7SYSTEMS.CHURCH & @BobWhitesel interviewed on the 7 Systems of Church Health by @ReclaimedLeader Podcast

https://app.stitcher.com/splayer/f/152893/58872098

Episode Info #71

Dr. Bob Whitesel brings incredible, research-based insight and a glimpse into each of the 7 systems necessary for healthy church growth. For show notes: http://www.reclaimedleader.com/episode71

LEADERSHIP & “You must first look for the personal need, before you try to meet the organizational need.” 7Systems.church #Leadership #LeaderhipDevelopment

The 7Systems.church assessment and planning tool is based upon research of 32,000 churches combined with 29 years of consulting practice by Bob Whitesel D.Min. Ph.D.

Click here for more info: 7Systems.church

INTRODUCTION to the “7 systems” of 7Systems.church

img_2562Article by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Outreach Magazine, 1/8/2019.


1. Visibility (communication system)

The communication system should increase the visibility of the good deeds and good actions of those who bring good news (Acts 13:32).

Visibility was historically created by a church’s physical building. A spire would stand out against the sky in London or a small town in Ohio. Building in conspicuous locations such as main thoroughfares and city crossroads became a reminder of a church and its message. Today visibility is much more electronically mediated. Websites, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media channels allow churches to be visible even when their physical location is hidden.

The benchmark is an increasing visibility among the non-churchgoing community of the spiritual growth of the faith community and the positiveness of their message.

2. Embracing a Growing Culture (reconciling system)

A study of 32,000 churches (The American Congregations Survey) found that growing churches reach out to growing cultures. A growing culture might be an influx of younger families to which an aging church might adjust its traditions. A growing culture could be an African-American community that together with a dwindling Anglo church works to overcome historical differences in order to experience racial reconciliation and health.

But there is another important aspect to reconciliation. Paul stated, “Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know … Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it!” (2 Cor. 5:16–17). Paul continues, “Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and he has committed to us the word of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:18–19).

Healthy churches to do stop at cultural reconciliation (any more than Paul did when reconciling differences between the Greek/Roman and Christian/Jewish cultures). Like Paul, a healthy reconciling system says, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20).

How well does your church reconcile people to one another and to God?

3. Supernatural Worship (numinous system)

“Numinous” is a theologian’s term for coming close to God. “Worship” in Hebrew carries the idea of reverence, such as bowing to kiss the king’s feet, that results from a close encounter (Brown, Driver and Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament). When people use the word “worship” they are describing an environment where they feel face-to-foot with God.

Striving to create a perfect experience, usually only creates an attraction to an event. But seeking to foster a supernatural encounter creates an attraction to God.

4. People and Places Are Changed (regeneration system)

Regeneration most notably happens at conversion (2 Cor. 5:17). And though spiritual transformation may sometimes be downplayed as it is unfashionable, people still want to be changed (the self-help industry is a testimony to this). Furthermore, the Bible makes clear that spiritual transformation lies at the center of Jesus’ message (John 3:16) and humankind’s destiny (Rom. 6:23).

When people are spiritually transformed, so too will be their neighborhoods. Not by politics or coercion, this happens by transformed people daily living out their changed lives (Acts 2:43–47). Healthy churches embrace a system that equally emphasizes spiritual and neighborhood transformation.

5. Involved Volunteers (leadership system)

This results from 3 STRand leadership (Ecclesiastes 4:12), a balance between three types of leaders.

Strategic leaders are visionaries who see future goals but don’t see as clearly the steps to get there. A biblical example is the apostle John, who sketches the grand scenario of Jesus’ ministry, but leaves out many of the contributing details.

Tactical leaders enjoy watching how analysis and numbers lead up to a goal (Gr. taktike, meaning: to set in order). Found in professions like medicine, accounting, etc., a biblical example would be the physician Luke (Col. 4:14), who fills in many of the details that lead up to the actions that John describes. Tactical leaders take ideas generated by visionaries and enjoy putting together steps to accomplish them.

The relational leader leads through deep personal relationships with others. Functioning well in a small group/team environment, they watch out for one another’s spiritual progress.

Leaders are a mixture of all three, but most have a propensity for one over the others. The strategic leader sees the long-term direction of the church, the tactical leader sees the steps necessary to get there and the relational leader gauges how people are feeling about the direction. A healthy leadership system ensures that major decisions involve input from all three types.

6. Lack of Serious Conflict (unity system)

The healthy church anticipates disunity and utilizes two tools to prevent escalating into serious conflict. First, they slow down the introduction of new ideas, building broader consensus before they implement new ideas. And second, when disunity arises, they get the two sides talking together and finding common ground.

The ability to build consensus for new ideas before implementation and to discuss differences of opinion before they fester are two benchmarks behind an effective unity system.

7. Signature Ministry (competency system)

A healthy church knows what it does well and focuses on it. Such a core competency is noticeable in the community where it is viewed as a signature ministry, e.g. children’s ministry, music ministry, missionary churches, a food shelf, grief recovery ministry, divorce recovery ministry, etc. The church is not trying to do many things poorly, but a few things well.

A signature ministry is not something that meets the needs of the congregation or congregants, but rather meets non-churchgoers’ needs (and they are glad the church does so). It is an underlying, church-wide competency that the church does well in many different ministries throughout the organization, hence it is called a “core” competency.

The church is so competent in this area that people outside the church may recognize this in various signature ministries. People are attracted to your church because these are things you are good at and they resonate with that. It also means that new ministries in the church (and the longevity of older ministries) will be evaluated based upon how well they dovetail with this greater church-wide competency.

Discover more at 7Systems.church

Today via Outreach Magazine – @BobWhitesel article “7 Systems That Must Be in Place for Healthy Church Growth”

1. Visibility (communication system)

The communication system should increase the visibility of the good deeds and good actions of those who bring good news (Acts 13:32).

Visibility was historically created by a church’s physical building. A spire would stand out against the sky in London or a small town in Ohio. Building in conspicuous locations such as main thoroughfares and city crossroads became a reminder of a church and its message. Today visibility is much more electronically mediated. Websites, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media channels allow churches to be visible even when their physical location is hidden.

The benchmark is an increasing visibility among the non-churchgoing community of the spiritual growth of the faith community and the positiveness of their message.

2. Embracing a Growing Culture (reconciling system)

A study of 32,000 churches (The American Congregations Survey) found that growing churches reach out to growing cultures. A growing culture might be an influx of younger families to which an aging church might adjust its traditions. A growing culture could be an African-American community that together with a dwindling Anglo church works to overcome historical differences in order to experience racial reconciliation and health.

Read more at … https://outreachmagazine.com/resources/discipleship-and-spiritual-growth/38826-7-systems-that-must-be-in-place-for-healthy-church-growth.html

SYSTEM 7 of 7SYSTEMS.church: COMPETENT & Finding Your Church’s Signature Ministry and Building Upon Its Gifts

7.7 systems yellow

This is seventh (7th) in a series of articles by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D. (5/17/17) introducing the 7SYSTEMS.CHURCH and which first appeared in Church Revitalizer Magazine.

The “7 systems” of a healthy church (www.7System.church) is based upon an analysis of 35,000 church combined with 25+ years of consulting research and practice.  An introduction to the “7 Systems” of a healthy church (www.7System.church) can be found here: www.7systems.church

This sixth mark is that growing churches usually have at least one “specialized, effective and signature ministry.” 

This is a ministry it does well and church leaders put funding/person-power behind it to expand it. Almost 52% of the growing churches could cite at least one specialized program. But less than 42% of the churches who claimed “no specialty” were growing. 

Church revitalization takes place in even a small and dying churches if they uncover the specialized program that God has given them. 

The Bible describes how God gives spiritual gifts that allow individuals to uniquely contribute to a fellowship of believers and to reach out to meet the needs of people in the community (1 Cor. 12:7, Eph. 4:7, 1 Peter 4:10). Gifts are listed in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4 along with secondary gift lists in 1 Corinthians 7, 13-14; Ephesians 3 and 1 Peter 4.  And, most Christians are a mixture.  

I’ve seen that the same type of God-empowered giftings in communities of faith. Churches often have specialized programs that are making significant kingdom impact because God has anointed these programs.

But too often church leaders are not aware of how much an effective, specialized program can be the foundation upon which to build a revitalized church.  Turning around a church means recognizing which programs are having a kingdom impact in the community and channeling more funding and volunteers to those ministries.

 God-empowered Specialized Ministries

I’ve asked my students to list specialized programs they have uncovered in their own churches via a 5-step process (below). Their replies include: worship-oriented churches, preaching-gifted churches, churches that reach out to the poor, churches that have a strong Sunday school program, churches that offer tutoring for schoolchildren in the community, churches that support foreign missions, churches that support local missions, churches that plant churches, churches that launch multiple venues, churches that have large/multifaceted facilities, churches that have small but intimate facilities, churches that have strong prayer ministries, and the list goes on.

It is important to recognize that churches should be competent in multiple of the above specialties. And, this not to say all of the specialized programs listed are good for everyone. But, these are the type of specialized ministries upon which churches have focused to reach their community.  

When revitalizing a church, and that church is small and weak, it is helpful to find a specialized, anointed program upon which the church revitalization can be built. This does not mean that everything a church specializes in, or even that it does well, is what God intends. Thus, 5-steps can help you ascertain if God has gifted a congregation with a specialized program which can become a foundation for revitalization.

An example of a church revitalization based upon a specialized, anointed program

(This example is gleaned from several case studies in order to preserve anonymity.)  

A small and dying church, had been trying to attract younger generations by offering contemporary music. Unfortunately this aging congregation had never been skilled (nor seemingly anointed) in contemporary music. Therefore these efforts failed.

But, though small and dying the church had a long tradition of members weekly tutoring 5th grade students over lunch in a nearby school. When polling the community (below) it became clear that this program was much appreciated. The church began to invite younger generations to join their lunch mentoring program. Younger generations, appreciating such service to the community, soon began attending the church.

Conduct a Saturday morning community survey to find your specialized, anointed program

A simple survey is conducted by a handful of church leaders who go out into the community on a Saturday morning from 10 until noon. Conducted in a public location such as the park or Civic Plaza, the leaders explain they are from a local church (identifying that church) and ask those they interview how they would describe their church.Leaders write down the replies and spend the afternoon looking for recurring programs about which people in the community know and appreciate. Be forewarned, the community will know some negative things too. Yet, it’s important to be aware of these as well.

The leaders ferret out the one or two ministries for which the church is known and begin to build part of their revitalization strategy on this. This is conducted in 5-steps.

Evaluate the specialized program though 5-steps

1) Describe the specialized program in two ways:

A. In a first sentence, describe your church’s specialized program. 

b. In a second sentence, explain what “need” it meets in the community.

2) Evaluate it for Biblical fidelity and longevity. Carefully narrow your focus to one or two ministries that can be sustained over a long period of time and which appeal to younger generations as well.

A. Evaluate this specialized ministry through a biblical lens. A ministry must line up with God’s Word and His intention to reconcile the world to himself. There are many specialized programs that may not be your most appropriate avenue for spreading the Good News.

B. Ask yourself if this program can be maintained over the long term. If the church is known for “a good choir,” but choirs are less appealing to the younger generations, this is probably not the specialized program upon which you can build your future. 

3) Expand the program. This may require taking the focus away from other things you’re doing and refocus time and treasure on a specialized program that is having an impact. Though not easy, it is wiser to spend time and treasure on programs that God has anointed, rather than trying to simply copy what other churches are doing.

4) Tell people you are expanding this ministry. Feature it prominently on the main page of your website and in your communication.

5) Evaluate your specialized program through the 5-steps every year. Ask people (in a community survey) about specialized programs for which your church is known. Look for an increasing awareness in the community of the specialized, anointed ministry.A specialized and impactful ministry is a characteristic of growing churches according to The American Congregations Study. These 5-steps will help you discover an anointed and specialized ministry upon which God may intend to build a revitalization.

For an overview of the “7 systems” of a healthy church (www.7System.church) based upon an analysis of 35,000 church combined with 25+ years of consulting research and practice, see www.7systems.church

Speaking hashtags: #CaribbeanGraduateSchoolofTheology

SYSTEM 6 of 7SYSTEMS.church: UNIFIED & How to Unite a Conflicted Church 

7.6 systems yellow

This is sixth (6th) in a series of articles by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D. (12/23/16) introducing the 7SYSTEMS.CHURCH and which first appeared in Church Revitalizer Magazine.

The “7 systems” of a healthy church (www.7System.church) is based upon an analysis of 35,000 church combined with 25+ years of consulting research and practice.  An introduction to the “7 Systems” of a healthy church (www.7System.church) can be found here: www.7systems.church

This sixth installment of how to turn around a church, like the previous installments, is based upon the most comprehensive study of churches ever conducted in North America: The American Congregations Study (Hartford Seminary, copies available at www.FaithCommunitiesToday.org).

A church that has “dissonant harmony” can be turned around, but not usually one with “severe conflict.”

Every church has some degree of conflict. But “severe conflict” is defined as when opinions are so opposed that even in times of emergency the groups will not work together. A different type of tension is “dissonant harmony,” a term coined by Starke and Dyck in their groundbreaking research on church splits. They found that while all churches have a degree of disagreement, if people overlook disagreements to work together for the common good when necessary, there is harmony with some dissonance.

To find out if you have “severe conflict” or just “dissonant harmony” ask yourself the following four questions.

1. Does your church have a guiding vision or mission which most of the people work toward?

2. Do committees, choirs, Sunday School classes and teams focus mostly upon finding the good in others (inside and outside the church)?

3. When unexpected challenges occur, do the people pull together for church survival?

4. Does the congregation view itself as a faith community that at times “agrees to disagree?”

If you said yes to three out the four, then you probably have “dissonant harmony.” If so, you can unite the congregation around a turnaround mission/vision.

The secret cure for turning around a church that has “severe conflict.”

If you could not answer yes to three or more the questions, you are probably bordering on, or already in, “severe conflict.”

Most church leaders will tell you conflict is poorly addressed in the church. Having perused libraries/bookstores for decades on leadership, my hunch is that conflict resolution is the category with the fewest books published. Yet every church leader knows that conflict resolution is a key part of that leader’s job. 

But in conflict resolution literature you find that there are two simple and basic principles in almost all conflict resolution strategies. Here they are.

First, don’t get in the middle as a go-between or so-called peacemaker between the factions.

Church leaders are often inspired by Jesus’ lauding of the peacemakers in Matt. 5:9. Leaders interpret this as a “go-between” or “diplomat” between warring factions. But the Greek does not carry an idea of “go-between” but rather, “keeping aloof from sectional strifes and the passions which beget them, and living tranquilly for and in the whole.” Starke and Bruno found that go-betweens are also usually blamed for resolution failures, because they are not perceived as correctly communicating each party’s perspective. Both sides take aim at the so-called peacemaker who is then often pushed out of the organization. 

Second, get the disagreeing parties talking directly to each other.

Surprisingly, this is the central component of almost all conflict resolution programs. Only when warring parties meet face-to-face to hammer out a compromise, does resolution result. It means getting people with differences to sit down together and tasking them to come up with an amicable solution. The leader makes it the duty of people with differences to come up with a plan that meets both factions needs. 

What if conflict can’t be overcome?

In some churches conflict has been so severe, for so long that compromise may be impossible. But we have a scriptural example to follow when conflict is so severe it may be better to part ways. We see this in Paul and Barnabas’ disagreement about taking John Mark with them on their second missionary journey (Acts 15:36-39). John Mark had accompanied them on the first journey, yet left midway and Paul seemed to feel it was because of his lack of commitment and perseverance. Barnabas, whose very name means son-of-encouragement, undoubtedly saw the potential in John Mark (after all John Mark would later pen the Gospel of Mark) and urged Paul to let him come along. The scriptures indicate that between Paul and Barnabas a “sharp disagreement” arose, which in the Greek literally means “incited … to anger.” The end result was that Paul and Barnabas agreed to go on two separate missionary journeys where twice as much ministry took place. 

It may be that conflict in your church is so severe and so historic, that only by parting ways can both organizations be revitalized. Even after a church split, I have found those who remain are usually more open to change. Without the emotional disagreements and historical baggage of the factions in their midst, churches that go their separate ways can often subsequently be revitalized.

Utilizing the tools above.

If you are in dissonant harmony, continue to take the focus off of differences and get the focus back upon overarching goals. But, if you are in severe disunity then agree to disagree, parting ways if necessary. Use the questions and tools in this article to help.

For an overview of the “7 systems” of a healthy church (www.7System.church) based upon an analysis of 35,000 church combined with 25+ years of consulting research and practice, see www.7systems.church

Speaking hashtags: #CaribbeanGraduateSchoolofTheology

SYSTEM 4 of 7SYSTEMS.church: REGENERATION & People/Places are supernaturally changed for the better.

7.4 systems yellow

This is fourth (4th) in a series of articles by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D. (5/17/17) introducing the 7SYSTEMS.CHURCH and which first appeared in Church Revitalizer Magazine.

The “7 systems” of a healthy church (www.7System.church) is based upon an analysis of 35,000 church combined with 25+ years of consulting research and practice.  An introduction to the “7 Systems” of a healthy church (www.7System.church) can be found here: www.7systems.church

People & places are changed (regeneration system).

Regeneration most notably happens at conversion (2 Corinthians 5:17). And though spiritual transformation may sometimes be downplayed as it is unfashionable, people still want to be changed (the self-help industry is a testimony to this). Furthermore, the Bible makes clear that spiritual transformation lies at the center of Jesus’ message (John 3:16) and humankind’s destiny (Romans 6:23).

When people are spiritually transformed so too will be their neighborhoods. Not by politics nor coercion, this happens by transformed people daily living out their changed lives (Acts 2:43-47). Healthy churches embrace a system that equally emphasizes spiritual and neighborhood transformation. (The following is excerpted and adapted from Bob Whitesel’s Cure for the Common Church, chapter 7: “Why New is Needed.”)

Newness for Those in Spiritual Need

There is the true newness that will permeate the uncommon church.  It is an expectation and invitation for people to be transformed physically and spiritually by a reunification with their loving heavenly Father (and among a community that embraces such newness).  Figure 7.1 gives an overview of why and where supernatural newness comes.

Figure 7.1 An Overview of Newness for Those in Need

God cares about those in need.
  • “I know that the LORD will take up the case of the poor and will do what is right  for the needy.” Psalm 140:12
  • You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in distress,” Isaiah 25:4
God wants to bestow upon those in need a spiritual and physical newness
  • Jesus declared, “I came so that they could have life—indeed, so that they could live life to the fullest” (John 10:10)
  • “So then, if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived!” (2 Cor. 5:17)
Christians are to provide a fellowship that fosters and anticipates this newness 
  • “True devotion, the kind that is pure and faultless before God the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their difficulties and to keep the world from contaminating us.” James 1:27
  • “Instead, when you give a banquet, invite the poor, crippled, lame, and blind.  And you will be blessed because they can’t repay you. Instead, you will be repaid when the just are resurrected.” Luke 14:13-14

In the previous chapters we saw that the term missio Dei describes God’s quest to be reunited with his wayward offspring.  Once this reunion is made, a real newness in personal lives emerges, a newness toward which the uncommon church will be orientated.  Though growing O.U.T., S.M.A.L.L. and L.E.A.R.N.ers are part of the process, a church will not become uncommonly supernatural unless it welcomes and expects spiritual and physical transformation.

People today (but probably no more than in any other period) are in search of newness.  They want to alleviate bad habits, overcome harmful enticements, curb destructive behavior, be more loving, kind and generous.  But something deep inside of each one of us seems to pull us back toward bad actions.  The cure, the real, long-term cure for uncommonness is a church where supernatural encounter and expectation is woven into the fabric of the congregation.  And so, an uncommon church will exhibit many of the characteristics of Figure 7.2. 

Figure 7.2 Church Patterns That Welcome Transformation 

The uncommon church
  • Expects miracles to happen
  • Expects people to be changed in positive ways that no human effort could accomplish
  • Expects people to show signs of growing in their dependence upon God rather than dependence upon humans
  • Does not put its trust in programs, pastors, the past or trends; but daily increases in their dependence upon God’s supernatural assistance to meet physical and spiritual needs

Why NEW is Needed

Humans Are in a Pickle.  

As we just noted, humans want to do the right thing, but we find ourselves constantly and repeatedly failing to do what we know is right.  God knows we are prone to this (after all he’s a long time observer of our behavior).  And, God has made a way for us to be changed.  The Message Bible is a good translation for putting such principles in modern idiom, and Figure 7.3 explains this fracture.

Figure 7.3 Our Wrong Actions Fracture Our Fellowship With God

We have an inner pull that makes us do the wrong thing, even when we know better
  • “It wasn’t so long ago that we ourselves were stupid and stubborn, dupes of sin, ordered every which way by our glands, going around with a chip on our shoulder, hated and hating back..” Titus 3:3 (MSG)
These wrong actions separate us from our loving heavenly Father
  • “There’s nothing wrong with God; the wrong is in you.  Your wrongheaded lives caused the split between you and God.  Your sins got between you so that he doesn’t hear.” Isaiah 59:2 (MSG)
If we accept God’s plan to have Christ bear our punishment, then God will restore our fellowship with Him, help us change and give us eternal life too!
  • “But when God, our kind and loving Savior God, stepped in, he saved us from all that. It was all his doing; we had nothing to do with it. He gave us a good bath, and we came out of it new people, washed inside and out by the Holy Spirit. Our Savior Jesus poured out new life so generously. God’s gift has restored our relationship with him and given us back our lives. And there’s more life to come—an eternity of life! You can count on this.” Titus 3:4-7 (MSG)

How Did God Create a Route Back?

Once humans see that we are prone to do what is bad for ourselves and that we are incapable of changing by ourselves; we then notice that God has created a route, a bridge so to speak, back to fellowship with God.  Figure 7.4 is how the Message Bible explains it.

Figure 7.4  God’s Plan for a Route Back 

Jesus took the punishment for our wrong actions (so we could be restored to a close relationship with our loving heavenly Father):
  • “But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death … Romans 5:8 (MSG). 
  • “Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.” Romans 3:23-24 (MSG)
Trusting in Jesus’ actions will acquit us from the punishment due for our wrong doings and give us a “whole and lasting life:”
  • “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted…” John 3:16-17 (MSG)
This route back is only available through Jesus Christ.
  • “Jesus said, “I am the Road, also the Truth, also the Life. No one gets to the Father apart from me.” John 14:6 (MSG)

How Do We Take That “Route” Back to God?

Now that we understand that God has created a route back to fellowship with himself, we begin to grasp that the all-powerful Creator of the universe wants to have personal friendship with each of us who will return.  So, what is involved in returning to him?  The answer can be summed up in the statement of Figure 7.5.  let’s look at this figure and then examine three important words in it.

Figure 7.5  How We Take the Route Back to God

Repentance must be combined with faith in order to bring about spiritual transformation.

Repentance

Repentance is a decision to “break with the past” which also carries the idea of turning and going in a new direction.  This is what it means when 1 John 1:8-9 says “…if we admit our sins—make a clean breast of them—he won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing” (MSG).

People come to this stage when they realize they are dissatisfied with the way their life is going and know they need help beyond what humanity can provide.  They may be frustrated that their life is full of animosities, pride, biases, deceptions, conflicts and a host of other maladies.  And so, they seek inner change.

The good news is that God wants that change for you too!  He even promises to give you supernatural power to help you make those changes.  It is this trust (or faith) in God’s ability to help you that takes you to the next step.

Faith

“Faith” is a reliance and inner sense of knowing that God has the power to transform you.  The author of Hebrews offers a classic statement about faith:

It’s impossible to please God apart from faith. And why? Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that he exists and that he cares enough to respond to those who seek him.  Heb. 11:6 (MSG, italics mine)

Author and lay theologian C. S. Lewis reminds us that faith also carries the idea of growing in unwavering faith, stating, “Faith… is the art of holding on to things your reason once accepted, despite your changing moods.”

New People (Spiritual Transformation) 

Spiritual transformation in biblical terms means divine empowerment to reverse direction and go in an opposite direction with your life.  The author of Titus describes it this way:

He gave us a good bath, and we came out of it new people, washed inside and out by the Holy Spirit. Our Savior Jesus poured out new life so generously. God’s gift has restored our relationship with him and given us back our lives. And there’s more life to come—an eternity of life! You can count on this.” Titus 3:4-7 (MSG, italics mine)

Therefore … 

  • When repentance (for our wrong doings) 
  • combines with faith (in Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on your behalf) 
  • then spiritual transformation (into a new person) occurs.

  This spiritual transformation into a new person has been called many things: conversion, salvation, being born-again, etc.  And, though these are important terms they also have been mischaracterized.  Unfortunately to many people today they do not bring to mind the original meaning of being transformed from our old way of life.  

Today spiritual transformation may be the best term to sum up what God is doing.  When he creates a new person our old desires for self-satisfaction, preferring oneself over others, etc. will still be there, but spiritual transformation reminds us there is divine power to increasingly overcome these self-serving lures.   And, we experience an emerging confidence and power as we see God daily helping us come closer to him and as we participate in his mission.  And so, spiritual transformation is a remarkable intersection of human will, Jesus’ sacrifice, God’s forgiveness and a rekindled heavenward relationship.  This is not a transformation that we can muster up ourselves.  This is a change that goes deeply to the purpose of the One who created us.  It goes to the core of our relationship with a heavenly Father who loves us and can help us. 

And so, the Church is primarily a community that is collectively and constantly welcoming and experiencing this spiritual transformation where new people emerge.  Yet, the gloomy fact is that most commonly today, congregations are not experiencing this.  And, it does several things to a church, including robbing a church of its supernatural expectation and making a church more familiar with churchgoers than non-churchgoers.  

Thus, the “HOW” of Growing N.E.W. is critical for nurturing an uncommon church, But, before we look at Chapter 8: Grow N.E.W. HOW let us look briefly at why spiritual formation is at the pivot point of the uncommon church.

You can download the rest of the chapter here:

BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – CURE Chpt 7 WHY NEW

Want more good ideas about “how” to get a church sharing their faith?  See the many ideas here:

BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – CURE Chpt 8 HOW NEW.

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For an overview of the “7 systems” of a healthy church (www.7System.church) based upon an analysis of 35,000 church combined with 25+ years of consulting research and practice, see www.7systems.church

Speaking hashtags: #CaribbeanGraduateSchoolofTheology

SYSTEM 5 of 7SYSTEMS.church: INVOLVED CHURCH MEMBERS & How to Train, Inspire & Recruit More Volunteers

7.5 systems yellow

This is fifth (5th) in a series of articles by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D. (3/1/17) introducing the 7SYSTEMS.CHURCH and which first appeared in Church Revitalizer Magazine.

The “7 systems” of a healthy church (www.7System.church) is based upon an analysis of 35,000 church combined with 25+ years of consulting research and practice.  An introduction to the “7 Systems” of a healthy church (www.7System.church) can be found here: www.7systems.church

The American Congregations Study (Hartford Seminary, copies available at www.FaithCommunitiesToday.org) may be the most exhaustive study of churches in America. In it are seven marks of a healthy, revitalized church. This is number five in the “7 systems” of a healthy church (www.7System.church)

This fifth mark is “involved church members.”

My colleague, Aaron Earls at LifeWay, summarizes some of the data from The American Congregations Study this way: “How likely is it that a church grew? For those whose laity was …

  • Not at all involved: 35 percent
  • Involved a little or some: 45 percent
  • Involved quite a bit: 63 percent
  • Involvement a lot: 90 percent”

Since Villfred Pareto famously intoned that 80% of the value lies in 20% of the components, people have applied this to church volunteers. This seems about right: most of our churches have about 20% of the people doing 80% of the work.If this study is correct (I have looked at its research methodology and believe it is), then most of our churches need to double, triple or even quadruple the number of our church volunteers in order to be healthy.  How did we do that? Let me list four ways:

1. Create a compelling vision. People are motivated when they see the future. But, how do we create a compelling vision? First, it begins with understanding what your organization is already good at doing. I believe that churches, like people, are given special gifts by God. We see in the Bible the church at Antioch had a special gift for sending missionaries, and in Jerusalem we see a church that had the gift of sorting through emerging theologies. 

I believe churches today have special attributes or gifts in certain types of ministry. Thus, to create a compelling vision, you must start with what you’re already doing well.

For example, a smaller church in a growing suburban hosted a 12-step recovery ministry for many years. When new people starting moving into the neighborhood, the church decided it needed a contemporary worship service. It tried its best to mount a contemporary service, but it just didn’t have the right people or the right gifts. Then the pastor began to build upon what the church was already doing well, a 12-step recovery program. The church leaders launched a similar program for people recovering from divorce. This appealed to the younger people moving into the community and also built upon what the church did well. Soon the church was offering other recovery ministries, such as grief recovery.Once you find out what you’re doing well, the next step is to get your volunteers into the right job.

2. Help volunteers fit into the right job. Three types of complementary leaders are needed on every team. As I describe these types of leaders, ask yourself, “Which one am I?”

Strategic leaders. These are leaders who see the big picture, sometimes called visionaries. They see the future so well that they may be out of touch with the present. They often don’t know how to get to the future from the present. Therefore, while they may be senior leaders who cast the vision, they need the other two types of leaders on their team.

Tactical leaders. These are probably the most overlooked, but most needed. Tactical comes from a Greek word that means “to put in order.”  These are people who work with planning charts, budgets, spread sheets and numbers. Such tasks are usually the things strategic leaders don’t like to do and sometimes conflict arises because of it. The strategic leader may propose a new idea, to which the tactical leader may respond, “How much is that going to cost?” This frustrates the strategic leader, who sees it as a lack of faith. But in reality, the tactical leader is just asking: How does the strategic leader envision God providing the money for this idea? The tactical leader believes that God will move in the numbers too. Tactical leaders are crucial and critical members of your team. They will keep you from getting in debt or from having too few volunteers for a project. When they ask, “How are we going to fund this?” just respond: “I’m not sure, but I’m hoping you will help me figure that out.” They want to be part of the team and they want their skill in organization to be appreciated.

Operational leader. These are relational leaders. They are people who lead through the relationships they have made and are often happiest leading a small team in some task. Because they enjoy the relationships more than the task, they may not want the task to change. They like doing the same thing over and over again, because it allows them to forget about the task and focus on developing deeper friendships with other team members. 

When all teams have three types of leaders involved, people can easily find a place to contribute. Look around and ask yourself, “What kind of job does this volunteer do during the week?” Asking this question can give you a hint about his or her strategic, tactical or operational gifts. Then find people who have strengths where you have a weakness and make them a part of your team.

3. Organic recruitment. 

Many churches hold job fairs to recruit volunteers, but these seem to me unnatural and uncomfortable for volunteers. Rather, let me suggest an organic approach.

Require all leaders to be training someone that can take over for them one day. This is a “mentor– mentee” tactic.  Every leader should not only be required to put their name on the line, but also to write down the person they will be training to take over for them. This creates not only a church of volunteers, but also a church of emerging volunteers who are learning on the job.Training someone to take over for you, also allows volunteers to look forward to a break. After all, our God who did not need a sabbatical took one as a reminder to us of its importance (Genesis 2:3).

For an overview of the “7 systems” of a healthy church (www.7System.church) based upon an analysis of 35,000 church combined with 25+ years of consulting research and practice, see www.7systems.church

Speaking hashtags: #CaribbeanGraduateSchoolofTheology

SYSTEM 3 of 7SYSTEMS.church: SUPERNATURAL & How to foster encounter in worship.

7.3 systems yellow

This is third (3rd) in a series of articles by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D. (5/24/16) introducing the 7SYSTEMS.CHURCH and which first appeared in Church Revitalizer Magazine.

The “7 systems” of a healthy church (www.7System.church) is based upon an analysis of 35,000 church combined with 25+ years of consulting research and practice.  An introduction to the “7 Systems” of a healthy church (www.7System.church) can be found here: www.7systems.church

Before we begin to turn around a church, we need to know what worship should be turning toward.

This is the third in a series on the “7 Marks of a Growing Church,” based on my analysis of the American Congregations 2015 Study undertaken by Hartford Seminary. Free copies of the study are available at http://www.FaithCommunitiesToday.org 

The American Congregations Study found that in renovated churches, attendees describe their worship as “very innovative.” As I read deeper into the study, it became clear that it’s not mere innovation congregants appreciate, but it is innovation that keeps the worship fresh and supernatural. Let’s look at how you can renovate a church to a fresh and supernatural worship encounter.

How to Return to a Freshness in Worship

Everyone knows that worship can become stale. Here are three ways to keep your worship fresh.

1) Content is Fresh: 

Freshness in worship often means utilizing a style with which the audience can relate, but infusing it with fresh content. Church leaders understand people tend to like music in the musical style with which they have become accustomed. So freshness does not mean changing the musical style, but adding in fresh lyrics, fresh structure and/or fresh order. For instance, fresh worship often takes the words/melody of a new song and rearranges it in the musical style with which the congregation is accustomed. Thus, you add freshness without adding offense.

2) Exploration is Fresh.

Fresh worship happens when worship leaders are exploring a wide variety of “new” worship songs. Because the worship leader can separate the musical style from the content, they are able to take the latest songs and rework them into a style that is acceptable to the listeners.

3) Experimentation is Fresh.

The fresh worship leader is experimenting with different arts including poetry, painting, dance, drama, etc. The key is the word “experimentation,” for these are tests, not something set in stone. The fresh worship leader will keep elements to which a majority of the audience relates.

4) Feedback is Fresh.

Fresh worship results when worship leaders get weekly feedback regarding what is working. However, it is important to concentrate on what is working. Christians too easily focus on the negative (what doesn’t work) rather than the positive (what does work). Thus, the fresh worship leader takes note about what elements are creating a freshness and concentrates on them.

How to Return to Supernatural Worship

As I look over the American Congregation 2015 Study it becomes evident that people seek a worship service where they can forget about their problems and encounter the supernatural love, protection and fellowship their Heavenly Father offers. But, too often today worship has centered around attracting people to a church with high production values. There is nothing wrong with high production values, unless they become more important than the value of providing supernatural worship.Why is supernatural worship so important? The very word worship in Hebrew gives a clue. The Hebrew word shachah means to come close to God and bow down at his feet, as “a close encounter with a king which fosters in reverence, respect and praise” (Whitesel, ORGANIX: Signs of Leadership in a Changing Church. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2011., p. 96). Thus the word “worship” reminds us that it is about an encounter in which you feel you’ve been in the very presence of God – mere inches away from Him. It is not about appreciating the staging, lighting effects or this seamless integration of the liturgy – but about a feeling that God is present with you.

There are three phases to turning a church back toward a supernatural encounter.

1) Prepare Supernaturally:

Spending time in supernatural preparation often prepares us to lead others in supernatural encounter. A pastor friend told me that his church was stuck in the small size, until God told him to go to church every Saturday night and pray for Sunday’s ministry. God told him, “If you show up on Saturday night, I’ll show up on Sunday morning.” Today a megachurch, it has multiple campuses in Atlanta. God may not say the same thing to you. But it reminds us that to lead others supernaturally, our preparation includes communing with God in prayer, His word and quietude.

2) Lead Supernaturally:

Next it is important that everyone involved in leading worship is not thinking about the mechanics of their task (e.g. singing, playing, words to the song, etc.) but rather enjoying the worship encounter that comes out of it. One church I attended had the band off to the side of the stage and a large cross at the center of the stage, so the focus will be on Christ. Another church, famous for its music ministry, hid the musicians in an orchestra pit so (according to the pastor) “The musicians wouldn’t struggle with pride and the people wouldn’t focus on the musicians.” Of course judging whether someone is worshiping supernaturally is not easy. But worship leaders should gauge their ministry by asking if they are feeling close, within inches, of their Heavenly Father.

3) Participate Supernaturally:

A final aspect to supernatural worship is to observe if congregants are participating in a supernatural experience. I’ve noticed that gifted worship leaders will not only worship themselves, but also notice what’s happening in the audience. They know if the audience is connecting with God and if they are not. The gifted worship leader will make corrections midway through worship.To revitalize a church is not about changing worship to something more attractive or trendy … but it’s about living out in a church what the word worship means: a fresh encounter with a living, loving Heavenly Father.

For an overview of the “7 systems” of a healthy church (www.7System.church) based upon an analysis of 35,000 church combined with 25+ years of consulting research and practice, see www.7systems.church

Speaking hashtags: #CaribbeanGraduateSchoolofTheology
#Olathe

SYSTEM 2 of 7SYSTEMS.church: RECONCILING & How to reach a growing culture.

7.2 systems yellow

This is second in a series of articles by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D. (5/24/16) introducing the 7SYSTEMS.CHURCH and which first appeared in Church Revitalizer Magazine.

The “7 systems” of a healthy church (www.7Systems.church) is upon an analysis of 32,000 church combined with 25+ years of consulting research and practice.  An introduction to the “7 Systems” of a healthy church (www.7Systems.church) can be found here: www.7Systems.church

To revitalize a church, we must first understand what we are revitalizing it into.

This article is the second in the series investigating the “7 Systems” of a healthy church (www.7systems.church) that describes what a revitalized and healthy church looks like. These seven characteristics are drawn from the exhaustive research in Hartford Seminary’s: “American Congregations Study” (available free at http://www.FaithCommunitiesToday.org). While the survey is long, I have broken it down into seven categories of a healthy, revitalized church. 

In the series’ first article we looked at “visibility.” Healthy churches are visible either through location or by making an impact in the community.  In that Church Revitalizer magazine article you will find ideas to increase physical visibility, social media visibility and member visibility.

The Second Characteristic is a product of a church’s reconciling system: “Reaching Out to a New Culture.”  

This article will look at how to reach out to a new, but growing culture. That’s right, most revitalized churches have looked around them and seen what cultures are emerging in the community and they have reached out to them one at a time. 

There are many different types of cultures. Most churches already have some experience reaching out to different age cultures. For example, many aging church have looked around and seen younger people moving into the area and reached out to them.  

But most churches are less experienced with reaching out to different ethnic cultures. For instance, congregations today are increasingly looking around and noticing that people who speak a different language are moving into the community. Most church do not (yet) have ideas about how to reach out to a ethnic culture.  But read on, for this article will show you seven steps to reaching a new and different culture.  

How to “Reach a Growing Culture.”

In the above scenarios, a church realizes that the culture that comprises the existing church is not the growing culture in the community. And the church realizes in order to be healthy, it’s existing leaders must help the church transform into a church that represents the growing culture in the community.

This is done in seven field-tested steps first suggested by Harvard Business School professor John P. Kotter.

1. Communicate the urgency. The congregation must realize that it has to reach a growing culture or die with its existing culture. This must include studying the behaviors, ideas and traditions of the new culture.  While some aspects of a culture can run counter to the Good News, other aspects may not.  Leaders have to do what Eddie Gibbs calls “sift a culture.” He uses a colander metaphor to describe how mature leaders must sift out the impurities that run counter to the Good News, while retaining the good.

2. Create a guiding coalition. This means partnering with leaders from the emerging culture. One of the best ways to do this is to look for what the Bible calls “persons of peace” from the emerging culture (Luke 10:6).  The biblical word for peace comes from the Greek “to join” and indicates a person who unites people from divergent cultures.  So, look for people who are “peacemakers” with a demonstrated ability to bring different people together. They are usually recognized as a leader or at least an informal influencer in their culture. Begin by looking for them, then invite them to bring along several of their colleagues to help you understand and plan ministry to this culture. 

3. Create a vision.  This coalition creates a vision to help people visualize what the church will look in five years.  This can be a descriptive paragraph depicting what a revitalized and intercultural church might look like.

4. Communicate the vision. You can’t just make a vision statement, you need to regularly in sermons and then Bible studies, stress what the church will look like in the future. Painting the picture over and over again is critical. Research also shows that you are almost three times more likely to change if you attach a story (such as a biblical story) to the change.

5.  Empower others to act on the vision. This means beginning to give people from the other culture permission to lead.  It also means experimenting with and supporting new ideas from that culture. Because the vision has already been cast and promoted, people are more willing to experiment and try new ideas. 

6. Celebrate small wins. After you experiment (in step 5) you will then want to celebrate small wins. Perhaps opening up your facility for use by another culture or if you can afford it hiring a person of peace from that culture to be a minister to that culture. Churches customarily do this by hiring a youth minister to reach out to younger generations or a Hispanic Spanish-speaking minister to reach out to the Hispanic community. When fruit results, no matter how small, you must celebrate it. This gives people an opportunity to see progress.

7. Create bigger and better wins. Don’t be satisfied with small wins, but use them as a stepping stone to more progress. Here is a key most churches overlook,  because once they have some success they stop.  Church revitalization will stall unless you keep a church moving forward. So, keep pushing ahead for bigger and bigger wins … but have tact and don’t go too fast. Too often churches are satisfied with small changes, but long-term health requires a continued expansion of bigger and better changes.

8. Institutionalize the change in your structure. Here you begin to change the organizational structure of the church, by voting people of the new culture into leadership and decision-making committees. The church now begins to become intercultural in all of its committees, teams and structures. Leaders often baulk at this last element, but to bring about intercultural understanding and partnership for the cause of Christ requires partnering with new, emerging cultures (c.f. Acts, 17:26-28, 1 Corinthians 9:20, Galatians 3:28, Ephesians 4:2-5, Colossians 3:11, Revelation 7:9-10.)

For an overview of the “7 systems” of a healthy church (www.7Systems.church) based upon an analysis of 35,000 church combined with 25+ years of consulting research and practice, see www.7Systems.church

Speaking hashtags: #CaribbeanGraduateSchoolofTheology

 

7Systems.church & An introduction to the 7 church health systems and their ability to measure and increase church health.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min. Ph.D., Church Revitalizer Magazine, Dec. 1, 2018.

In a quest to understand the systems and benchmarks of a healthy church,  …

  1. Over the past 30 years …
  2. I’ve written 13 books,
  3. earned two doctorates from Fuller Theological Seminary,
  4. Coached hundreds of churches,
  5. Co-founded a seminary,
  6. Studied theology & church history (Fuller Theological Seminary) to add a solid Biblical understanding to my practical experience.

As a result I’ve discovered seven systems that must be healthy for the church to grow.

7 systems yellow

1. Visibility (communication system)

The communication system should increase the visibility of the good deeds and good actions of those who bring Good News (Acts 13:32). 

Visibility was historically created by a church’s physical building. A spire would stand out against the sky in London or a small town in Ohio. Building in conspicuous locations such as main thoroughfares and city crossroads became a reminder of a church and its message.  Today visibility is much more electronically mediated. Websites, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media channels allow churches to be visible even when their physical location is hidden. 

The benchmark is an increasing visibility among the non-churchgoing community of the spiritual growth of the faith community and the redemptiveness of their message.

2. Embracing a growing culture (reconciling system).  

A study of 32,000 churches (The American Congregations Survey) found that growing churches reach out to growing cultures. A growing culture might be an influx of younger families to which an aging church might adjust its traditions. A growing culture could be an African American community that together with a dwindling Anglo church works to overcome historical differences in order to experience racial reconciliation and health.

But, there is another important aspect to reconciliation. Paul stated, “Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know… Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it!” (2 Corinthians 5:16-17 MSG). Paul continues, “Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation” 2 Corinthians 5:18-19.

Healthy churches to do stop at cultural reconciliation (any more than Paul did when reconciling differences between the Greek/Roman and Christian/Jewish cultures). Like Paul, a healthy reconciling system says, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20). 

How well does your church reconcile people to one another and to God?

3. Supernatural worship (numinous system)

“Numinous” is a theologian’s term for coming close to God. “Worship” in Hebrew carries the idea of reverence, such as bowing to kiss the king’s feet, that results from a close encounter  (Brown, Driver and Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament). When people use the word “worship” they are describing an environment where they feel face-to-foot with God.

Striving to create a perfect experience, usually only creates an attraction to an event. But seeking to foster a supernatural encounter creates an attraction to God.

4.  People & places are changed (regeneration system).

Regeneration most notably happens at conversion (2 Corinthians 5:17). And though spiritual transformation may sometimes be downplayed as it is unfashionable, people still want to be changed (the self-help industry is a testimony to this). Furthermore, the Bible makes clear that spiritual transformation lies at the center of Jesus’ message (John 3:16) and humankind’s destiny (Romans 6:23).

When people are spiritually transformed so too will be their neighborhoods. Not by politics nor coercion, this happens by transformed people daily living out their changed lives (Acts 2:43-47). Healthy churches embrace a system that equally emphasizes spiritual and neighborhood transformation.

5.  Involved volunteers (leadership system)

This results from 3 STRand leadership (Ecclesiastes 4:12) i.e. a balance between three types of leaders.

Strategic leaders are visionaries who see future goals, but don’t see as clearly the steps to get there. A biblical example is the apostle John, who sketches the grand scenario of Jesus’ ministry, but leaves out many of the contributing details.

Tactical leaders enjoy watching how analysis and numbers lead up to a goal (Gr. taktike, meaning: to set in order). Found in professions like medicine, accounting, etc. a biblical example would be the physician Luke (Colossians 4:14) who fills in many of the details that lead up to the actions that John describes. Tactical leaders take ideas generated by visionaries and enjoy putting together steps to accomplish them. 

The relational leader leads through deep personal relationships with others. Functioning well in a small group/team environment, they watch out for one another’s spiritual progress. 

Leaders are a mixture of all three, but most have a propensity for one over the others. The strategic leader sees the long-term direction of the church, the tactical leader sees the steps necessary to get there and the relational leader gauges how people are feeling about the direction. A healthy leadership system ensures that major decisions involve input from all three types.

6. Lack of serious conflict (unity system)

The healthy church anticipates disunity and utilizes two tools to it from escalating into serious conflict.

a) They slow down the introduction of new ideas, building broader consensus before they implement new ideas. 

b) When disunity arises, they get the two sides talking together and finding common ground.

This ability to build consensus for new ideas before implementation and to discuss differences of opinion before they fester, are two benchmarks behind an effective unity system.

7. Signature ministry (competency system)

A healthy church knows what it does well, and focuses on it. Such a core competency is noticeable in the community where it is viewed as a signature ministry, e.g. children’s ministry, music ministry, missionary churches, a food shelf, grief recovery ministry, divorce recovery ministry, etc. The church is not trying to do many things poorly, but a few things well i.e.:

a) A signature ministry is not something that meets the needs of the congregation or congregants, but rather meets non-churchgoers’ needs (and they are glad the church does so).

b) It is an underlying, church-wide competency that the church does well in many different ministries throughout the organization, hence it is called a “core” competency.  

c) The church is so competent in this area that people outside the church may recognize this in various signature ministries. People are attracted to your church because these are things you are good at and they resonate with that. It also means that new ministries in the church (and the longevity of older ministries) will be evaluated based upon how well they dovetail with this greater church-wide competency.

Discover more at http://www.7systems.church.

  1. Visibility (communication system)
  2. Embracing a growing culture (reconciling system)
  3. Supernatural worship (numinous system)
  4. People & places are changed (regeneration system)
  5. Involved volunteers (leadership system)
  6. Lack of serious conflict (unity system)
  7. Signature Ministry (competency system)

©BobWhitesel 2018

SIGNATURE MINISTRY & A case-study showing why a signature ministry is one of the 7Systems.church of a healthy church.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 8/15/17.

I have categorized “7Marks of healthy churches” from the exhaustive research of the American Congregations 2015 Survey (available at http://www.faithcommunitiestoday.org/sites/default/files/American-Congregations-2015.pdf)

The 7Systems.church are:

  1. Visibility (communication system)
  2. Embracing a growing culture (reconciling system)
  3. Supernatural worship (numinous system)
  4. People & places are changed (regeneration system)
  5. Involved volunteers (leadership system)
  6. Lack of serious conflict (unity system)
  7. Signature Ministry (competency system)

Here is a case-study story that illustrates #4: Signature Ministry.


A Minneapolis congregation finds new life through the ancient practice of keeping Sabbath

by Jeff Stickler, Faith & Leadership, 4/4/18.

Lake Nokomis Presbyterian was dying, and everybody knew it — even if they weren’t quite ready to accept it. When Root realized the congregation wasn’t willing to let go — at least not yet — she knew it was the right place and the right time to suggest something radical.

“The people who had stayed were hardy adventurers,” she said. “They were ready to try new things. And I figured that if we went broke in 18 months instead of 24, what difference would it make?”

What would the circumstances have to be in order for your church or organization to make radical changes?

Strictly speaking, Root’s idea wasn’t new. In fact, it was thousands of years old. In a time when congregations are searching for new and different ways of being church, Root proposed that Lake Nokomis reclaim the ancient practice of Sabbath keeping and place it at the core of their identity as a congregation.

That might mean a day with no shopping trip to the mall. No pulling out a smartphone to check on work emails. No paying bills or balancing the checkbook.

And on some Sundays, under Root’s proposal, it would mean not even going to church.

“People weren’t coming every Sunday, anyway,” Root said…

Lake Nokomis Presbyterian is not on the cusp of becoming a megachurch, by any means, but the attendance trend has been reversed. Since the Sabbath practice was launched, the congregation has gained 18 new members and another dozen or so people who attend regularly. About 90 people are now members of the church; 40 to 70 attend Sunday worship services, and 12 to 25 the Saturday evening services.

Young families have joined the church, and the children’s program is back. “It’s great seeing kids running around the church again,” Root said.

Read more at … https://www.faithandleadership.com/minneapolis-congregation-finds-new-life-through-ancient-practice-keeping-sabbath?utm_source=NI_newsletter&utm_medium=content&utm_campaign=NI_feature


For a detail explanation of each of the 7Systems.church and how churches can replicate them, see my series of 7 articles for Church Revitalizer Magazine beginning with the first article at this link: https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/2016/04/18/turnaround-churches/

7 Marks Healthy Church SLIDE.jpg

 

7Systems.church

STRENGTHS & Research Confirms 7Systems.church of church health & growth

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 8/15/17.

The following is my systems (7Systems.church) analysis of the “American Congregations 2015 Study” based upon  initial work by Arron Earls (LifeWay, Facts & Trends). The American Congregations 2015 Study” is available at ChurchHealth.wiki and http://www.faithcommunitiestoday.org/sites/default/files/American-Congregations-2015.pdf

For a detail explanation of each mark and how churches can replicate them, see my series of 7 articles for Church Revitalizer Magazine beginning with the first article at this link: https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/2016/04/18/turnaround-churches/

7 Marks Healthy Church SLIDE.jpg

#TransformationalLeadershipConference #StMarksTX #StLixTX #7Systems.church

SYSTEM 1 of 7Systems.church: COMMUNICATION & How It Results in Visibility (The 1st in the “7Systems.church of a Growing Church” Series)

7.1 systems yellow

This is first (1st) in a series of articles by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D. (5/17/17) introducing the 7SYSTEMS.CHURCH and which first appeared in Church Revitalizer Magazine.

The “7 systems” of a healthy church (www.7System.church) is based upon an analysis of 35,000 church combined with 25+ years of consulting research and practice.  An introduction to the “7 Systems” of a healthy church (www.7System.church) can be found here: www.7systems.church

You can read the original article in The Church Revitalizer magazine here. Or scroll down further for the entire updated article.

Download the article here … ARTICLE Church Revitalizer Magazine – Turning Around An Invisible Church 16.4

ARTICLE ©Whitesel Ch. Revitalizer April May 2016 Church Visibility (part 1) copy.jpg

COMMUNICATION SYSTEM & How It Results in Visibility (The 1st in the “7Systems.church of a Growing Church” Series)

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 4/1/16 (words 1,100)

Before we begin to turnaround or grow into a healthy church, we need to know what we are turning or growing it toward.

The best source for what a healthy and growing church looks like is Hartford Seminary’s exhaustive and reliable: “American Congregations Study” (available free at http://www.FaithCommunitiesToday.org). I will explain how to address each of what I call “The 7Systems.church of a Growing Church” in this series.

The First is Visibility – The Result of a healthy COMMUNICATION SYSTEM.

We must first understand how to overcome the average church’s invisibility. Plateaued churches don’t change very much and as a result they often get ignored and overlooked by non-churchgoers. I found that even newly planted churches start becoming invisible to the community after about 18 months. Visibility can be remedied by being in a visible location in a growing community. But, what if you aren’t in a growing community? What if you aren’t in a visible location?

I have helped hundreds of churches become visible again, even when they were not in a growing community. To make a church visible again in any community involves three areas: physical visibility, social media visibility, member visibility.

Physical Visibility

Physical visibility means the community sees the physical assets and structures of the church. We have long known that churches in visible locations grow faster and larger than churches in less visible locales. When people over and over again notice a church structure, signage, steeple, etc. it can remind them of their spiritual need. And, when a spiritual need pulls them towards a church, they are most likely to attend the one they’ve noticed. This can be challenging in a turnaround scenario. However, I have helped many, many churches increase their physical visibility and here are some options to consider.

Merging with a more visible church. By joining together with a church in a more visible location you can address the invisibility threat. Read Jim Tomberlin and Warren Bird’s book “Better Together” to see how to make mergers work. Moving to a different location and selling your current facility. My experience has been that this often results in the church having a less usable facility. There may be fewer Sunday School rooms, less sanctuary space and even less parking. But if the trade-off is that the church has a greater visibility in the community, then the church can begin to grow toward health.

Building a new facility. Though challenging in revitalization situations, new facilities are cheaper to build than their traditional and Medieval-looking forerunners. When turnaround churches have money to build they usually consider erecting a gymnasium or a fellowship hall to reach out. But, it may be better to build a smaller multipurpose facility in a more visible location.

Social Media Visibility.

In 25+ years consulting churches, I have found that in all churches there are positive things going on that only people going to the church know about. Thus, you want to create social media opportunities for congregants to share with their friends, acquaintances and non-churchgoers some of the exciting things going on.

In the past, churches advertised largely in the Yellow Pages and newspapers. Though Yellow Pages have disappeared (and newspapers may not be far behind) in their place have risen other media channels through which you should be advertising.

Website: It doesn’t need to be professional, but it does need to be informative and geared toward non-churchgoers. WordPress and others offer free templates through which an inexperienced creator can make an informative website. Previously the church secretary was in charge of the weekly bulletins and perhaps a regular newsletter. In the turnaround church, that person learns new skills to communicate via a web presence.

Facebook page: Another requisite media presence, your members can share about the positive things going on in the church. Twitter, etc: Telling about positive things going on in a church via a Twitter account with “hash tags” (#) identifying your church, allows people to easily find postings about the life of a congregation. A church Instagram account can give opportunities for members to share pictures about the positive things happening at congregational life. Other media avenues are sure to arise and mature Christian leaders should pray about and discuss the usefulness of each.

Email: Because there’s so much spam filling email boxes today, it’s best to steer away from emailing people in the community. Emailing congregants to keep them aware of what is going on is fine, but a general blast to the community doesn’t work.

Get the Church a Personalized Web Address, _____(church

name)_____.church: A little-known fact is that you can purchase the extension “.church” and add your church name for an easy to remember web address. The extension “.church” can be purchased through any online Domain Service (but once they’re gone, it’s forever gone so check today).

Member Visibility: Encourage congregants to be proud of what God has accomplished through their church and let people know they are a member. When your congregants are cited in community events, awards, etc. be sure to ask them to include that they are a member of the church. Explain that this is a way to let their light shine, because the community of Christ is a part of their spiritual formation and community impact. Shirts with the church’s name on them, bumper stickers, vinyl

decals, etc. have always been a way to increase congregant visibility. However, it’s always important to remind congregants they should at all times be Christlike, forgiving and humble (and never more so than when displaying something that boldly mentions Christ’s family).

Let the community see the church in worship, praise and service. A YouTube channel of church events can help non-churchgoers see the community of Christ in action. And, a video of worship and ministry should be a primary feature on your website, giving a 30-second glimpse of the excitement of being part of Christ’s community.

Invite the community to participate in praise/worship and food in a neutral location. This can be in a park or in a neutral auditorium. When we take our worship and praise to neutral locations, we give non-churchgoers an opportunity to see the life and anointing of Christ’s body in a familiar environment. While being careful not to invade their space, we also foster communication when a meal is open to all. Jesus’ example of table fellowship broke down walls between his detractors and his disciples, and serves as a model for increasing church visibility today.

Yes, there are ways to help make a church visible again. And, these suggestions are just the tip-of-the-iceberg. For more on the “7Systems.church of a Growing Church” and how to make churches visible again, attend my once-a-year consultant training at the Nov. 1, Renovate ‘16 Pre-conference in Orlando.

In the next article in this series, I will delve into ideas that foster the second mark of a growing church as revealed in Hartford Seminary’s “American Congregations 2015” survey.

Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., is a award-winning writer and sought-after consultant on church growth. Founding professor of Wesley Seminary at IWU, he has held his “Annual 1-Day Church Consultant Training” as a Pre-Conference to Renovate in Orlando.

Speaking hashtags: #CaribbeanGraduateSchoolofTheology  #Renovate16  #StLiz  #Renovate16 #7Systems.church