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There’s something magical about those early years when your church first started. Sure, you were poor, meeting in someone’s garage, and having bi-weekly panic attacks, but there was a purity to it. You knew everyone, they knew you, and you all believed God was up to something amazing that you wanted in on!

In those days you knew each church member’s life story. You’d spent time with them in your house, praying together, doing life together. They were a friend, not a statistic. But over time your church grew, you stopped knowing everyone’s name, and began saying things like “hey man!” or “good to see you sister!” to cover that up.

"As exciting as a growing ministry is, there’s a loss that comes with it..."

While you might not be directly responsible for day-to-day connections work, it’s important for every church leader to have an understanding of the processes your church has in place to move people into engagement.

As exciting as a growing ministry is, there’s a loss that comes with it, because at the end of the day pastors want to be about people, not systems, structures, budgets, and all the other necessary headaches that come with the job. But there’s a loss for the people as well. In a small church pastors can treat people like fully-fleshed out humans, but often as churches grow, the systems that are put in place treat them more like widgets, exactly the same size and shape moving through an assembly line.

The problem is people aren’t widgets! "... at the end of the day pastors want to be about people, not systems, structures, budgets, and all the other necessary headaches that come with the job." Pitching small groups to an extrovert might work, but there’s no way a high anxiety introvert is joining a group until - conservatively - their 18th year attending your church, and even then only because you told them they’d go to protestant hell (being a middle school ministry volunteer) if they didn’t. One person might know the Bible cover-to-cover, but isn’t tithing. Another might be a great volunteer for the worship team, but just posted an Instagram photo of her sloppy drunk with her friends.

Discipleship is ultimately a relationship - people increasingly saying yes to God’s will for their life - which means it’ll look different for every individual. So how do we as pastors create systems in our church that are intentional, strategic, and growth-oriented, while also being organic, fluid, and sensitive to the individual?

There’s no easy answer to this - if you have one tell us and we’ll write a book and make tons of money! - but there are some tips we can share on how to create systems that disciple people, not widgets. Over the next several articles we’ll be discussing:

  • Seeing each person in “HD” rather than a blur
  • The different spiritual stages of an individual’s journey
  • Identifying the “exits” in your church’s internal process, and
  • How to measure someone’s connection to your church

Our hope is that as we go on this journey together, you’ll find yourself encouraged and energized by the possibilities. There’s no going back to the days in your garage, but it is possible to feel more connected to your people.

There's always a next step:

People are at the heart of your ministry, and knowing where they are in their journey is key to guiding them to deeper engagement. Check out our redesigned people profiles, they make it easier than ever to get a view of the people in your church.