Implementing the New Testament Plan for Growth

The "nuts and bolts" of how to implement the Biblical plan for church organization and growth.
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Example Flow Chart Blank Flow Chart

Here are some key ideas that we've discussed already:

  1. When it comes to church growth, the goal is unlimited growth. Unlimited growth means that the church is ready and able to receive as many as the Lord will add; three, three hundred, three thousand or thirty thousand, and multiply congregations indefinitely.
  2. Organization precedes growth in any enterprise. A New Testament organizational pattern will permit (not automatically produce) growth because God is the One who adds.
    1. There are many strategies for church organization but only one pattern. Having a New Testament pattern will prepare a church for the unlimited growth that God has promised.
  3. The New Testament pattern for organization requires us to identify, implement and integrate the ministries of the church described in the New Testament.

In the book of Acts chapter 2, Luke briefly describes the five ministries of the church: evangelism, education, fellowship, worship and service. Every activity of the church can be placed into one of these five areas of ministry. Unless a church is fully aware of the existence and nature of these ministries it cannot aspire to unlimited growth. If, for example, a congregation is not aware that fellowship is as important as evangelism or education, service and worship, then the plan to grow cannot be implemented successfully. Leaders in the church need to be aware of this teaching so they can train the church to function effectively using this biblical approach to ministry and growth.

Building a congregation is like building a house, each part needs to be installed in its proper order. Building a church, therefore, begins with evangelism and then framed with teaching, fellowship, worship and service. These are added to complete the structure and prepare it to repeat the cycle. This is how the kingdom grows. First you have to identify the ministries, then you have to implement them and, finally, work at integrating them into a unified system which reproduces itself.

The questions at church meetings should be, "How do these ministries work together? How do the elders, ministers, deacons, staff and saints serve in a cohesive system that exercises these ministries effectively and biblically?" The ministry management system that I will explain in this chapter demonstrates how to integrate these five ministries in such a manner as to provide effective leadership and ministry in an organized system that will facilitate and promote unlimited growth.

Implementing the Plan

Without a plan to manage ministry, it becomes difficult to analyze strengths and weaknesses, and assign tasks. Churches without a ministry system usually find that their growth levels off at a certain point. They begin doing what is familiar, safe and easy. They attempt only what they know instead of learning what they need to know. This situation is not caused by bad faith or intentions; it is usually the result of not knowing the biblical mechanics of church growth.

Step 1 – Identify

The first place to start is to identify the five areas of biblical ministry and how your congregation is active in each. The congregation needs to know what these five areas are, what their goals should be and how they need to function. The ministers, elders, deacons and support staff need to know this and be in agreement. Once this is done they need to teach the rest of the congregation how the ministries of the church will be identified and carried out.

There are both sample and blank flow charts in Appendix A at the end of this book to help you identify and list the activities in your congregation and what ministry they should be assigned to (e.g. gospel meetings under Evangelism; prepping communion elements under Worship; men's retreat under Fellowship; maintenance of the building under Service). This is an important first step in the effort to establish and integrate the five biblical areas of ministry. You have to identify and list the things you are actually doing and where they fit in the overall system.

Take the Education Ministry, for example. If there is a question or problem with a class, teacher or topic, do we have to convene an elders' meeting to deal with this? In the system that I propose, the shepherds have already assigned an elder responsible for that area of ministry along with ministers, teachers and deacons who will serve with him. When something comes up, this group can deal with the question or problem among themselves. For those issues that may affect the entire congregation, the "Education" elder can add this to the agenda for discussion at a meeting where all the elders are present. In this way the education area is primarily serviced by a team that includes not only experienced teachers but also a representative of the elders so that most decisions and problems can be dealt with at that level and not create a bottleneck of pending matters and decisions that over-burden the eldership as a whole.

Another feature of this ministry system, shown in the ministry flow chart, is that each ministry has the name of the person responsible for that area as well as the amount of money budgeted for items in that ministry and a corresponding budget identification number (e.g. Education Ministry - Ed. 200). When the budget is determined, the various items purchased or leased for education purposes are identified with a budget number (e.g. Ed. 200-01-Preschool class workbooks - $250). Budgeted purchases, therefore, don't require an elders' meeting to make a decision.

Each ministry has a budget (prepared and proposed in advance by those working in the various ministry areas and approved by the elders). For example, if preschool workbooks are needed, a purchase order with the proper budget number is prepped and if it is within the budget guidelines it goes to the bookkeeper for purchase, no need to have every single purchase become an item on the elders' agenda (part of the bookkeeper's duties is to be a kind of "financial traffic-cop" making sure that there is enough cash on hand to provide for the various expenses and purchases made by the different ministry areas). For special purchases or large expenses, there is an elder working in each area of ministry to facilitate and expedite decision making. He can choose to confer with the bookkeeper or bring the matter to the meeting of all the elders. Either way, there is a method in place to get things done in a reasonable amount of time. The purpose of a ministry system is to facilitate the delivery of ministry to the congregation. The system is supposed to enable elders, ministers, deacons and saints to minister effectively in the five areas of ministry and manage the growth that comes as a result of this.

Therefore, when creating the ministry flowchart there needs to be a name assigned to each ministry indicating who is accountable for that particular area. The flow chart will clearly show who is doing what in every area and how many people are actually involved in ministry in your congregation. The flow chart needs to be updated regularly as new activities or projects are formed in each area and different people are added or removed in the management of these.

Step 2 – Educate

The next step in the process is training the congregation to use and refer to this system so that everyone is speaking the same "language" when it comes to ministry. Ultimately the role of ministers in a growing church will be to train assigned people to ministry and manage the system itself so that the body can grow.

The first step is to create the ministry flowchart so you can see, at a glance, the ministries and people responsible for these. This will help you better manage the five areas of ministry and provide a way to transform ideas and suggestions into actual productive services benefitting the church and those served by her.

In the work of the church I've noticed that people often have great ideas but never follow through because they don't know the mechanics of how to take an idea in the abstract and turn it into a workable reality. This is one of the valuable uses of the ministry flowchart. It provides a way for an idea to be analyzed and worked out in the "system" by putting it down on paper in order to see where it fits in relation to the whole, if it is redundant, who will be responsible for it, what it will cost and what its primary goal is supposed to be.

Once you have identified the different activities within each of your five general areas of ministry, and have designated those responsible for each activity as well as those who will oversee each of the five areas, the next step is to start the process. In other words, once you have your ministry system down on paper you need to encourage and empower those responsible to come up with plans and projects for their own particular activity and area of ministry. Use the Idea Worksheet to break up into five groups (each representing one of the ministry types) and come up with three new ideas for each area. Once you've got the three ideas, get together at a general meeting and vote for/select only the best idea for each area. Once this has been decided, add that activity/idea to each area of the flow chart and implement them in the church.

With your flowchart, you know what your ministries are and you also know the goal of each of these ministries. Now you have a new idea for each area of ministry. Put those into play and observe what happens. If these begin to gather some momentum and produce positive results then consider implementing some of the other ideas that were suggested.

Not all ideas and projects are successful or successful right away. However, using the method described above, a church has a method with which ideas can be analyzed, launched and managed. Those that prove successful can be retained and those that don't work or are too expensive, etc. can be removed, reconstructed or replaced. The ministry system helps us do this in an organized way using the people available. Elders retire, deacons come and go, preachers move on to other works but the way the church operates its ministries remains the same regardless of the turnover in leadership and volunteers. This reduces the stress and wasted time that a constantly changing volunteer and leadership group produces.

Step 3 – Manage

Church leaders need to understand that for growth to take place, they not only need to have a way to manage ministry (Ministry System) but they also need to encourage and empower the people who are willing to serve and not afraid to propose new ideas or ways of doing things (the elders' main task is to make sure that these ideas and methods do not violate or compromise our obedience to God's word). Elders need to encourage the congregation to come up with ideas and then empower those willing to serve so they can put these ideas into play. To help this process, you have to have two types of meetings.

Ministry Meetings

An elder and/or deacon along with activity coordinators (these are members who have volunteered to be responsible for one activity in a certain area of ministry (e.g. the person responsible for organizing the church picnic - which is one of the activities in the Fellowship Ministry) meet to plan and organize activities in their area of ministry. In the example just cited this would include the elder/deacon and coordinators who serve in the Fellowship Ministry meet to discuss not only the church picnic but other activities and plans for the area of ministry under fellowship. Their meeting agenda includes a discussion and report on how various activities are progressing, need for additional volunteers, review of the budget for each activity and the area as a whole, report on any problems or complaints, and some brainstorming for improvement on existing programs or ideas for new ones. Most of the decision making for this area of ministry is made at this meeting.

Elders' Meetings

One of the problems that many elders describe is the "bottleneck" for decision making that often takes place at their meetings because their agenda is overloaded with issues that require their decision. This occurs because there is no built-in decision making process in the church's ministry system and all decisions, from the color of the new carpet in the fellowship hall to the hiring of a youth minister have to go through the elders. This bottleneck is tiring for the elders themselves and discouraging for those members who are willing to serve but have to wait so long to get their projects, purchases or programs green-lighted.

The five ministry system approach that I have described eases this bottleneck situation by placing the majority of the day-to-day decision making in the hands of the leaders of each ministry area. Since each ministry area has an elder and deacon working with volunteers, and each group already has access to an approved budget for their area, most decisions can be handled at this level.

I do have a suggestion, however, for a more effective and productive way to conduct elders' meetings. This meeting should be divided into two parts:

Part 1. Ministry - During this part of the meeting the elders should be discussing ministry matters. Things like the color of the carpet, should we buy a new church van, what will be the theme for VBS, how is the new Sunday afternoon ministry to bring communion to the shut-ins going. Since each elder is responsible for one or more of the five ministry areas (I realize that not every congregation has a minimum of five elders, so in smaller churches the elders may have to double up) the discussion can be expedited because the working out of details, final costs, problems, etc. have largely been taken care of at the ministry level meeting with the deacon(s) and volunteers. This part of the elders' meeting is more a reporting and feedback on each ministry so that if a decision by all elders is needed, the actual information and recommendations have already been worked out and prepared at the ministry meeting beforehand.

Part 2. Shepherding - This part of the meeting is about the sheep! There is no discussion about the budget, repairs, vacation time for the staff, only discussion and prayer for the members. When all decisions run through the elders' meetings, most of the time is spent discussing things and money with precious little energy invested in how the shepherds are taking care of the flock which is one of their two primary responsibilities (the other being guarding the church against false teaching and teachers - Acts 20:25-30).

When this method is used, a great burden is lifted from the elders freeing them to do the work which they originally aspired to do (care for the sheep), and the deacons, ministers and saints are empowered to take ownership of the ministry of the church. When the leadership works in cooperation with each other using the New Testament system for ministry, unlimited growth becomes possible to God's glory and the joy of His church.

What is it going to take to make it work?

1. Commitment

The entire church needs to be committed to making it work. The ministry system needs to become our way of doing things because this is taught in the New Testament, not because l learned about it from a book or seminar. If the leaders demonstrate that they are willing to learn and change in order to better follow the New Testament's guidance on this matter, the church will follow.

People who cause trouble are usually in the minority. Most people in the church love and respect their elders and they want them to grow in their ability to lead. If the congregation sees that the elders are united in going forward using this approach to church organization and ministry, they will want to follow.

2. Continuity

All of the plans, ministries and communications need to key off of this ministry model. For example, the budget needs to be broken down along the five areas of ministry so that when it comes to the discussion of money, we do it in terms of the money allotted to each of the five ministry areas. It's like a language that we in this congregation speak in order to communicate clearly and effectively concerning church and ministry matters. Of course, the ideas and language of ministry we are using come from the Bible, we are simply adapting these to our situation and needs today.

3. Christ

The most important person it needs, of course, is our Lord Himself. Let's remember that the power comes from Christ and the glory goes to Him as well. This system is only a tool He has provided us to work with. Hopefully, it will enable everyone to glorify Him by promoting the unlimited growth of His church.

Discussion Questions

  1. Answer the following questions as a review:
    1. What is the goal of church growth?
    2. What does unlimited growth mean?
    3. Defend the following statement: "Organization proceeds growth."
    4. List the five areas of ministry within a congregation.
  2. Why is a plan important to manage ministry?
  3. Summarize the steps for an effective plan for church growth.
  4. Explain the three elements that make a church organization and growth plan work.
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