Eight Essential Church Systems
By Certified Church Consultant, Dan Abbatiello
One of the biblical metaphors the Apostle Paul used to describe the church is the human body. He told the Romans, “For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.” To the Corinthians he wrote, “Now, you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it” (Romans 12:4-5; 1 Corinthians 12:27). By using this metaphor Paul supports a wholistic and systems approach to church health.
Our physical body is made up of 11 major organ systems that must work together for health and wholeness. If one of our 11 systems fail or is not working well the whole body is affected. Every local church is also made up of systems. A system is a collection of interacting, interdependent and interrelated elements that function together to form a unified whole. It can be, like our physical body, a set of organs with a structure and function or like a church, a set of principles and processes that flow together to produce spiritual wholeness.
Church health writers vary on the number of church systems and how they are labeled. I have read material listing as few as four to as many as 22 different church systems. But, taking a comparative look at much of the material available, regardless of the number of systems or labels attached to them, you will find a general consensus on what is necessary to be a healthy church. I’ve landed on eight essential church systems that must be working well if a church is to be healthy. I will articulate each system in the form of a question a church health coach or consultant might ask.
- Describe your system for spiritual growth in Christlike character and maturity.
- Describe your leadership development “farm system.”
- Describe your spiritual gifts discovery and deployment system.
- Describe your evangelism and outreach system to your community and the world.
- Describe your small group system.
- Describe your system to develop biblically authentic and loving relationships.
- Describe your worship development system.
- Describe your system of management and administration.
It is important to note that these eight systems may include several sub-systems depending on what is included under the main idea. However, these eight systems represent universal and timeless principles. Therefore, none of the systems are optional; all eight systems must be present and working well for the church to reach optimal health and wholeness. However, these eight systems must also be contextualized. The systems in a church of 50 in attendance will look very different than a church of 150, 500 or a mega-church. Leadership style, demographics and culture may also create different looks but nonetheless all eight systems must be working well for health.
It is the responsibility of church leadership to do all in their power to see that the systems are in place, working well and adapted to their context. They must also be flexible enough to adapt to contextual changes. For example, as the church grows your small group system will need to grow with it. More groups and more leaders mean the system must adjust to accommodate the growth. That idea applies to all eight systems. It is also true that since the systems are interdependent, a change in one will most likely necessitate a change in at least one or more of the others.
I realize all this may sound very clinical. However, it is actually quite spiritual and biblical. These eight systems are visible throughout the book of Acts. As the church grows systems change to accommodate the needs. In Acts 6 the disciples were increasing in number so deacons were appointed, therefore more disciples and more leaders. In Acts 13 missionaries were appointed. In Acts 15 systems were created to include the increasing number of gentile believers.
The mission of the church to make disciples will only be accomplished by developing the healthy systems needed to accommodate what God desires to do. God will only give us what He can trust us with. Therefore, we must be good stewards of the systems He has provided to help us move to where He desires for us to go.