In this digital-forward, social distancing context, the church has no choice but to adjust how it pursues its ministry and mission. The church must reimagine how it organizes itself to be effective if it does not want to become irrelevant in a world that needs what it offers more than ever before.
Planning is important. But once the mission is crystal clear, the focus must be on organizing in such a way it can effectively achieve its mission. It does not help to have a document memorializing plans the organization is not appropriately structured to accomplish.
When thinking through organizational development, churches must consider five internal elements. These elements are leadership, operations, staff, environment, and technology.
Leadership evaluation should include how the organization is modeling values, managing relationships, and mastering change. If a church is not focused on these elements of leadership, almost nothing else it pursues will be as successful as it could be. It has been said many times by many people that everything rises and falls on leadership. The organization will have no more capacity than its leadership. Inattention to or a lack of focus on modeling values, managing relationships, and mastering change will cripple the ability of the church to achieve its mission.
Operations evaluation is concerned with programs (ministries) and revenue, organizational structures, and policies and procedures. For some reason, too many church members and leaders believe having “God on your side” is enough for the church to reach its potential and achieve its mission. Perhaps a lack of clarity about what the church’s mission is makes this an easy default belief. But when a church knows what it is really in “business” to do, these issues become very important.
Too many churches pay too little attention to the staff. Whether paid or volunteer, the knowledge, skills, and abilities of those doing the work of the ministry will help propel the church forward or hold the church back. The church is a people business. The church becomes merely an activity rather than a movement when the people leading and pursuing the church’s mission lack the requisite knowledge, skills, and abilities.
Environmental evaluation is a realistic look at the attitudes, perceptions, and relationships pervasive in the church. If the environment is toxic, the church is ineffective. Working to achieve healthy attitudes, perceptions, and relationships is vital if the church is to become the most effective in pursuing its mission.
Technology evaluation is an inspection of the hardware systems, software systems, and the online plan of action. As I have said many times, churches will likely shrink and die if there is not an emphasis on technology in a digital-forward ministry context. Duplicating what happens in the church building online will not be effective if the goal is to expand its capacity to reach new people to make disciples of Jesus Christ. Anecdotal evidence shows the strategy of moving the analog service to the online presentation without appropriate adjustments is chasing people away from the church rather than keeping or expanding its audience.
The church has a God-given mandate. We call it The Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). We owe it to God to organize or reorganize the church to give it the best chance to do the most good in pursuing The Great Commission. Leaning into organizational development is a primary step in the right direction.