One of the common challenges that I see in churches that are stuck is that they are operating as many distinct ministries under one roof. In most cases I’m positive they didn’t set out to create the situation, but they find themselves in a place where there are ministry silos operating independently from each other. Each ministry ends up competing with every other ministry for time, attention, space and other resources.
I liken this to an unhealthy marriage where the husband and wife are still living in the same house, but they’ve decided he’ll sleep on the couch. There’s no unity of purpose. And, rather than do the hard work of finding a path to heal the marriage relationship, they’ve decided to live separate lives under the same roof.
In both situations, you’re just delaying the pain and consequences caused by disunity. And, unfortunately, both dysfunctional environments will eventually negatively impact innocent “family” members.
“I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose. (I Corinthians 1:10, NLT)”
So how does a church turn this situation around? Here are some basic building blocks to establish a foundation for healthy relationships and healthy churches.
1. Unity in Purpose
The more focused and clear your mission, the easier it will be to keep everyone on the same page. Every ministry must share the same mission. If you don’t begin here, people (especially loud people or old people or rich people) will certainly begin pulling in different directions.
2. Unity in Core Values
There must be agreement on the core values. These are the values that make your church distinct. Patrick Lencioni talks about the difference between core values and permission-to-play values in his book The Advantage. For example, every church believes in prayer or biblical authority. Those are permission-to-play values. What are the core values that make your church distinct?
3. Unity in Leadership
This has to begin at the top. The leadership must operate as a unified team rather than a representative form of government. If you cut the leaders, they have to bleed the church’s mission and not the specific ministry they represent. (See my latest eBook for guidance on building healthy leadership teams.)
4. Unity in Strategy
This is where many churches fail. They go through the relatively easy process of clarifying vision and values, but they don’t engage the much more difficult process of identifying their strategy to accomplish their mission. And, without a clear strategy, it’s impossible for everyone to stay on the same page when addressing the question what’s important NOW? Without unity of strategy, every ministry eventually drifts back to doing what they’ve always done.
5. Unity in Communications
Emily and I have made it a practice with our kids to always have the same message when we are talking with our kids. They’re not allowed to pit us against each other. “If mommy says so, that’s my decision too. Mommy and Daddy are on the same team.” Churches need to embrace that same commitment. Granger Community Church has a great resource for helping ministries unify communications strategy.
I’m tired of seeing churches where the children’s ministry, student ministry, choir, women’s ministry, men’s ministry, Sunday school program, local missions team or any other ministry are operating independent of the rest of the church. Healthy businesses would never allow one business unit to compete against another, and healthy churches don’t allow that either.
We need to be of one mind–united in thought and purpose.