Pastors aren’t always great with the business side of church.
Preaching, casting vision, helping people…those are usually right in their wheelhouse.
But strategy, operations, planning, technology, and finances often feel like they get in the way of real ministry.
“If I didn’t have to do this business stuff, I could do more real people ministry,” pastors think.
Such is the case with systems.
The word “system” itself can create division, with one camp thinking systems and processes are nowhere in the Bible and have little place in the church.
But set up correctly, systems truly enable ministry.
Digging trenches and installing pipes might feel like construction, but if you’re trying to get clean water to people who need it, it’s ministry. Ultimately, good systems in your church could mean that you’re more effective in your mission to make disciples.
Here are seven systems every church needs, along with a few ideas and next steps for each one.
#1 – Every church needs a follow-up system.
In The 7 Practices of Effective Ministry, Andy Stanley advises churches to “think steps, not programs.”
Follow-up is one of the most important parts of ministry, and these follow-up steps happen throughout every ministry and program. As we seek to move people from Point A to Point B, programs and ministries can certainly be involved, but the process itself matters a great deal.
What happens when someone signs up to volunteer? You shouldn’t wonder what to do at that moment; you should have a system.
What happens when a guest visits for the first time? Don’t hope they meet the right person and end up connecting; put your documented follow-up system into place.
Whether you’re following up with first-time guests, new givers, volunteer sign-ups, or event registrations, here are five questions you should ask before designing the actual system. We call this The Follow-Up Framework.
- What does success look like?
- What do you want people to know?
- What do you want people to do?
- What do you want people to feel?
- What do you want people to believe?
Answer these five questions before you write your emails or set up your automated texting campaign.
We dive deeper into this framework and give recommended campaigns for all sorts of actions in The Follow-Up Course. Learn more here.
#2 – Every church needs a volunteer system.
Churches of all shapes and sizes consistently need volunteers to help do the work of the ministry. The more your church is growing, the more pronounced the need.
I’ve never worked with a church that had too many volunteers.
You can’t rely on great sermons every now and then to fill the volunteer pipeline. And throwing more vision at a group of semi-engaged people isn’t going to be enough.
Since you always need volunteers, you need a great volunteer system.
This volunteer system should have three parts.
- What’s your plan to recruit volunteers, either a lot at a time or all throughout the year? In The Volunteer Course, we’ll show you the two main approaches and tell you why you shouldn’t try to mix them.
- You MUST have a system to train new and existing volunteers so they can actually be effective. The typical meetings may not work…we’ll show you some better ways.
- This is the missing element in most churches. Your volunteers should be the happiest people in your church, not teetering on the verge of burnout. Your system should help you actually pastor and shepherd the people doing the work in the church.
We’ll unpack all of this, plus give you lots of resources and actionable ideas, in The Volunteer Course. You can get it here and it’s included for all Church Fuel members.
#3 – Every church needs a preaching system.
For those who preach every week, you likely have a rhythm to your preparation. Honestly, creating a sermon is a deeply personal experience.
But the more you can streamline your process, the more you can improve as a preacher. And the more you can involve (and even develop) others.
I think about building a sermon in much the same way I think about building a house. Except you don’t have months and months—you have to build a new house every week.
- First, there’s the foundation. Just like a foundation is the most important part of a home, the spiritual health of a pastor is the most important part of a sermon. Without this, things eventually fall apart.
- Next, you frame the house. Asking key questions about the text, topic, and audience will give you a good structure on which to build.
- After framing comes finishing. This is where you write the actual message.
- Finally, you furnish and move in. Finally, you practice and evaluate in advance, making sure everything is personalized to you and your congregation.
The Preaching Course, created in conjunction with Ministry Pass, is included in your Church Fuel membership. If you preach on a regular basis or want to develop other speakers in your church, get the course and go through it.
#4 – Every church needs a giving system.
How do you raise money?
How do you manage money?
How do you talk about money the right way?
All important questions for church leaders.
This is not a topic to avoid, because money usually means ministry.
Your giving system is so much more than creating a budget and managing expenses. Your giving system should actually result in an increase in regular giving.
Once a year, finance teams and ministry leaders embark on a process of updating the budget for the new year.
Every church is different, but it’s not unusual for two or three months of reports, requisitions, comparisons, and planning to be debated, crunched, and ultimately presented to the congregation.
A lot of work goes into making a budget, the document that shows how all this money is planned to be spent.
Then throughout the year, there are checks and balances to ensure accountability and wise financial decisions.
But do you know what’s an afterthought in many churches?
Where the money is going to come from.
That’s why we include practical training on the funding plan side in addition to lots of help creating the spending plan part of your budget.
You’ll find this training in The Giving Course, which you can get here. It’s also included for all Church Fuel members.
#5 – Every church needs a connection system.
How do you move people from the community to the congregation to the core? How do you keep people from leaving out the back door? How do you help people engage?
These are all important questions and answering them is crucial to your connection system.
It starts by defining what connected means in your context. Every church is different, but I can tell you how we defined it at the church I helped lead.
We started by answering the question: What do we really want people to do? Then we whittled the answers down to three key actions that went beyond attendance.
- We wanted people to give.
- We wanted people to join a group.
- We wanted people to serve.
Those are all measurable, which means we could quickly identify who was NOT doing them. But if people were doing 2 out of 3, we considered them connected.
Today, we call these the “three key actions” and we have lots of resources to help you lead your church to engage in this way.
How do you define connected or engaged in your church? And do you have a system to lead attenders there? Are you measuring this?
#6 – Every church needs a leadership system.
They asked Ed Catmull, president of Pixar, whether ideas or people were more important.
Here’s his answer.
“Getting the team right is the necessary precursor to getting the ideas right. Ideas come before people. Therefore people are more important than ideas. Find, develop, and support good people, and they, in turn, will find, develop, and own good ideas.”
He went on to say that if you give a great idea to a team of mediocre people, they will screw it up. But if you give a mediocre idea to a team of great people, you’ll have a hit.
In churches today, leadership is the biggest barrier to growth.
Not denomination, facility, or service times.
This means that developing leaders is one of your best opportunities for growth.
It’s not going to take a lot of money, but it is going to require a lot of focus. To do this effectively, you need two things.
- Your leadership development cadence answers the question: “When do we do what?” Most development conversations, team building retreats, and training sessions don’t happen because this stuff never makes it to the calendar. It’s something you want to do but not something that actually makes it to your actual calendar. By defining a cadence, you’re setting yourself up for success.
- Even if the meetings and conversations are scheduled, you need the content to make it happen. You need the skill-based lesson to teach in the meeting. You need to evaluation form and the growth plan template to have that one-on-one. You need the agenda and toolkit to run the annual strategic meeting.
You’ll find both the cadence and content waiting for you in LeaderPulse. This premium product is a complete leadership development system, easy to customize for your church. It’s not just the recipe, it’s the Hello Fresh style meal prep kit, so you can get going right out of the box.
#7 – Every Church Needs a Communications System
So much of church ministry is communication and messaging. You have to get the right message to the right people.
This means identifying your audiences, creating content, choosing channels and tools, and building a team.
All Systems Fit Together
As you read through this, you probably know a couple of these systems in your church need work. Maybe they don’t exist. Maybe they need a refresh.
You also know they all work together and can help enable ministry.
With the right people, the right programs, and the right processes, you can have a healthy and growing church.
Take the Next Step
Churches tend to focus on people problems, but behind the scenes, broken systems are what’s holding you back.
The Systems Course gives you the training and resources you need to create healthy systems in key areas of your church. This course focuses on key systems like follow-up, assimilation, and stewardship and includes insanely practical video training and actionable resources to help you implement effective systems and processes that help people follow Jesus.