By Daniel Im
When I was a kid, I wanted to be a doctor. I remember that my family had the Encyclopedia Britannica set, and I would read through it all the time. One of my favorite things to look at within the encyclopedia was the section of transparent pages about human anatomy that diagrammed the different systems of the human body. Each page had a different system, and if you laid each on top of the other, you could get an idea of all the systems within the body and how they work with each other and around each other.
While my dream of being a Harvard trained neurosurgeon never materialized, I think back to these pages in the encyclopedia sometimes because of its relation to pastoring a church. Just like these systems within the body, the church also has systems that work together for one common goal. We can see the Apostle Paul make the same comparison in 1 Corinthians 12:12-31.
There should be two core systems within your church: a discipleship pathway and a leadership pipeline. The former is the intentional route in church to develop Kingdom disciples, while the latter is a process and structure in place to develop leaders toward that end and equip them to live as disciples. Together they are the framework for your church’s strategies. The discipleship pathway is about transforming hearts, and the leadership pipeline is about training transforming agents. One is the fuel, one is the engine; but both are necessary for movement.
Without the right systems in place at your church, you will be like a hamster on a spinning wheel. Busyness will be happening, but there is no real movement or kingdom impact for the gospel. Don’t get bogged down in the minutiae of every week and the grind of programming and operations. Everything your church does should be equipping believers towards ministry or maturation in Christ. If you examine a ministry and it is not explicitly achieving one of those goals, why are you doing it?
In churches, we either always say yes or always say no. We do not a have clear framework in which to make strategic decisions. Think about it: have you ever started a ministry without shutting another one down? The majority of churches would probably answer no. Inevitably there are so many things going on that you don’t know how to shut something down. It gets to a point where resources are spread thin, messaging is confusing, and everyone needs announcement time and space for their ministry.
Having a discipleship pathway and a leadership pipeline as your core strategy systems prevents these issues, because every ministry you take on and every decision you make will be based on the goal of maturing or equipping believers. Strategy is not about doing anything and everything. Strategy is about saying no to the good, the extra, and the peripheral so that you can say yes to the great, focused, and opportune.
Adapted from Pipeline 2017: Succession at Every Level. To learn more about establishing a discipleship pathway and leadership pipeline in your church, check out our free Ministry Grid courses Introduction to Leadership Pipeline and Leadership Pipeline Competency Overview.