A Church Optimized for the Mission

March 20th, 2018
This article is featured in the The Vile Practices of Ministry (Feb/Mar/Apr 2018) issue of Circuit Rider

Too often structure (budget, building, calendar, how decisions are made) drives our church rather than the mission. While structure is a good and necessary thing, we sometimes over-focus on structure. In fact, structure sometimes becomes an unhealthy driving force. When we over-focus on structure, we often lose sight and focus on our very purpose – the mission of disciples discipling disciples. Instead, many churches concentrate on the “ways we have always done it” or not making the hard decisions to maintain internal relations with one another rather than being about the work of our mission.

Our polity was created to promote, encourage and sustain the ministry of the church. Polity was not created for the church to be all about the administration and finances of the church. When a church has too much focus on the structure, the church takes their eye off the vision, relationships and ministries of the church and the community.  

Strategic ministry planning keeps a church focused on its purpose. The five parts of strategic ministry planning are mission, vision, core values, goals and strategies.  

Mission: Purpose for which the church exists to make new disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. All decisions made by the church need to be aligned with this purpose.

Vision: The unique way in which each church lives out the mission aligned with God’s preferred future of the church.

Core Values: The culture or DNA of the church. Values make up the boundaries for how the ministry is carried out in the local church.

Goals: The three to five big-picture priorities the church will focus on within a calendar year to enable the church to live into God’s preferred vision for the church.

Strategies/Objectives: The ministries the church will engage in to accomplish the goals to enable the church to live into the mission and vision.

The finances and budget are meant to support the ministries of the church. The ministries are to support the mission of making disciples. In far too many churches, the budget drives the church. A far healthier model is that the vision drives the church. If your church council is more about conversations regarding the building, money, maintenance or day-to-day operations, then likely no one is steering the boat. Rather, everyone is working hard swabbing the decks. Because we have everyone involved in day-to-day management, it leaves no one to captain our missional ship. The church is left at the whim of the waves and weather. The deck hands grow weary and tired as more and more waves slap over the sides and onto the deck. Had our captain been steering us towards our mission and vision, we would have been far more likely to be able to steer around the turbulent winds and waves toward the preferred destination.

When a church lives on mission, there is so much possibility. Living on mission allows the Holy Spirit to move more freely and bless the ministries to reach more people for Christ. The church is renewed with a new life cycle where relationships with new people in the community become a priority and internal relationships take a back seat. Ministries are created for the new people. Worship is competent, compelling, and contextually-relevant to the neighbors. Hospitality and connection with guests is practiced with grace and love.

Finance and administration must support the “why” of the church. Finances and administration simply cannot be “why” the church exists. If your church is struggling with aligning its finances and administration to the why, check out Gear Up!: Nine Essential Processes for the Optimized Church for the practical tools and processes needed to optimize your church for missional alignment and effectiveness.

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