For much of my ministry life, I focused the majority of my efforts on “getting stuff done.” I kept a daily to-do list and worked it like a borrowed mule. I took no little pride in my ability to accomplish a lot, day after day.
If I had it to do over again, though, I would shift my focus from accomplishing tasks to installing systems wherever and whenever possible.
A system is a mechanism that accomplishes tasks. A task is something you do—a system is something that does.
You already use simple systems. You probably have an alarm that automatically sounds at the same time every morning (or most mornings). That’s a simple system. You set it once, and then don’t have to bother with it thereafter (except to change it on vacation). The timer or solar “eye” that turns on your security lights or landscaping lights is another automated system.
Good systems get things done, often, and preferably, without your continued involvement. They automate and streamline decision-making and implementation. They prevent overload and burnout. They allow leaders to focus on big-picture things instead of too many “to-dos.”
What are some systems to install in your ministry?
It differs drastically from one situation to another, of course. But here are a few examples:
Many churches have used a “phone tree” to notify people of a prayer need, change in schedule, etc. Nowadays, a system like this is often accomplished online (e.g., www.caringmeals.com).
Clear plans and posted procedures for various situations (e.g., who gets called first when the church basement floods? Second? etc.).
A pastoral care system. Many pastors, churches, and church members assume that all pastoral care (such as when someone is homebound, bereaved, or in the hospital) has to be done by the pastor. Sometimes, that is best. But in other cases, a system can be installed whereby a team of people make calls, coordinate meals, send flowers, etc. Especially as a church grows larger it becomes more important to involve more people in this important ministry.
Sermon and worship planning. I’ve already posted on this blog about the advantages of annual plans (see here). Such planning enables the development of multiple systems that is impossible if Sunday’s plans are developed a few days in advance. The same applies to the rest of the church calendar.
Schedules. Rather than grabbing ushers a few seconds before the offering is to be taken, how about posting monthly schedules of greeters, ushers, prayer counselors, etc.?
Automated giving. Technology now allows people to automate their giving to the church, simplifying the budgetary and reporting process.
These are just a few examples, of course. Here’s another: Does the church secretary or receptionist know if/when to call pastors on their day off or sermon-writing day? Shoot, just having a “Do Not Disturb” sign (or, maybe, “I’m Praying, Go Away, Sucka!” sign) is an example of a simple and workable system.
Bob Hostetler is a literary agent, an award-winning writer, editor, pastor, and speaker from southwestern Ohio. His thirty books, which include The Bone Box and American Idols (The Worship of the American Dream), have sold millions of copies. He has co-authored eleven books with Josh McDowell, including the best-selling Right from Wrong (What You Need to Know to Help Youth Make Right Choices), and the award-winning Don't Check Your Brains at the Door. He has won two Gold Medallion Awards, four Ohio Associated Press awards, and an Amy Foundation Award, among others. Bob is a frequent speaker at churches, conferences, and retreats. Bob was ordained to the ministry in 1980 by the Salvation Army and earned degrees in English Bible from Cincinnati Christian University and English Communications from Bloomfield College. In 2000, Bob (with his wife, Robin) helped to co-found Cobblestone Community Church in Oxford, Ohio. They have two children and four grandchildren. He has been a disc jockey, pastor, magazine editor, freelance book editor, and (with Robin) a foster parent to ten boys (though not all at once). They live in Hamilton, Ohio. You can follow Bob at @bobhoss.