Building a Culture of Multiplication

Here’s how we’ve built an organizational structure in our church that sustains health, growth and multiplication.

Making an impact doesn’t have to take a toll. As I write these words I’m in the middle of one of the “three-day study breaks” I’ve put on the calendar for this year. And let me tell you … it feels weird. I’m sitting in a coffee shop on the Oregon Coast, reflecting on the unusual season in which I find myself. It’s less frantic, more fulfilling and a little unnerving. I feel like I should be furiously looking after tasks and diving into the weeds of our growing multisite church. But, as I’ve discovered recently, I’m no longer needed in the weeds.

Ego check. They can do this without me—which is at once the scariest and best news I could possibly receive as a leader. Just a few years ago I was buried under what seemed like an impossible load and the pressure of figuring out how we were going to move forward. It’s odd that as our church has grown the pressure has actually decreased at the top.

THE DIFFERENCE: We finally built a multiplication engine. That might not be a real “churchy” term, but let me explain what I mean. Our team has grown and we’ve incorporated new leadership at all different levels of our church ministry. We regularly see new leaders stepping up and even seeking out new roles and challenges. Our leaders are apprenticing others so we can raise up and send out new teams for new ventures. And—more and more—I’m optimistic about the health, pace and sustainability of our top leaders (including myself).

Here are three steps we’ve taken that I believe can help move your ministry toward health and multiplication:

1. Clarify the Why.

Socrates taught that “the unexamined life is not worth living” and taught his students to “know thyself.” As churches we don’t always know exactly what we are or why we exist. One of the first steps to multiplication is to clarify the why. Why does your church exist? Why do you want to serve God through your church? Why should other people be interested? What’s the driving reason behind it all? How will your city be better off if you succeed? Mapping out your vision in a laser focused way will help in several ways:

• It will help people know what they’re committing to (and therefore result in stronger commitments).

• It will help some people say “no” (and that’s important).

• It will define priorities and allow you to focus energy on what will drive real progress.

• It will provide a compelling cause for new volunteer and leader recruitment.

START SMALL: Read Patrick Lencioni’s book The Advantage with a few of your key leaders and use the tools inside to help you achieve organizational clarity.

GO BIG: Consider bringing in The Unstuck Group to help you reframe the foundation of your ministry. That was one key move we made a few years ago, and it has paid enormous dividends.

2. Make Room.

This point reveals one major reason why many of us resist ministry multiplication: We have to share. We have to share control; we have to share decisions; we have to share space; we have to share money; we have to share credit. Let’s face it, sharing isn’t easy—especially if you’re accustomed to control. Making room for new people to join our teams, our leadership structures and our lives requires a huge amount of adjustment. In fact, the only way to sustain this adjustment is to change the scoreboard so that you score points when you multiply (Wouldn’t Jesus like that?).

One of the best ways a lead pastor can live out this idea of “making room” is to share the stage and share the leadership of meetings. What I love about those opportunities is the chance to observe, evaluate and mentor along the way.

START SMALL: Make a list of “multiplication wins” (things your team members can do to move toward multiplication) and start recognizing and rewarding those achievements—especially when they make room for a new leader.

GO BIG: Change the scoreboard—literally. Make “leader multiplication” one of your key metrics and a basic requirement of your staff and key team members. Model it, track it, publish it, expect it, hold people accountable to it, celebrate it and make it a non-negotiable.

3. Get Systematic.

If you really want to change the culture of your church you’ll have to get systematic about it. Getting more people involved requires getting more organized. The problem is, not all leaders have an “execution orientation.” The idea of implementing and managing ongoing systems for a team is enough to make some leaders want to walk away. But it’s also the thing that keeps some churches from experiencing next level ministry. The key here—as with all progress—is a good team (Shout out to my team at Westside Community Church. You guys are the best!). Because I lean toward entrepreneurial leadership, I’ve needed to rely on those around me who are strong in the areas of implementation and execution. I can’t say it enough—my team has made all the difference.

Here are a few pieces to consider:

• Shared Quarterly Priorities. On our team we’ve enjoyed focusing in on addressing a problem or pursuing an opportunity through fun quarterly themes and corresponding priorities. These priorities are shared across our teams so we can see how we’re making progress as a church.

• Regular Meeting Rhythms. Having a predictable time and place to connect will help new leaders find their way faster.

• Clear Communication Channels. New leaders need to know where they can find information and feedback. For some this may be a central digital tool for communication and task management. We’ve found it helpful to go this route with our emphasis on volunteer leadership and part-time employees.

START SMALL: Identify your team’s daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual meetings. Determine who should be there and what the agenda should be. Share this with your team and start working that plan.

GO BIG: Read Verne Harnish’s landmark book Scaling Up. This book unpacks some of the best tools I’ve seen, and we’ve been on a multiyear journey of learning and adapting these tools. WARNING: This book will challenge you. I recommend working through it slowly with your top leaders.

I hope your church will start making strides toward multiplication. We just sent out two more of our best leaders into a new church planting venture. To be honest it’s bittersweet every time. But I believe this is a critical skill for accomplishing the mission of Jesus in our lifetimes, and it’s worthy of our best time and energy. In the end it makes our churches stronger and our ministries more sustainable.

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This article originally appeared on GabeKolstad.com.