I remember a while back reading a post titled Discipleship Requires More Than Teaching. Steve Caton wrote it before he left Church Community Builder. It made me say, “Hmmmm.”
“Teaching has the potential to shift someone’s thinking, but systems have the potential to shift behaviors.”
Why did it make me say, “Hmmmm?”
I realized that despite how much I am passionate about “systems thinking” and its importance to good leadership, I’ve never directly explained “why” it’s so critical. Sure, I’ve written thousands of words on building a strong infrastructure and implementing/improving systems, processes, and methods; but for what reason?
The quote nails it! Teaching makes people think, but systems help people change.
Let me illustrate with a simple example. A person comes to your church for the first time and hears a message that really makes them think. The message happens to be on the importance of community in real spiritual growth and life change. They go home and re-read the scripture upon which the message is based, and they say, “Hmmmm, that really makes sense.”
They go back the next weekend and hear another message. It, too, makes them think. This happens week after week, but the person’s behavior never really changes. That first message on community and how it really made them think kind of got lost in the shuffle. While the person shook a few hands and met a few people, they never became part of a community. Why? The church had a few groups going, but no “systemic approach” for helping people to become part of a group.
Imagine a church that not only has a system for connecting people to groups; it has a system for connecting people to serving opportunities, etc. Not only do these systems exist, but they are very effective … literally connecting hundreds of people, creating community all over the church.
Now we’re teaching and changing behavior!
The real purpose of systems, processes, and methods in the church is to effectively and repeatedly change behaviors, helping people become more like Christ. It’s that simple.