Church Partner Highlight: Decentralizing ministry after 100 years of history

How we answer the call to equip may be different in each church, but there are a handful of principles we can leverage as leaders to lead and inspire more people to be the church. Bethlehem Church recognized that people don’t naturally connect to a church, mature spiritually, and then move into leadership roles by default. It happens by design.

Bethlehem (FBC) Church is a 109-year-old congregation in Georgia located about halfway between one of the best college towns in America — Athens — and Atlanta. This location puts the church right in the heart of a very fast-growing metroplex. The predominant demographic consists of members in their mid-20s to mid-30s who have decided that epic traffic is worth the exchange for some elbow room in a family-friendly community.

Among the many duties associate pastor Adam Bishop has at Bethlehem is leading small group leaders and Sunday volunteer teams. Bishop is driven by a passion to make sure people are connected to the church, trained, and involved. “I love seeing someone who attends Bethlehem connect into a group where he or she can make friends and grow closer to God,” he says.

Bishop knows the church has an incredible opportunity to connect with and minister to people in the growing community. However, he also knows that all too often people slip through the cracks, and when they do, statistics reveal that they fall away from the church. And that’s the challenge: keeping people connected with other people so they stay connected to the church.

How Bethlehem Church decentralized their ministry

“Getting people engaged in their unique fit requires a system,” Bishop explains. “A big problem, however, is that we’ve got to decentralize [equipping]. We have to be disciplined to equip people and let them equip others.”

Bethlehem had no process to systematically accomplish that vision, and Bishop admits he is “the worst tech guy on the staff”. Conceptually, he knew what he wanted to accomplish and the direction he wanted the church body to grow, but he didn’t have the tools.

Bishop knew Bethlehem would need a more efficient process to reach out to the growing community and get new families connected in meaningful ways. “I could always surround myself with good people,” he says, “but getting people engaged in their unique fit requires a system.”

“A first step in organizing people was to create a language that makes sense to everyone”

Staff and volunteers need to speak a common language in order to achieve clarity. Bishop notes that Church Community Builder is the first software tool he’s come across that enables that.

“I’m able to customize it with the language that already exists in our church,” he reports. “I was then able to give each [volunteer] team leader a church email address, and I can partition the system off by area of service. They each have access to their area of the system, enabling ministry to decentralize. Our volunteers have taken on many of the roles I was trying to do myself.”

Once Church Software was in place and customized to align with Bethlehem’s culture and processes, Bishop immediately began seeing a shift in the operational effectiveness of the church. With easy access to a broad range of information, leaders are now empowered to more efficiently lead and minister to their respective teams of volunteers. As a result, Bishop reports there is decreased turnover and increased commitment.

To learn more about how Bethlehem Church successfully decentralized ministry, download the free resource The Ephesians 4 Church: A Case Study of How Three Churches Built an Equipping Culture.

What benefits have you seen from decentralizing your ministry?

Topics: This entry was posted in Leadership Roles, This entry was posted in Administrative Support, This entry was posted in Blog, This entry was posted in Volunteer Ministry, This entry was posted in Executive Pastor, This entry was posted in Small Groups Ministry

Posted by Steve Caton on January 19, 2015