Playing with Legos–Making “Room for One More”

Making “room for one more” has always been a hallmark at New Life Church. Pastor Jul and Jackie modeled it. The first leaders embraced it. But as a church grows, it inevitably becomes more and more difficult for to continue to make room for those people. People start to slip through the cracks.

There may be a number of reasons for this, but often the problem isn’t the people, it’s the way the church itself is set up. In its early days a church plant often functions as one big informal group, but when a church grows past 200 or more people that approach increasingly creates problems. That’s what New Life Church has been discovering since first entering its vacancy period a number of years ago. We still have plenty of open seats where people can watch us do church, but it becomes more and more difficult to find the room to form life-changing relationships with those people. That can stall a ministry.

Our leaders have been using the term Span of Care to describe a shift in our thinking: instead of treating a congregation as one big group we’ve start creating our version of a “buddy system”. The idea is that eventually everyone is led or cared for by someone and no one has responsibility for too many. Twice a month our Central Staff members track the growing number of people who have been included in these kinds of connections.

Our leaders have identified our Four Priorities to help us better focus our efforts as we move forward. Think of these priorities as four habits that can help us create a ministry with a lot more room for real relationships with people:

Fit – we can’t create an environment where people can truly connect if all of our ministries function apart from each other.   Our leaders have been working hard at developing a network of interconnected teams so our ministries can help each other.  Each of our programs is in the process of finding its place as part of one of our larger teams of similar ministries.

Spiritual Temperature: There is a difference between simply boosting attendance and actually changing people’s hearts.   Our new ministry teams are working to figure out where the line is between those two and how to stay on the most important side of it. This will require working together (see Fit, above).

Service If we want to see God truly change the lives of the people we will need to avoid simply creating consumers who like our church, and instead helping people find their place in the mission of Christ in our world. That will involve serving.

Leadership Development—to do these three steps will require a major leadership effort.   It will require that our current leaders learn new ways of approaching their teams, and that we invest a lot of hard work in raising up and equipping our next levels of leaders to help us move forward.

So how can you be a part of this new season in our development? Simply–get involved. Ask your group or team leader how you can help. If you’re not involved anywhere beyond attending weekend services, contact me or any other staff person to set up a conversation about where you might fit best.

This kind of leadership remodeling takes a lot of work—a lot of “playing with Legos”. Our leaders have been working on our leadership development as if the future of New Life depended it (which it does). We are refusing to take shortcuts in these efforts for the sake of easy answers.

Are we doing this perfectly? No, we’re making our share of mistakes as we figure it out together. As someone I know often said, “New Life is not the perfect church (and I’m not the perfect pastor)”.

But every week I see staff members working with their key people in new, more effective ways.   And every week we’re seeing teams digger further into the challenges of bringing the Spirit’s transformation to the lives of people who are looking for renewal. And every week we see signs of God at work.

And so we keep on playing with those Legos.