Systems: One Lid to a Healthy Church

Systems are the inner workings of strategies, the wires that make them work individually and connect them together. Effective systems only happen with well thought out and very intentional design that is kept up-to-date. Yes, you have to keep thinking about your strategies and systems after the church is launched and throughout its life-cycles. This isn’t new, we see this in the early church in Acts as they begin to grow through the roof:

So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”Acts 6:2-4

Newsflash: You don’t have to DO everything! 

No doubt this isn’t news to you, but turning responsibility over to others means you have to define what you are handing over with the appropriate level of detail to achieve your specific goals. This is especially important when you consider most of the work is done by volunteers who only have a few hours a week to support their ministry area.

Here’s a example of a few strategies and potential systems:

Strategy Systems
 Prayer Team Church database group, email list
 Discipleship Small groups, curriculum, calendar
 Outreach Community needs assessment survey, list of community services contacts
 Facilities Ongoing requirements and updated list of volunteers by time and capabilities
 Congregational Care Matched list of needs to care givers, email list
 Assimilation Connection cards, identified next steps
 Ministry Teams Volunteer availability and assignments, training, transitioning

While there is nothing super insightful about that list above, what is amazing is the simple truth than many churches have not invested the time to create and maintain a table as simple as this! Identify systems that can easily fuel your strategies. Matching systems to strategies is key to achieving consistent excellence in any organization. Think like a volunteer when you select each system. In other words, don’t expect someone to spend 20 or 30 hours learning your system. It has to be current, specific and easy to use. Look for systems that can be used across strategies, especially modern church database management systems–these can really help you by organizing data and staying consistent.

Systems Organize and Extend Strategies

System provide details that support, organize and extend strategies for achieving the unique calling and vision for the local church. The systems that fuel each strategy are customized for your specific needs within your culture. It’s important to prioritize and organize based on your local context and needs–either where you are today or where you are strategically planning to move in the near future.  In other words, you can’t pull a chapter out of a book and simply say, “this is our system, do this!” Invest the time to customize each for your needs.

Please hear this, systems don’t have to be complicated! In many ways, we have a tendency to overthink systems and develop complicated logic that people have a hard time getting their minds around. That’s not to say you shouldn’t think through various contingencies, but you don’t have to design a children’s ministry for 500 when you average 50 children each week.


When systems are well aligned to the vision of the church, each ministry works together as Paul described in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27: One body with many parts. Open the case to your computer and cut just one wire. How do you think that will work out? Or better yet, think about your physical body and how the respiratory system fuels the cardiovascular system which provides blood to the entire body. Each does their part and when each is fully functioning, your body is able to achieve incredible feats by working together. You know this. My guess is you’ve probably preached sermon series on the topic. Now it’s time to listen to your own advice.

Produce Fruit

The purpose of all of this is to produce fruit, to grow the body of Christ by making disciples that make disciples, to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3:18). The reminder here is to help you focus on developing and maintaining systems throughout your ministry. Don’t etch your systems in granite! Learn to adapt over time, review them annually and be willing to change when necessary. One of the ways to accomplish this is to have fresh eyes look at individual systems. In other words, listen to your newest member and your most recent guests.

If you have effective, Christ-centered systems in place, your church will have the capacity to grow and the Holy Spirit will no doubt make that happen.



Post contributed by Dave Phillips, Project Manager at Passion for Planting, uses his experience on church staffs (Connections Pastor, Youth Pastor, Worship leader, etc.) mixed with his enthusiasm for developing web-based software applications such as Planter Plan, Becoming Five assessment tool, and PlanterJobs, to equip church planters and sending organizations with tools to support their needs. Dave is married to Zoë Hale and the father of four beautiful daughters: Miranda, Katrina, Alyssa and Cynthia. Dave and Zoë are both retired Air Force officers, though Zoë far out-ranks him!