Four Steps to Create Effective Church Systems

chaos or information overload concept


Back in 2006, I attended the Drive Conference with Andy Stanley. In my notebook, I wrote down something he said in a session about volunteer systems:

Your system is perfectly designed to produce the results you’re getting. So, if you want better results, you have to improve the system.

That got me thinking about how, as a church planter, youth pastor, and pastor, I experienced first hand the chaos that comes from a lack of systems altogether or, from a lack of systems that worked. But, I can also attest to the power of effective church systems. I’ve seen ministry effectiveness go through the roof when we took the time to create a good system for something.

Think for a moment about how this plays out in your own church. As your church grows, so will complexity, and the need for better systems. If you’re a church planter, what may have worked when you were first launching your church, doesn’t work now. And, that’s okay. Growing pains are normal. But this is where many churches get into trouble.  

Many churches stop growing, not because of bad sermons, but because of bad systems. At this point, it’s easy to rely on short-term tactics to grow and bust through the issues. Here’s what I mean:

  • Giving is a little behind, so the preacher talks about money
  • You need more volunteers in the children’s ministry, so you pull out the Acts 6 sermon or the VBS video.
  • Attendance is flat. Time to strap the worship leader into a crane overnight to see if the local news will pick up the story.

Any of those sound familiar? We spend a lot our time pulling the trigger on tactics, but what is really needed is a strategy. We spend a lot of time doing stuff, but what we really need to create is a system. But, before you can create a system that works, you have to know what a healthy system looks like.

Effective church systems have structure, behaviors, and connection. The human body is a great example of several systems that work together. Here are what health systems do, and four steps for creating them in your own church: 

  1. Healthy systems solve root problems.
  2. Healthy systems will save you money.
  3. Healthy systems allow your volunteers to not hate church.
  4. Healthy systems work when you are not. 

Now that you know the purpose of a healthy system, here’s how to create one.

 Step 1: Start with the end in mind.

 Before you can create specific steps, you have to know the outcome—you have to know what the “win” looks like.

Step 2: Get some people together.

Systems created alone, are followed alone. A better practice is to involve the people who will be impacted by the process, in the creation of the process.  

Step 3: Write stuff down.

 When you write everything down, everyone is clear on the expectations.

Step 4: Find a template.

 Someone before you has, more than likely, already created a solution or template for the problem you’re facing. You don’t need to start from scratch.