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3 Vital Needs for a Thriving Church

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Years ago, I read an article by Raymond P. Rood’s entitled “How Then Should Organizations Live”. Rood made the point that every organization has three basic needs. This philosophy resonated with me and, based on my experience, I can see how it relates to a thriving church, business, or a non-profit.

3 Vital Needs for a Thriving Church

1. Growth

Rood says “growth needs focus on productivity and expansion.” The growth of any organization is vibrant and fast-paced and requires lots of energy and attention. It’s a world of numbers and percentages of increases.

Without growth, the organization will eventually die, but if an organization only grows and never matures, that growth will not sustain itself for long.

2. Maintenance

According to Rood, “maintenance needs focus on order and the reduction of problems.” The more an organization grows the more it needs a structure in place to manage the growth; that’s maintenance. Systems. Some people love the maintenance world.

Maintenance is extremely necessary for the organization to remain healthy. Still, if all an organization does is maintenance it will become dull, boring, legalistic, and uninspiring. Some organizations, and even churches, die because they live in the maintenance world. They become one large bureaucracy of rules and regulations, designed with good intentions, to sustain the organization’s growth.

That leads to the third basic need of every organization.

3. Development

Rood writes that “development needs focus on organizational quality.” The development needs of an organization are designed to take it to the “next level” of success. This is where an organization really matures, develops lasting principles and values, and prepares itself for years of growth and success. Without developing an organization it will eventually wither and die.

A common mistake is to confuse development with growth. Growth is always growth. It is focused primarily on things getting bigger. We need that focus. Development is focused on things getting better, which may or may not lead to growth. It may be completely internal. As a development person, I always hope this leads to growth, but quality is my main objective.

An example here would be developing or improving the internal systems of employee reviews to empower more than control.  it could be improving the bylaws to match current and future practices. It’s more difficult to tie these directly to growth sometimes, but they can always be tied to development.

A Thriving Church Must do all 3 Well

Using this information, I have expanded my thinking around these areas.

Considering these organizational needs I’ve discovered:

  • Everyone in the organization tends to prefer one of these three, even though all of us need all three to be successful in our role.
  • For a position to be most successful, it should have a primary focus on one of these three, although, again, all of them are necessary, for every position.
  • If a person is mismatched in one of these they will more quickly burnout. A person with a preference for growth, for example, will burnout sooner when they are function in the maintenance function.
  • We have to discipline ourselves as leaders and team members to make sure all three of these are a part of our work and the organization.
  • I have heard some people say they love all of these – or really “confident” people say they are good at all of them. I question this. In my experience, they may enjoy elements of all of them, and may even be good at all of them to some degree, but there will be one preference in the bunch (and weaknesses they can’t see in one of them.) For years, I thought I would be good at maintenance need, because I like organizational efficiency. When I was put in that position exclusively, I bombed at it.
  • When shaping a team, we need to make sure people specializing in all three are represented, and allowed to lead in their area of strength.

Practical Applications for a Thriving Church

With these understandings, I have frequently walked our staff through each of these in a retreat setting. We expand our thoughts on these three needs as they relate to the life of our church and each individual area in which we serve. The discussion always leads to ways we can improve in each of these areas. As a pastor/leader, knowing the importance of each of these, I want to make sure we are excelling in all of them. That’s a healthy church.

I’m a development guy. My lesser strength is in the maintenance area, but I have seen what happens when we are weak in this area. I love the growth area, being a starter and entrepreneurial, but in an established organization, I always drift towards development, which usually involves starting something new in the same organization. If that’s all I had to do, I’d be happy.

To be an effective leader, however, I must discipline my time to focus on all three needs. I can specialize in one, but I must be committed to playing a part in each area.

Questions to Ask to Develop a Thriving Church:

  • Which of these are missing most in your organization or church?
  • Which of these do you prefer doing most? (If you say all, let me encourage you to reconsider your answer.)
  • Should you discipline yourself in the other areas so you can be a healthier organization?

 

This article on a thriving church originally appeared here, and is used by permission.

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Ron Edmondson is a pastor and church leader passionate about planting churches, helping established churches thrive, and assisting pastors and those in ministry think through leadership, strategy and life. Ron has over 20 years business experience, mostly as a self-employed business owner, and he's been helping churches grow vocationally for over 10 years.