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system and mission

I love this post from Will Mancini.

“The System Down the Hall Trumps the Mission on the Wall”

This line is from the stellar strategist, Andy Stanley of North Point Community Church. When my friend Caz McCaslin (founder of Upward sports ministry) first heard the “systems talk” at the Catalyst Reverb conference ( I think it was 2007), he called me and we discussed it for what seemed to be hours. As a piece worth pursuing, here is Andy Stanley’s flow of thought:

  • God created systems
  • Systems create behavior
  • Our leaders and volunteers action are guided by the systems we inherit, adopt or create
  • We overestimate our ability to guide change, when we are not thinking on the systems level
  • Systems have embedded expectations, rewards (lack of), consequences (lack of), communication styles, and behavioral patterns of the people in charge

The idea of integrating the mission and vision into the systems of the church is a massive gap in our best training environments today. (In response, the Auxano team has spent years developing a tool to address this need- we call the Vision Integration Model, which debuted in Church Unique.) So how do teams apply what Andy addresses and does so well intuitively? How does a staff have continual conversations so that alignment, attunement and integration can really happen? One phrase from Andy holds the key to getting started. He comments almost under his breath that leaders need to have “big, bold, multi-day discussions” together. A great take-away exercise is three questions for having your first big, bold conversation:

#1 What are three bahaviors that you wished your group exhibited? (The group may be your entire church, the volunteers in your ministry area or the leadership team itself.)

#2 List at least one thing you can do systematically to encourage and motivate each behavior. (process-driven not event-driven).

#3 What are we doing that accidentally works against this kind of behavior?