Engaging Members Through Transformational Innovation

Church Planting, Discipleship, Equipping, Innovation, Transformation

In a world in which the balance of power in the marketplace has shifted from seller to the customer, it is becoming increasingly more difficult for church leadership to move a Customer-centric culture at home into a more Mission-centric culture in the church. This contemporary shift in the marketplace is making the role of governing leadership in the church all the more critical.

In many churches, especially those with elder oversite, the only explicit feedback mechanisms alluded to in their constitutions are vertical. There are no explicit feedback mechanisms from the member/attendee, i.e. the people for whom the work is being done. This is not to say that members are formally excluded from sensing a “Tension” from failure to meet member needs of which they happen to become aware and then take action to resolve that “Tension”. But, it is also true that the explicit focus of many church constitutions is entirely internal to the leadership team. The ‘non-leadership team’ member or attendee is simply not in the picture.

When so much time and effort of the leadership team is spent on the micro-details of the internal decision-making mechanisms of a church and little discernible attention given to any external feedback mechanisms, one could easily get the idea that the internal mechanisms are supremely important while the member is irrelevant. Unless and until this “gap” is rectified, leadership in the local church risks being a distraction from the central organizational challenge of our times, namely, how to help the church to be more able to add value to its members.

In this highly customer-centric culture ‘transformational innovation’ becomes the current big challenge for church leadership.

Transformational innovation is difficult because it continually changes the way we live and ‘do’ church. Most churches are loath to pursue ideas that will make them change. Unfortunately, this is one of the reasons that they die. The computer and entertainment electronics industries have been prime examples of this. How many of us have audio 8-track machines, cassette players, videotape cameras, recorders and players, bag phones, clunker desktop computers, etc. sitting in our basements?

I am not writing about church growth. This article is about church health and the ability of the local church to effectively equip and add value to its members so that they will accomplish the mission of the church now and in the future. Church leaders today, more than ever, must realize the need to innovate in order to to maintain and accelerate their missional efforts. They cannot rely solely on past momentum to achieve their ambitions.

Soliciting innovative ideas from various sources is a must. Discovering the best of these ideas is critical. Here are four good practices for improving idea quality for transformational innovation:

Define the problem before brainstorming solutions – Guide leaders to collectively agree on the problem first, in order to generate the most effective solutions.

Enable members to self-assess ideas to improve idea quality – Teach members to self-assess the quality of their own ideas by using simple yet objective criteria to improve the quality of the idea pool, while freeing up leadership time for prioritization decisions.

Actively manage social media to refine ideas – Use social-media platforms to allow members, attendees and other interested parties to virtually share, assess, and refine ideas.

Motivate well-connected network partners to provide their ideas for your church – ask closely partnered neighborhood churches, fellow denominational churches, partnered social-concern agencies who share vested interests, etc. to bring high-quality ideas.

These practices identify and find solutions; and, they provide a clearly defined mechanism for member involvement through a targeted inquiry system that identifies the problem and ensures participant feedback.

Leaders who are thinking innovation will provide an ongoing, time-saving feedback mechanism that allows for rapid and interim changes to ideas based on valued perspectives from members, attendees and partners. Obviously, there will be idea prioritization filters that combine internal feedback with strategic considerations such as mission statement, alignment to strategy, etc.; but, by tapping the collective wisdom of church members, attendees and partners, churches can source better ideas for transformational innovation.

Once Implemented, these innovative ideas can result in member appreciation; greater member equipment and involvement; and, raving excitement that spills out into the neighborhood in the form of contagious missional living and conversion growth.

Wouldn’t it great to see the day when all churches realize they can have a successfully missional church where their members love coming to church, are happy and engaged, who are growing in their faith, are active in their outreach and whose neighbors and communities are thankful they are there!

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Have We Got ‘Equipping’ Right?

Church Planting, Discipleship, Equipping, Philadelphia, Urban Ministry, Urban Poverty

 

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Within my denominational affiliation I serve on a team called E-Net. The purpose of the team is to shine a light on the need for pastors and churches to better understand and implement the biblical mandate to ‘equip the saints.’  A recent summary communication from our E-Net team says, “Equipping grows directly out of Ephesians 4:11-16, one of the most significant passages of the New Testament, yet one of the most neglected. Why is it neglected? One reason is that too many people do not realize that in this passage the terms “apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd, and teacher” refer to functions in the church, and not positions.

“Another reason is that adopting an equipping culture represents a huge paradigm shift. Our [pastoral] training emphasizes preparing us for doing ministry, rather than for equipping others in ministry. We can do ministry better and faster than having to equip others to do it, and much of our identity comes from doing it ourselves. Too many think that equipping and training are synonyms. However, the root meaning of katartismon (equipping) is to bind or to join. Though you cannot equip without training, you can train without equipping. Equipping incorporates joining believers to ministry opportunities. Equipping transforms ministry consumers into ministry participants.”

E-Net’s position is this:

  1. Every church is to fulfill each of the five ministry functions of Ephesians 4:11.
  2. The Lord sends gifted people to every church to serve as “joints and ligaments,” the mid-level leaders committed to helping join the members to ministries.
  3. To equip is to identify both the ministry needs and the available people, seeking to bring them together, usually through involvement in ministry teams.
  4. Through equipping the entire church grows up into Christ, the Head, from whom the whole body is joined and held together by every supporting ligament.
  5. As a result, the church grows and is built up in love, as each part does its work.

I serve in Philadelphia with MetroGrace. We believe God has called us together to raise-up followers of Jesus who help release neighborhoods from Satan’s strongholds by starting gospel-centered and community-based churches. Last year Anecia (my wife) and I had this sense that we could be part of God’s answer to the cries of the the city, and especially those of the urban poor. We relocated our lives to focus our best attention on loving God and neighbors in need in Philadelphia.

While it is easy for our MetroGrace team to be overwhelmed by what is in front of us each day, we sense a call to multiply ourselves and to see more light shine in dark places. We have no desire to help build a mega institution as a vehicle for our own benefit. Rather, we seek to raise-up teams of Christian workers able to go and pioneer, reproduce and multiply strategic neighborhood mission churches throughout the city, and especially among the urban poor. This means that we must get equipping right!

One of my core convictions is ‘organic growth’ which for me means using reproducible models of nurturing, equipping and raising-up of new teams and leaders as the means of growing workers and local Jesus-centered (gospel-centered) movements from within our communities. Responding to urban poverty, helping spark Christian movements in neighborhoods, seeing real transformation requires us “to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.”  (Ephesians 4:12 NIV). We cannot depend solely or primarily on outside help. We must equip the saints!

We are committed to assisting MetroGrace to become a gospel-centered, community-based church planting movement. This will have the greatest opportunity for success as we follow the five-point recommendations of E-Net. We must train our folks, and future church-planting team members, to grow new believers into Jesus-centered workers, serving together in teams, to impact their neighborhoods for real community transformation.

Your thoughts?

Ten Commandments of Equipping

Church Planting, Equipping, Other Authors

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The following was developed by my friend and mentor, Tom Julien:

Ten Commandments of Equipping

1. Infuse dependent prayer into all aspects of the ministry.

2. As leaders, get your value not by how well you perform, but by how well you equip others in effective ministry.

3. Move people from being ministry consumers to ministry partners, seeing potential in every member.

4. Transform elected committees into open-ended ministry teams in which each member can exercise creativity in his responsibility.

5. Equip your “mid-level” leaders; the joints and ligaments that hold the body together, by giving them the responsibility as ministry team leaders.

6. Identify ministry leaders by function, not by position, making no distinction between paid staff and volunteer workers..

7. Help people discover their spiritual giftedness by involving them in ministry rather than merely taking spiritual gift inventories.

8. Combine ministry instruction with ministry involvement, meeting the felt training needs that grow out of ministry experience.

9. Never let the process of equipping become more important than its purpose and product.

10. Motivate the people to “grow up” In all things into the Head, Christ, from whom the whole body grows and builds itself up as each part does its work.

The 5 Levels of Leadership

Church Planting, Equipping, Notable Blogs, Other Authors, Uncategorized

The 5 Levels of Leadership.

The above link will take you to a short but excellent article for all who aspire to, or who are currently involved in, leadership. John Maxwell gives a concise and balanced understanding of what it means to be a leader. This article is a summary of his book by the same title that covers this subject in depth.

Enjoy!

 

Tips for Church Planting

Church Planting, cities, Other Authors, Urban Ministry

I found this article titled “Tips for Church Planting” insightful. The author, Dr. Patrick O’Connor is with Action International Ministries. http://www.actioninternational.org

He shares the following tips for church planting. Please comment with your thoughts or additional ideas:

1. As you start new flocks, be sure to follow the Spirit and His Word in obedience, using His Spirit-given gifts to start your church.

2. Let church organization develop not from a preconceived ideology or structure, but from relationships as they grow with God’s help.
Show your disciples what to do (1 Cor 11:1; Phil. 3:7). Do not simply tell them.

3. Ask the Lord for heads of households with whom to share God’s love, so as to reach entire families. Jesus let Zacchaeus and Levi gather their friends at once in order to let the gospel flow to many. Likewise, the apostles always went at once to seekers’ families.

4. Do not simply hold public meetings. Avoid preaching points or missions that are not real churches. Sometimes outside workers merely preach weekly without forming a congregation that obeys Jesus’ commands.

5. Baptize repentant believers without delaying because of man-made requirements and celebrate communion.

6. Train local leaders from the beginning to gather and shepherd their family and their own flock. Training local leaders in their context should be the goal of every church planter (Tit 1:5, Acts 14:23).

7. Hold regular public worship meetings only when local leaders can lead them.

8. Remember to name mature adults as leaders (Acts. 14.23). Give these men the responsibility for further growth and edification of the group.

9. Cheer on the new flocks to establish daughter churches without delay. Do not wait! As soon as a flock is born, church planters should help it reproduce new flocks nearby. Do not let their enthusiasm cool.

10. Start a cluster of new flocks or cells together instead of just one at a time. The apostles in Jerusalem had their flocks meet in homes to celebrate the Lord’s Supper and to embrace the apostles’ teaching (Acts 2:42, 46). Such clusters can also be seen in Acts 13–14 and in Galatians 1:2. In Galatia, the apostles started several flocks at once. Isolated flocks can become ingrown and defensive, lacking identity with a larger body.

So, if you are a church planter, have ever been part of a church plant or are planning on planting a church, what do you think?

A Lesson from Charlotte’s Web

Rambling Thoughts

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In his book Xealots, Dave Gibbons reflects on the nature of true success as a leader:

Charlotte’s Web is a wonderful little children’s story by author E. B. White about a spider named Charlotte who lives in a barn just above the stall of a pig named Wilbur. Wilbur is worried that once he grows fat enough, the farmer is going to turn him into bacon. It’s a valid concern.

Charlotte and Wilbur develop a close friendship, and as Wilbur grows larger, Charlotte uses all of her resources to try to rescue Wilbur. She writes messages in her web to convince the farm’s owners that Wilbur is a pig worth saving. The story builds to the final chapter titled “The Moment of Triumph.”

So what was Charlotte’s moment of triumph?

As the story draws to a close, Charlotte the spider is in the barn dying, [Wilbur the pig is being judged at the county fair in a pig contest], and she can hear the roar of applause for Wilbur [as he wins a special prize and thus his life is spared.] Charlotte finds great joy in knowing that her life has meant the success of another, her close friend, Wilbur. Though no one will remember her, the things she has done, and the sacrifices she has made, she is satisfied, having loved her friend in life and in death.

Gibbons adds” “[Leadership] is about fading. The great ones willingly move into irrelevance.”

Dave Gibbons, Xealots (Zondervan, 2011), pp. 145-146