase ministry effectiveness.


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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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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.

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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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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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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.