Week Two – Initial Steps
In this series I will be sharing many of the discoveries along with some of the innovative solutions that I have been implementing in my new role as an Executive Pastor in a “turn around” church. Many of you know that I have been training, consulting and writing on church growth for tens of thousands of pastors for the last 30 years. During those years I have been privileged to glean a lot of innovative best practices from around the nation. My recent book, The Optimized Church, which distills a great many of lessons learned, has been very well received. Yet I have been out of active pastoral ministry for over 16 years. Due to an unusual sense of God’s leading, I recently jumped off the cliff and became a local church leader. Forget theory! I am now living the day-to-day realities and pastoral challenges of facilitating organizational health in a church that had suffered severe decline in attendance (3500 to 500), which has been followed by seven years of no growth.
INITIAL STEPS - I determined to do a lot of investigating before making changes. Unhappy discoveries were made. For instance, every service concluded with the appeal to text “HIS” using the phone number on the screen to receive immediate support after accepting Christ. I instantly grabbed my smart phone and followed the instructions given to new converts. What happened? Nothing. The assigned staff person was asleep at the switch. Then I went to the website and indicated interest in being involved in a number of church ministries. What happened? In all but one case, nothing happened. The links, in many cases were broken. When I looked at the contact cards I could not help but notice that there was no place to check that I was a visitor. When I questioned this omission I was informed that the cards previously had a checkbox for that status. As crazy as these discoveries appear, it has been my experience through decades of church consulting that they are common. There is one word that explains the problem, “entropy.” How does it happen?
Entropy is the inevitable result of a lack of trained guards, attentively standing, at the gates of healthy processes. How does one guard the gates of church health? There is only one way to consistently function as a winning team. It requires well-defined metrics for a church to keeps its eye on the ball and head in the game.
Let me illustrate some solutions for organizational entropy by using the dysfunctional examples above. Things would have been much different had the church been measuring metrics on its Visitor Volume Rate. The very first week that the “visitor” checkbox had disappeared from the contact cards, loud alarm bells would have been ringing. What? We had NO visitors this week! Things would have been much different had the church been monitoring metrics on new converts and their successful integration into the church. The lack of incoming converts would have quickly stood out to leadership as a variance from the norm. Things would have been much different had the church been monitoring the intentional integration of newcomers into serving/leading roles in ministries.
What do metrics do for us? They help us to observe variances—changes from the status quo. There are a great deal of problematic and positive things we can learn from variances, assuming someone is actually monitoring them.
My first advice to an executive pastor would be to poke around and test every advertised channel of entry into the church. We often assume that more is being done than is really the case in the church. You are likely to make some unhappy and happy discoveries about the health of your key processes.
Be Blessed In Your Ministry!