CUUC

CUUC

2017-09-22

Centered on Process for Growth and Deepening

Process-Centered Church Leadership

Thom S. Rainer & Eric Geiger, Simple Church (2006, 2011), surveyed church leaders at hundred of churches. They compared "vibrant" churches (those that had grown by 5 percent or more per year over each of the previous three years) with "comparison" churches (those that didn't meet the "vibrant" criterion).

The results of their study support a process-centered approach. Their book is titled Simple Church, though that wasn't the original title.
"The original title of the book was 'Process Centered Ministry,' but many friends told us that it was a horrifically boring title and that only nerdy research people would read a book with that title while on vacation." (254)
For Rainer & Geiger, the process in question is the process for "making disciples." Their research supports the conclusion that vibrant churches are more likely to be churches where the central ministry is guiding and directing a process of making disciples. UUs don't often use the word "disciples," but we, too, are concerned with personal transformation -- with growing in our spiritual, emotional, and ethical awareness.

Rainer & Geiger found that vibrant churches were more likely than comparison churches to be process centered. And process-centered churches were more likely than non-process-centered churches to be vibrant.

Being "process centered" means:
  • having a clearly defined process for moving a person from salvation to spiritual maturity to significant ministry;
  • having a visual illustration of the process;
  • having a system to measure how people progress through the process;
  • frequently discussing the process as a leadership team;
  • the church members have a clear understanding of the process;
  • the programs are placed along the strategic process;
  • the programs are sequential, based on the process;
  • being intentional about moving people from one program to another;
  • being clear on what the steps are in the spiritual transformation process;
  • having a class or group to move new people into the life of the church;
  • recruiting and hiring leaders who are committed to the process;
  • the staff/leaders are held accountable for how the church process is implemented in their respective areas;
  • the basic process is the same across the various ministry departments, though the styles and methods vary;
  • the process is the unifying factor that keeps all leaders focused;
  • no new ministry is begun unless it is clear that it fits within the process;
  • eliminating programs that do not fit in the process, even if they are good;
  • using existing weekly programs for special emphases/initiatives instead of adding new programs;
  • limiting the number of conferences and special events that the church does;
  • the process is easy to communicate
  • the process simple for people to understand.
Here are the item-by-item results, comparing the vibrant churches to the comparison churches. Rainer & Geiger presented church leaders with statements and asked them to respond by agreeing or disagreeing with the statement.
SD = Strongly Disagree
D = Disagree
MD = Moderately Disagree
MA = Moderately Agree
A = Agree
SA = Strongly Agree

ITEM 1. "We have a clearly defined process for moving a person from salvation to spiritual maturity to significant ministry."
(Even a plurality of the Comparison churches "moderately agree" with this.)

2. "We have a visual illustration of the process."
(Ten percent of even the vibrant churches "strongly disagree." Even so, agreement tends to characterize the vibrant churches.)
3. "We have a system to measure how people progress through the process."
(It's comparatively rare for any churches to "strongly agree." But notice the preponderance of "disagree" among the comparison churches.)
4. "We frequently discuss our process as a leadership team."
5. "Our church members have a clear understanding of our process."
6. "We have placed our programs along our strategic process."
7. "Our programs are sequential, based on our process."
8. "We are intentional about moving people from one program to another."
9. "After someone becomes a believer, the next step for them in the spiritual transformation process is clear."
10. "We have a class or group to move new people into the life of the church."
(On this one, it's quite pronounced how the stronger the agreement, the more vibrant churches there are.)
11. "We recruit and hire leaders who are committed to our process."
12. "Our staff/leaders are held accountable for how the church process is implemented in their respective areas."
13. "While the styles and methods vary in different ministry departments (such as children and youth), the process is the same."
14. "Our process is the unifying factor that keeps all our leaders focused."
15. "Before we begin a new ministry, we ensure that it fits within our process."
16. "We seek to eliminate programs that do not fit in our process, even if they are good."
17. "We use our existing weekly programs for special emphases/initiatives instead of adding new programs."
18. "We limit the number of conferences and special events that we do as a church."
19. "Our process is easy to communicate."
20. "We have made our process simple for people to understand."
You'll notice that there are always some Comparison churches who "agree" and "strongly agree," and there are always some Vibrant churches who "disagree" -- and usually some who even "strongly disagree." Thus, agreement with these statements is neither necessary nor sufficient for being Vibrant. Nevertheless, being a church centered on the process of spiritual development ("making disciples," as Geiger & Rainer put it) clearly correlates with greater likelihood of being Vibrant -- i.e., growing at least 5 percent per year for at least a three-year period.

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