I love exploring systems , how they work, why they work and over time I have become very intrigued by what is called “systems thinking”.
Systems thinking is the process of understanding how those things which may be regarded as systems influence one another within a complete entity, or larger system.
One of my favorite books so far on this topic is Peter M Senge’s 5th Discipline. You can read my summary of this here.
I have come across very few books however on systems theory/thinking related specifically to churches. Nelson Searcy wrote an ad and called it an ebook where he mentions 8 church systems but doesn’t unpack much about them. See summary here of this.
The book that I am reviewing today,The Optimized Church: Mastering the Key Processes for Church Health
provides church leaders with some much needed insight into systems as they relate to a church, along with metrics to gauge how things are going. If you are an executive pastor this could be a must read book. If you are a Groups Pastor this is also a great book to read that I would highly recommend. A large amount of the terms the author uses I believe may be outdated but the content and processes themselves are not so don’t let that scare you away from reading this and taking away helpful strategies.
Ratta, A. (2014). The Optimized Church: Mastering the Key Processes for Church Health [Kindle Android version].
Ratta starts and ends the book with an appropriate focus on God’s role in the church and building His Kingdom, His way. Ratta moves on to a brief journey of the modern church. Chapter 3 focuses on processes and the various ways these are implemented in churches. Chapter 4 Ratta writes about processes, the need for them and their purpose.
Processes play a singular and irreplaceable role in advancing God’s agenda for His church. Nothing takes the place of a good process. Yet they’re commonly ignored by church leaders who have their attention diverted elsewhere, like departments, programs and events. (Kindle location 839)
Chapters 5-9 are some of the most helpful chapters in the book in my opinion. This is in Section II which Ratta titles the “Acquisition Processes”.
Chapter 5- Magnetism (Processes for attracting people)
These processes are what the author calls “ATTRACT” processes.
Chapter 6- Velcro (Processes for Connecting people)
A couple quotes from Chapter 6 to give you a sneak peak into it:
The average visitor retention rate for a church is 8-10%.
All church leaders will be held accountable as stewards of God’s house.
Chapter 7- The Stickiness Factor (Designing a Robust Connection Process)
These processes are what the author calls CONNECT processes.
Chapter 8- Gravity Fields (Processes for Integrating People)
Chapter 9- Leading Growth Indicators (The Mathematics of Church Growth)
Visitor retention is generally 10 to 20 times more mathematically significant than visitor volume.
Section III focuses on what Ratta calls the “Maturation Processes” which focuses on processes for spiritual growth and discipleship. I do like how Ratta doesn’t end with just helping people connect but integrates in these next processes. I am not sure I would land on the same processes as Ratta does here though but it does provide some points to ponder.
Here is the authors completed visual for these processes. You can see the “5 Purposes” at the top of the diagram with the process statement just below that. The two “macro processes” and the 3 key processes of each of these macro processes.
This is quite a sharp contrast from the “unintentional systems” most churches develop as shown in this diagram below.
- Are they all tied to a biblical purpose?
- Are they designed to work in tandem?
- Can any be safely eliminated without hurting the ability of the church to fulfill its purposes?
- Should some of them be eliminated in the light of Christ’s purposes for His Church?
Ratta states (location 3032-3036):Experience teaches me that there are five main characteristics of a process winning church.1. They Understand Their Purposes2. They Understand Ministry Processes3. They Achieve Purposes Through Processes4. They Know How to Develop and Implement Good Processes5. They Know How to Troubleshoot and Improve Ministry Processes.
You can get the book here The Optimized Church: Mastering the Key Processes for Church Health