The Phases of Church Leadership: Identification

As I continue this series of posts concerning five phases a church must go through in order to move toward and to remain in a place of strong health, let me remind you to please read each posting. The overall discussion of and the relationships between the phases will make much more sense! Remember to think in terms of the Olympic rings as one phase intersects with another.

Today I want to introduce and discuss the second phase. I call it Identification. It must be preceded by a strong assessment phase (phase 1) or it will be lacking and shallow. Therefore, only after the church has worked through an honest assessment and evaluation process such as I described in my last post, will leaders be ready to develop a current profile based on their findings. Identification is the final report or the conclusions discovered based on the thorough assessment that took place.

Some may call this phase simply part of or the final aspect of the assessment process and I am not going to argue too strongly with them. But I personally believe and have experienced in over 34 years of ministry that it is important to separate Identification out and call attention to it specifically as a next step due to its high significance. It is helpful to think of assessment as the actual research and data gathering and to think of the next phase of identification as the analysis and compilation of the assessment results.

Unfortunately, I have known far too many churches who conduct assessment but then it never leads to anything. There are no findings discussed, no further steps planned. What a waste! A healthy Identification phase leads the church to not only remember where it has been and recognize where it is now, but to use this knowledge as a basis for phase three action which will be the Vision Development.

Identification done well compiles a current profile for the church. It creates an understanding of and answers to qualitative questions of both being and purpose as well as the pathway to developing goals and objectives. Questions are answered such as: Who are we as a church? Where are we as a church? Who do we need to be? What do we need to know? What do we need to do? These answers provide a platform, a foundation, upon which action can be planned and implemented. To understand who you are as a church, where you fit into God’s plan for this time in this place for these people is crucial knowledge for church leaders and members.

It is helpful to put this profile in writing so it can be easily communicated, discussed and become a useful tool for the next phase. Helping the entire leadership team and congregation to be aware and fully understand this honest summary of reality can be vital. Once everyone knows who and where the church really is, they can begin to build and move forward in a united way that transcends simple opinion. The church can move beyond the questions of the past and often the polarization that they can sometimes bring. When everyone is on the same page from the beginning, planning and vision development can proceed in oneness. Healthy Assessment and Identification phases set the stage for biblical Vision Development. Watch for that next time!rpg online mobile gamemobile game online

The Phases of Church Leadership: Assessment

In my last post I mentioned I was going to flesh out five phases a church must go through in order to move toward and to remain in a place of strong health. Please read this entire series as I walk through the phases of: Assessment, Identification, Vision Development, Adjustment, and Implementation.

Church leaders must assess what it is they are seeking to grow, to revitalize or to keep healthy and how far away from that ideal they currently reside. They must have a clear understanding of the goal, the standard, and the desired outcome or they will never know how to reach it, whether they reach it or how to stay within its reach.

On a universal level leaders must have a firm grasp on sound, biblical ecclesiology. They must constantly ask and answer simple yet profound questions such as: What is a church? Who is a church? Why is a church? Leaders must assess biblical content and define the standards these answers create. They then must compare the local church in which they serve to these standards.

We must understand what the Lord desires of His church. He is and always has been the owner and master architect. All too often we confuse ownership with stewardship and we claim rights and property that are not truly ours to claim. He never gave up ownership and Lordship to us. This confusion can lead to major conflict and distraction in the church away from the biblical standards that are set by Him.

On a local, contextual level church leaders must also assess the church community of which they are a part as well as the physical community in which that local body lives and ministers. This process includes assessing the past, present and potential future of the church and surrounding area. Conducting personal interviews, surveys, statistical research, demographic studies, evaluation of current personnel and ministry structures, financial reviews, observations of the physical facilities and neighborhoods, and more can all be part of this process.

Looking back for ten years or more and graphing statistical information such as attendance, baptisms, giving, membership and more and then putting them into visual perspective can be an eye opener for the congregation and can give great indications concerning health issues a church might be facing. They can provide moments of celebration as well as moments of honest revelation.

Assessing the community around the church can provide helpful information about the people who the church should be reaching and to whom ministry should be conducted. Often specific needs for ministry can be identified through this study such as ministry to single parents or to low income families. If the area around the facility is loaded with young adults or young families, the planning of programs and projects can be guided with some intelligent wisdom and direction.

I would also suggest every leader meet with those who head the various ministries of the church regularly and assess and discuss what aspect of biblical function the specific ministry is fulfilling. For example a church can assess recent activity by studying a passage like Acts 2:42-47 and recognizing that the first church was engaged in worship, fellowship, evangelism, discipleship, ministry, and prayer. Then go back over the church calendar for the past year and categorize and assess the programs and projects by primary biblical function being fulfilled. It is often amazing to recognize those areas of biblical responsibility that are being underserved.

Where are we? Where should we be? Assessment is a necessary phase and ongoing project for a church to stay healthy. How consistent, how honest, are you being in your assessment? This first phase will lead us to the next. Watch for the next post to read all about it.

The Five Phases of Church Leadership

In a previous post I introduced what I refer to as “The Discipline of ‘Why?’” This is an important leadership principle that guides us to remain focused upon the mission of God and a biblical vision to fulfill it. We must be disciplined to ask “why?” before “who?”, before “what?”, and before “how?” in order to stay on track with the vision to fulfill His mission for His church. I encourage you to go back and read about this important discipline.

Over the next several weeks I want to flesh out the five phases a church must go through in order to not only implement this discipline, but also to either move toward or to remain in a healthier state. These phases have come from my own twenty plus years in full time local church ministry, as well as nearly twenty years of church consulting. I have had the privilege of consulting hundreds of churches face-to-face as well as several denominations around the world. The need for these phases has been consistent in both the healthiest and most unhealthy situations I have personally seen and experienced. I am now teaching them as aspects of the Church Revitalization course here at the seminary.

I do not want you to misinterpret these five phases as formulaic, however. This is not “A+B guarantees C.” Instead, these phases are simply processes that churches seeking to be biblically strong will walk through and constantly repeat in an evaluative loop. In addition, at times they will not be completely linear. Leadership might need to weave in and out of the various phases at various times to address specific issues. There is, however, a logical beginning order that I will use to introduce these concepts. Think of the Olympic rings as an image of how these five phases interact with one another.

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One last significant aspect of these five phases is that they are also incredibly beneficial for the individual believer. Just as they provide a strategy for moving forward and for evaluating an entire corporate body, they can do the same for the church member. As a leadership team embraces these concepts, they will find how they can be implemented on both levels.

Please read through this entire series of posts to come. I seriously pray this will be helpful as I walk you through the five phases of: Assessment, Identification, Vision Development, Adjustment, and Implementation.