Does your church's ministry suffer from this common condition? (2 of 3)

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In my house, there is a recognized process for buying something. I can summarize it in 2 words: ask dad. He'll check the finances and give a thumbs up or down. There is also an unrecognized process for the same thing, also in 2 words: ask mom. She has cash in her purse from her clients. Nuff said.

Church families are the same. There are recognized and unrecognized processes in every church.

For instance, there are recognized processes for joining a specific ministry team. 

EX: Fill out a card > staff follow up > Interview > place on team > orientation > schedule

There are recognized processes for joining a small group.

EX: Go on online Group Finder > email a group leader > ask questions > visit group

But there are unrecognized processes in churches too:

EX: Kim asks you to serve on her team

EX: Jake invites you to his small group

In my last post I shared the three kinds of vacuums that create breakdowns in these important processes at churches and a condition or better put, a "pseudo-structure" that takes residence to breakdown healthy processes of both kinds:

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The dreaded silo. When a church culture is experiencing vacuums from the absence of leadership, identification or just ignorance in any area of ministry, bypasses (collateral arteries) are created to bridge the gap and get things done. Almost all these take the form of alternate processes (both unrecognized and recognized) that over time raise silos--tall individual structures--that cannot be penetrated. The contents also cannot be shared by other silos or the body as a whole, a deadly and divisive condition if allowed to continue indefinitely. 

Let me illustrate by sharing 4 symptoms and 4 type of silos that could be present in your church:

Silo symptom #1: Redundancy

Redundancy is what you feel when you call an automated phone system to connect with a service provider and you have to give your personal information multiple times. I always wonder when that happens, "Don't these people or departments ever talk to each other? Why do I seem to have to start from scratch with each one?" That's a redundancy that likely betrays the existence of competing processes. Competing processes are processes that try to accomplish the same thing, but in a different way. This is very frustrating and repelling to the people your processes are meant to serve.

When you see that one ministry is performing the same task that another ministry is doing (just doing it again to "get it right", or because it refuses to share in the same system, or feels the need to run the process "more thoroughly"), you have a redundancy in your process that overtime will create a ministry independent from the rest of the body.  This will be felt by those being assimilating into your congregation.

Silo symptom #2: Control.

The processes that help guests assimilate should invite some customization for each ministry. For instance, a children's ministry may need to add background checks to your church's onboarding process, worship teams an audition, and so on. But when customization removes a ministry from church-wide volunteer standards or creates environments that contradict church-wide values or strategy, then you have a silo built on competing priorities.

Just like the biological processes of circulation, digestion, and respiration cannot compete with one another for the body to survive long term, make no mistake about it: your church body cannot survive that way either. "This is the way we've always done it", and "We have to do things our way or our ministry will collapse" are common phrases from inside this kind of silo. The fact that this competition exists doesn't mean the process is bad (it may have been a necessary bypass in light of one of the three vacuums). It does mean however that the energy needed to move the church forward in health and results is being diverted into competing priorities. When this happens, another symptom of silos can be present:

Silo symptom #3: Ego

Competing priorities can be caused by competing personalities. This source of hidden division is pre-cancerous at best to a church body. Those people involved in the silo of this ministry can be led by a person whose ego stands against the senior leadership's priorities. Team members are keenly aware of this personality issue and it's number one symptom: secrets. "Don't tell so and so" or "We do it this way because so and so hasn't figured out the importance of this or that", or "They don't get it", are common thought-streams sustained by these open secrets and guests can smell them right away.

But there is a fourth reason for silos and alternative processes that have a much less negative but powerful origin:

Silo symptom #4: Necessity

Necessity in the mother of invention and sometimes ego simply takes advantage of organizational fatigue. No one in senior leadership has the energy to devote to engineering and resourcing a church-wide process for the staff to use and customize. The result is a vacuum that creates competing patches which are necessary bypasses to onboard new volunteers and connect guests. The problem is that these patches can lack adherence to important qualifications, common core values, and healthy environments for building the body of Christ.

Sometimes the best that can be done is a bypass until the leadership vacuum that created this silo is addressed. But the necessary bypass should not be permanent: it is a patch. Work must be done to fill the vacuum that created the breakdown in the first place. It must be filled with a healthy process that benefits the entire body. 

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Whether caused by a vacuum of ignorance (not knowing what the church-wide process is), a vacuum of identification (the church hasn't defined a wholistic process for the guests and the staff), or a leadership vacuum (senior leadership has not owned the oversight and alignment of key church-wide processes), process breakdowns will erode the health and reduce results of any church until the vacuum is filled in the right way. Your physical body's health and capability would be seriously affected if just one of its processes/systems broke down. Same with Christ's body.

Though not easy, process breakdown is simple to fix. In my next post I will outline exactly what it takes to do just that.

In the mean time, ask yourself or your team the questions below to begin thinking like a Sherpa and start the ascent to a higher level with each other and your guests.

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  • Identify 3 recognized and 3 unrecognized processes in your church. Are they all healthy? Why, why not?

  • Do you see any of the 4 symptoms that point to the presence of silos in your ministry? (redundancy, control, ego, necessity)

  • Can you identify a process in your church that falls into any of these 4 categories? a. competing processes, b. competing priorities, c. competing personalities, d. competing patches. If so, what vacuum caused it?


Greg CurtisComment