Does Your Ministry Need To Have a Farm System?

Does Your Ministry Need To Have a Farm System?

Where churches struggle in the planting phase, and especially in the aging period is that so much of the work is too often left done in too few hands.

When staffing a ministry team and recruiting volunteers, major league baseball is one of three institutions whose organizational structure provides a clear foundation on which to study for models of growth and sustainability; the others being the public schools, and Jesus' original apostles.

How might your ministry grow by reflecting all tribes and nations?

Exploring your ministry structure through these lenses, we contend you'll make progress coping with a continuing church challenge, that programming and structures minimally overcome: church growth.

The growth issues that many churches face largely revolve around finding new volunteers, especially in a culture as transient as the U.S. has become, and in a world whose methods of communication seem to change frequently.

Where churches struggle in the planting phase, and especially in the aging period is that so much of the work is too often left done in too few hands. Churches often languish in the 20/80 principle, where 20 percent of the people do 80 percent of the work. Our pages are abundant with articles and ideas about "How to Reach Millennials." Or reaching or old people, or immigrants, as if there is a magic solution to reaching any such group.

Inherent in each of our models baseball, school, and the apostles—are three clear foundations on which to build: diversity, specificity, sustainability. Moreover, adding Christ's mandate to disciple makes the concepts even stronger.

Looking at the three examples recommended here, which translates to your church ministry?

Diversity

Looking at your current roster of servants on any ministry team, what is their makeup? Similar age? Backgrounds? Skills? Where are the opportunities for inclusion: of other cultures, ethnicities, or physical abilities? How might your ministry grow by reflecting all tribes and nations?

Specificity

It's one thing to ask for volunteers. It's another to be explicit with expectations, standards and responsibilities. What areas of your ministry are you asking to fill? Do you need technical people? Verbal people? Thinkers? Counselors? Financial or computer people? Realistically, how much time might doing a role take? Are there uniforms or other items needed?

Sustainability

Visionary pastors may plant churches with good ideas, newly hired pastors may have strengths in revitalizing an emerging church, a seasoned pastor may have specific ways to do certain things. However, if processes are not in place to replicate, "to be fruitful and multiply," the programs all too often die when its founders move on.

Where would our faith be had Jesus not taught His disciples? To employ diversity, specificity, and sustainability Jesus, and later Paul, employed a purposeful process of replicating, recruiting and restoring.

As you view those concepts in our contemporary models, consider and discuss how much more powerful these templates will be when employing Biblical principles you have studied.

Fun at the Old Ball Park

Like robins returning or the emergence of crocus, "pitchers and catchers report" is an anticipated rite of spring, offering symbols of hope and renewal.

When "pitchers and catchers report," it begins the orientation period of spring training, providing players an opportunity to get to know each other, as well the basics of their specific roles. Players of all ages, backgrounds, countries or tribes er, denomination; uh, organization come together to better understand their responsibilities at various levels. 

When spring training ends, players are assigned to their respective teams, "each according to their kind," or level of play Rookie, A, AA, AAA, or the majors. At any point over the next few months, players may be reassigned to a different level (up to a bigger city, or down to a smaller towndown on the farm. This is what is known as the farm system.

Throughout the season, each player finds themselves in the midst of a ritual of continuing education; old teaching young, young schooling old; peers counseling. In effect, this structure is baseball's discipleship program. Even if traded to another organization, they're schooled in the fundamentals of the faith er, the game. 

What parallels do you see between this structure and your ministry teams? Between your church and others in your community or networking conference?

What is your farm system?

But Wait The Ministry Playbook

Not baseball fan? Other sports employ the same idea of sustainability, especially in player development and leadership derived from coaching.

A similar style of replication, for example, exists in the National Football League. Hall of Fame coach Tony Dungy notes such examples in his book, "The Mentor Leader," tracing many of the successful NFL coaches of today back to fellow Hall of Fame coach Chuck Noll, who coached the Pittsburgh Steelers to five Super Bowl titles in the 1970s.

Of church staffs, what is your system toward creating new leaders pastors and other staff?

Then there are college basketball teams, that recruit players from assorted high school backgrounds and orient them into "The Old College Way," for how the game is played, and what it means to be a student and player for that university. Accordingly, standards are established, becoming part of the individual player's character in their teen years. Later, as adults, many of these same teens return to the alma mater as coaches who have been discipled in the program.

Where is this structure at play in your locations, say, between Student Ministries and Adult Ministries?

Are teens nurtured with expectations from adults, guided to maturity with responsibilities, or left to decided only within their own peer group?

What are the coach-teen parallels in scripture?

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