SYSTEM 7 of 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 ( 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 ( can be found here:

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 ( based upon an analysis of 35,000 church combined with 25+ years of consulting research and practice, see

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SIGNATURE MINISTRY & A case-study showing why a signature ministry is one of the 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

The 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 …

For a detail explanation of each of the and how churches can replicate them, see my series of 7 articles for Church Revitalizer Magazine beginning with the first article at this link:

7 Marks Healthy Church SLIDE.jpg

STRENGTHS & Research Confirms of church health & growth

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

The following is my systems ( 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 and

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:

7 Marks Healthy Church SLIDE.jpg

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