5 Ways Church Models Can Be Helpful

a_church_model.jpg A “church model.” Not the kind I’m talking about.

Mea culpa. That’s Latin for “I pulled the trigger on my mouth before it cleared my holster, and I shot myself in the foot.” Or something like that. Now that I have calmed down over the McChurch post at Out of Ur, let me do some backpedaling. I now understand —

  1. Eddie Johnson described his church using the analogy of a franchise to point out the very positive aspects of the North Point strategic partnerships.
  2. The franchise description was Eddie’s, not Andy’s, according to Eddie himself.
  3. Eddie is a really nice guy who responds with grace and good humor. Unlike some folks who have called him the ‘anti-christ.’ (And I thought I was over the top!)

Which brings me to a reasoned discussion of the whole business of “church models.” Eddie’s right — we all use church models to describe the approach we are taking in our particular ministry situation. Reference to church models has become a kind of ecclesial short-hand, helping others know who we are and what we do. Church models include purpose-driven (Saddleback), seeker (Willow Creek), video (North Point, Life Church), externally-focused, servant evangelistic, missional, emerging, denominational, and so on.

With that in mind, here are 5 ways church models can be helpful:

  1. Identity. Denominations served the purpose of identifying a church in the 20th century. In the 21st century, affiliations are more in vogue. Many churches advertise that they are Purpose-driven, or seeker-friendly, or video-oriented to identify themselves to their communities.
  2. Processes. Eddie calls this systems, but however you say it, it’s how you do things. Churches that affiliate with a particular model do things consistent with that model. The use of proven methodologies helps jump start many church planting or church revitalization efforts.
  3. Focus. As Eddie said, they don’t offer the church program buffet. They know what they do, and they don’t get distracted by other “good”– but off-message — opportunities.
  4. Support. Most church models originated because someone had done it at least once. I like the Celtic Christian abbey model, and that was done over 1,000 years ago. Others are more current and provide literature, promotional materials, training events, and programs with support on-line or on the phone.
  5. Metrics. Church models usually have measurements that are important to that model such as baptisms, new members, attendance, or participation in small groups. Many have benchmarks that incorporate several measures of mission success. Each model is looking either for growth, development, progress, maturity (Willow’s study), or some other attribute that is measurable.

Church models are helpful in all the ways I’ve mentioned and more. But, church models are just that — models. Our daughter and her husband own a franchise restaurant, and the reality and the model can be vastly different. Models provide a good framework for us to shape ministry around, but I have to constantly remind myself that “God gives the increase.” However you measure it. What do you think?

7 thoughts on “5 Ways Church Models Can Be Helpful”

  1. Thanks for the kind and encouraging words! I appreciate you modeling a health form of debate and critique for all of us. Don’t see enough of that these days. Thank you!

    Good post today! Enjoyed your insights. What’s interesting though Chuck is that while I have model/system from North Point….it does provide all the answers to all of my questions and obstacles as a church planter. I’m still having to figure out weekly, and sometimes even daily, how to make “our model” work in a start-up situation in Franklin, TN and not Alpharetta, GA. There is a big difference.

    For instance, North Point was never a small church. They had over 1,000 people day one. We don’t have that. So, while our model (foyer-living room-kitchen) is proven and it gives us a “grid” to make decisions thru…it’s not complete in its applications. Does that make sense?

    Also, my role as a Lead Pastor is different than Andy’s role at North Point. My job is not primarily teaching. It’s leading the staff and vision casting for our church. What’s ironic is that at the end of the day, after all our of our “cool” technology and “corporate models” of ministry…I’m still very much that “small church” pastor looking to make a difference and impact within the life of my church and community. My prayer is that part of my job NEVER changes. ;>)

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