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8 Characteristics of Healthy Church Systems

In previous articles in this series on helping churches get unstuck, I’ve shared the importance of establishing healthy systems. Many churches have a gap between the vision and execution. Without healthy systems, they won’t be able to accomplish God’s vision for their ministry.

I explained in the last article that within the context of a church, a healthy system is a simple, replicable process to help people move from where they are to where God wants them to be.

Because your organization is unique, there’s no way I can tell you specifically what systems you need to accomplish the vision God has for your church. I can, however, share some common characteristics of healthy systems that may point you in the right direction. With that in mind, here are: 8 Characteristics of Healthy Systems for Churches.

1. They empower leaders to accomplish ministry without always having to get permission. 

Without systems, every decision must go back to the senior pastor, the senior management team, the committee, etc. In his book Making Ideas Happen, Scott Belsky said it this way, “The more people who lie awake in bed thinking about your idea, the better. But people only obsess about ideas when they feel a sense of ownership.” Good systems will give leaders the freedom to make decisions within established boundaries.

2. They are embraced and championed by the top leadership. 

It does absolutely no good for systems to be established that top leadership doesn’t support and encourage everyone to use. If the top leaders can’t endorse the system, you’re not ready to implement the system.

3. They mobilize many people rather than leaning on a select handful of talented individuals. 

If your system is “contact Joe for more information,” you don’t have a system. If your system is “go hear Joe teach on the topic,” you don’t have a system. You have a gifted individual. Good systems point people to next steps (processes, tools, resources, etc.) rather than specific people.

4. They simplify the path. 

The objective is to create just enough of a framework to make it easier for people. Good systems are intuitive. Typically the fewer the steps, the better the systems. If you want to improve a system, challenge your team to figure out how to reduce the steps required. And, whatever you do, make sure your “customer” doesn’t have to guess where to go next. 

5. They are established around key touch points in your organization. 

Think about your overall ministry. Do you want people to connect in ministry? Find a group? Communicate an event? Become a member? Join your staff? Those are all key touch points where people typically take a next step. Those are the places where you need strong systems.

6. They improve over time. 

If you feel like you have to wait until the system is perfect, you will stay stuck. You need to roll out the beta version. Test-drive it. See what works and tweak the rest based on the feedback you receive.

7. They need to change over time. 

This is the challenge that many mainline churches are facing. They’re still trying to use systems that worked years ago but are no longer effective today. It’s a dangerous place when we start protecting the systems to the detriment of accomplishing the overall mission.

8. They are measured and monitored for trends. 

You’ll need to capture both numbers and stories. The objective, though, is to look at outcomes (life change) rather than inputs (church activities).

Good people using bad systems will never produce good results. Normal people using good systems can produce great results.