The Simple Filter


Recently I was asked by another church leader about the "filter" we use at The Orchard to ensure that we keep things simple (see here).  What questions do we ask ourselves to ensure that new ideas or intiaitves are really great ideas that will fit in our culture?

First of all, most new "we gotta have this" ministry ideas come from
churched people new to The Orchard.  "Well at my last church we
did…."  Of course, this IS the church they just left! 🙂

Anyway, when someone steps forward with the newest "must have" idea (no matter who it is) we as a staff ask the following questions:

1) Will this accomplish our mission?
A basic question, but one that surprisingly is skipped if you are not
intentional about it.  What about the proposed idea will help people
take their next step on their journey with God?  How specifically will
it do that?  In other words… is it mission-critical?  This question
is one that most will easily gloss over if it is not drilled down on
specifically.  What about it is critical to our mission?  Is something
else already addressing this need?  How will this do it better?  Will
our job of helping lead people on a growing relationship with Jesus be
harmed if we DON’T do this?

2) Is this a step or a program (thanks Andy Stanley!)?
A continuation of #1, is this one more train car attaching itself to
our locomotive, or is this an engine to help people grow?  Is it added
weight, sucking up dollar, time, and leader resources, or is it an
engine for producing growing Christ followers?  If it is a step, where
does it fit on our Growth Path? (We have what some would call an
Assimilation Path… the idealized road map from first time guest all
the way to staff.)  Is it a reachable step?  Just like a stone
footpath has steps that are a reasonable stride-length from each other,
each of our steps must be small enough for everyone to reach them.
Always think next steps!

3) Is there a leader identified?  More than just asking "is there a warm body who says they want to see whatever-it-is
happen"… is there a tested leader, whom we have seen undergo some
trials, whose character we have already had chance to observe, and
whose diligence is documented, ready and passionately willing to lead
this new thing into greatness?  This is often our single biggest
impediment to anything new… we HAVE to have a great leader feel great
about it!  Of course, this means that a growing number of leaders has
to be in development, which we do through monthly FUEL meetings and our
recruiting and reproducing efforts.  But that’s another blog post

4) Is it sustainable?  So many "great" ideas are flashes in
the pan.  But if this is really a mission-critical, must-have
opportunity, is is sustainable week in and week out for the next year?  Five years
or longer?  Can we afford the time, dollar, and leader resources that
it will take to make sure it is done WELL over the long haul.  Better
to count the cost up front, and leave a good idea on the back burner a
bit longer, than launch something prematurely only to have it strangle
you in the lean times.  A church can only sustain so many "good ideas"
before the leaders burn out, the money goes away, and the church people
spend all of their time trying to keep all of the church program plates
spinning instead of living as Christ followers in their communities.  A
lot of leaders act as if the church has unlimited leadership
resources… we guard our limited resources jealously!

5) Why are we REALLY considering this?  Church leaders can fall victim to "us too" pressure.  The church down the street offers a great VBS… us too!  I hear Rick Warren is going to…. us too!  The kindly old matron saint in the third row thinks that all churches should offer… us too!
We try to remember that even if every church since Acts 2 has offered a
particular program or event, it doesn’t mean that God wants us to do it
too!  I will often ask staff or volunteers if they are feeling pressure
to have a ministry.  Most of the time, external, people-originated
pressure for an activity or ministry is a recipe for disaster.  Lead
from freedom, from a God-centered calling, knowing that as church
leaders we will answer to God for how we lead… not to the matron
saint in the third row! 🙂


7 thoughts on “The Simple Filter

  1. GREAT POST! I think to many churches don’t work through these type of questions and end up with a mixed vision and people scattered all over the place. This post will be added to my journal.

  2. “Simple Church” by Thom Rainer & Eric Geiger is a great tool to help ministry leaders work through this process with data to back up the desire to remain (or become) simple. I found it to be a great read, and it spurred a ton of thoughts for how I look at doing church.

    Big Chris

  3. Great Posts of the Week

    I have come across some great blog entries in recent days. Check them out: Scott Hodge’s post on Simplicity. This is exactly what I have been trying to articulate for months about where we should be in terms of ministry

  4. Good stuff Chris! Love Simple Church and The 7 Practices. Both are great…but really like the idea of question #5. “Why are we doing this?” has the potential to be a great discussion. Seems like it might be a challenge to get to the truth…but it would be a good challenge. Thanks for the post!


  5. Yet another set of reasons why I love my church. Especially #5 and the “us too” thing. If one church is doing a cool “programmy” thing, why reinvent the wheel. Why not partner with or make people aware of it? Do you think there is an insecurity among church leaders that if people attend an event (concert, mom’s or other specialty group, etc) at a different church that they will leave their own church? Maybe that’s their experience I don’t know.

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