SWOT Analysis: A Helpful Tool for Understanding Organizations

In preparation for teaching at the Pepperdine Lectures in May Charles Kiser introduced Eric Brown and I to SWOT Analysis. I have been a fan ever since. Here is a diagram that will help you wrap your mind around it.


This framework helps you identify what internal and external resources and liabilities and organization. This can be used to map out what is going on with an organization as a whole, a given project within an organization, a ministry, etc. You can take this matrix, have multiple people who are working on the same project or part of the same organization work through it, putting in each quadrant what they think belongs and then having a group discussion over the results. This can be a helpful way to bring clarity to some big decisions. We used this to help churches/ministers conceptualize what is going on with their young adults but this could just as easily be applied by a church staff or eldership with any aspect of the congregation they shepherd.


Q & A on “Church Steps” Outreach

I asked my friend Philip Cunningham for some feedback and what questions he had so far about our “Church Steps” Outreach we have started at Northwest. Here are Philip’s questions and my answers:

Philip: What is the age range of your outreach group?  Also- the median age?
Our ministry is representative of the congregation. The main Wednesday night adult classes goes from 20-70. Our youth group is starting to do this as part of their ministry on a regular basis as well, reaching specifically to teens. Our 20s & 30s ministry will likely be doing this once a month (here is the class outline & template I am talking about here). So our whole church is covered and it is done by all ages teen and up.

Philip: Is this just a group to coordinate outreach prospects?  Or does the group also do outreach together?  Like, say, going to a mall.  Or other similar outdoor shopping center where people gather.
The group coordinates prospects and then prays for those people and sends people out with assignments. The assignments that are given depend on the situation of the person (referring back to the five steps a person typically falls into and the needs they have within that step that the “assignments” are aimed at meeting). Typical assignments varying go like this:

  • Step 1 (attract) that means they haven’t ever been to anything so our goal is to be invitational. That means we will call them and write them to invite them to a LIFE Group and the next worship service.
  • Step 2 (Welcome – that means they have visited) our goal is to let them know how appreciative we are that they came and to try to get to know them – catch them the next Sunday, invite them to lunch, get them in a LIFE Group. We assign people to call them and write them (thanks for coming – especially for 1st time visitors).
  • Step 3 (Relationship) – Our goal here is to really get people in their life that they can connect with. This can come through LIFE group, Sunday class, Softball, or via other ministries. One of my goals is to have a representative from each life group in the Church Steps class every week to help coordinate getting the groups in on this process.
  • Step 4 (Transformation) – Once they know some people we are going to ask them if they would like to have a Bible study (typically using Jesus 101).
  • Step 5 (Integration) – Once someone is baptized our goal is to get them active in ministry. One of our goals is to have them come and work this process for new people/non-Christians themselves alongside a more experienced Christian.
  • Last, every week a prayer list is given out that lists every person who we are reaching to that week so that everything we are doing has prayer all over it (God is the one who gives the harvest – we emphasize that all the time). So everyone gets something to do because everyone who comes is praying about this – also part of the culture change…hard to keep praying for something and it not do something to you/motivate you to work at it yourself).

Philip: Does the fact that there’s an “outreach group” engender any sort of resentment toward those who are NOT in the group?  Or maybe once were but are no longer?  As in- “we’re pulling the weight here & the other folks aren’t sharing their faith” kind of sentiment.
That is a very insightful question because that is the tendency of these sorts of efforts. The problem is, once you really buy in, it is tempting to get an us vs. them mentality (those who “get it” and the rest of the church that doesn’t seem to want to participate). The reason it happens is because once it is a no brainer to you and you start trying to get more Christians in the class and they don’t want to come it is easy to think we get it and they don’t.  I caught onto this about a month in when I started to hear that attitude reflected to a small degree in my own teaching. I had to check myself and my attitudes and be very, very careful about that and graceful to the rest of the church. So I started teaching against that mentality and it continues to be something we are very careful about.

There is one main teaching point that I have used to combat that attitude. It is the guiding principle that no matter how much work we do, God is really the one who brings the growth and success, so let’s not think we are “all that” because it is all dependent on God, not on us. God can do it without us if He likes. 

I would like to hear questions from some of you who have been following the updates on this ministry (or maybe just read the summary post yesterday and have questions about it).

Church Steps Outreach Material Updated

I just updated the “Church Steps” outreach material page on the blog

Church Steps Outreach

One of the biggest questions people have when faced with blazing a trail into a new (or old but forgotten) arena is what can this look like? If you can help people see what something can look like you remove much of the fear of the unknown that might otherwise pose a barrier to starting something new. This series of posts is intended to cast a vision for evangelism for churches large or small. This is still a work in progress and I look forward to learning from you as well.

If we are honest with ourselves many congregations have passive evangelism. We hope people will come. We hope they will be touched by the sermon. We hope they know what to do, where to go, what questions to ask and who to ask them to. Is that realistic? Is that purposeful? Most important – is it biblical & does it actually work? If not, are we willing to try a new approach?

Our new approach to outreach & discipleship:
Over the last two years we have been working on how to reach out to new people in order to help them grow into mature disciples of Jesus Christ. Usually I would give you miles of theory and background before I would describe what we are doing. Instead, I am going to lay out what it looks like and later give you some of the nuts and bolts from behind the scenes. I see it like a well made computer. If you picked it up, turned it on and used it it all seems pretty simple. Underneath the hood there are some moving parts that make it what it is but that isn’t obvious just looking at it sitting on the table. In other words we are trying to take something that could be complicated and make it simple and functional so that anyone can plug into it and do something meaningful with it no matter what their level of maturity.

Our Vision
Casting a Vision for Evangelism: What We Are Doing
Casting a Vision for Evangelism: Church Steps
Casting a Vision for Evangelism: Church Steps in Action
Casting a Vision for Evangelism: Our New Evangelistic Bible Class In Action

Our Purpose
Three Purposes of Outreach at Northwest

Changing Church Culture
It is Going to Take More Than Information To Change the Culture
Changing the Way People See Things

Church Steps Tools
Church Steps Class Template (pdf)
Explanation of the template

Motivating Outreach
Three Verses and One Question that Motivate Outreach

One Month Update
There are No Quick Fixes – A post on how long it took for the lightbulb to go on with our members/change in church culture
Things are Finally Starting to Click

Two Free Resources From Mike Breen & 3DM

Free additional chapters to Building a Discipling Culture

Fivefold Gifts Survey

Spiritual Transformation: More Information is Not the Answer

The Jews had the Law for 1300 years before Christ came. There were all kinds of details in the Law about how to live, what to do in various situations, and how to maintain holiness and deal with sin. As we know today, the Law was not sufficient. What did God do in its place? He could have just handed down more legal code. God could have had people pen more and more words and bombard the world with oodles of information via text. God chose to do something else. Instead, God sent his son, Jesus Christ into the world to embody/show us how to live and what the kingdom of God is really like. John 1 tells us that the word became flesh and dwelt among us.

I am afraid that we haven’t taken this example very seriously. When we are presented with a problem or issue in the church our knee-jerk reaction is more teaching when the reality is people still need to see the biblical kingdom priorities lived out among them. We think somehow if people hear about something more that change will happen automatically. Mike Breen says it like this,

“This is my fundamental issue with the ‘go deep’ kind of people. If I can make  mass generalizations for a moment, I see them this way: They want to go into the endless minutiae of scripture, which can be a good thing, but they rarely want to do anything with it. They think that knowing about something is the same thing as knowing something. They have bought into the lie that knowing more scripture changes you.

It doesn’t.

Doing what scripture says and responding to God’s voice changes you…If you are not actively seeking to live in it, you don’t really believe it.” (Breen, Multiplying Missional Leaders, 23)

We have a whole generation of young people who sat in Bible class twice a week who are no longer with us. If information was the solution they should have been rock solid. Information is foundational but left to itself, non-incarnated in the Christian community it is not enough. If we followed Jesus’ example we would develop people through more than Bible class. We would take time with people to walk alongside them, teach them, train them, and send them. That takes time and investment and that is what makes it difficult. But let me ask you this, how well has the time we have invested in our current model made disciples? (I probably subconsciously stole that question from Breen’s book somewhere). Breen’s approach has been to use information as well as apprenticeship/imitation of a more mature disciple. That is huge. That is the missing piece in much of the work we try to do to make disciples. Many of us have bought into the lie that more information = greater disciples to the neglect of time in the trenches with those we are discipling with the intent of launching them out. Much of our discipling works fosters too much dependence on a sole leader rather than maturing people to be, as Breen would say, leaders rather than program/ministry managers.

If this is something you would like more specifics on or have struggle with this yourself, I cannot recommend enough these two books:
Multiplying Missional Leaders
Building a Discipling Culture

Was This Written in 1962 or 2012?

“The thoughtful Christian will admit that in these days the church is not leading the number of people to Christ that it should…Is there a cause for this failure? Can we find a [solution]? Surely there must be both…The failure is due to a lack of effort after any method. The solution must be found by a restudy of Bible methods of reaching people with the gospel and in the application of those methods to our present day evangelism. Every member of the church must become a ‘workman approved of God,’ prepared in heart and training to lead others to the knowledge of the truth…

There is no more urgent need in the church today than for Christians who can and will talk to people about their soul’s need and about the Christ of the gospel who satisfies that need. Little of the burning passion for men’s souls as seen in Jesus and the early Christians is to be found among Christians today. In building the church, work is too often motivated by the competitive spirit of [vanity] which desires to see a work we are doing succeed because of a selfish interest rather than from an intense desire for men to be saved because they are lost…

The invitation of Jesus was, ‘Come…and learn of me.’ The charge that followed was, ‘Go and teach.’ Upon every one who has learned, the Lord has placed the responsibility of telling others what he has learned. When to the apostles He said, ‘Teach them to obey everything I have commanded you,’ the command to ‘go’ was passed on to those who should obey the gospel. From that moment it has been the responsibility of the baptized disciple to follow that command. The vast majority of Christians have never dreamed that the command is personal.”

I am sure some of the language gives it away. This is from Homer Hailey’s 1962 book “Let’s Go Fishing for Men.” There are parts of this book that sound like something that would have been written in the last few years. The problems are the same and the solutions are the same. People aren’t taking Jesus’ command seriously and we must go to scripture to find our methods of reaching the lost. Same yesterday, today and until the Lord returns. The world needs Jesus and God has asked us to spread the word. Many Christians refuse to do that and we must be reminded that Christ really did mean for us to take his command to “go” seriously and personally. This book is pretty old school but I will say it does offer some concrete approaches to take in talking directly with people about God and salvation.

This is Discipling – Video by Foursquare

This is Discipling from The Foursquare Church on Vimeo.

HT: Eric Brown

I wonder if we don’t make things too complicated.

Casting a Vision for Evangelism: What We Are Doing

When I ministered at the Millington Church of Christ they had a ministry called the We Care Ministry. Each Sunday night we would meet before worship and go through attendance cards of who visited that morning. People would take notes and be assigned people to reach out to based on what needs were present. I had no idea that all those meetings would be a huge piece in our new ministry until a few months ago when the lightbulb came on and all the pieces that had taken us two years to figure out came together in an instant.

Before diving into all the background here is what we are doing, plain and simple. There is a ton of background here and many things I will explain later but I want to tell you what it currently looks like. Again, it is simple on the surface but there are a few things under the hood that drive this that are very important to understand. More on that later!

We started a new Wednesday night class as the hub of our outreach efforts. Here is what we do in the class:

Devo/Teaching: (5-10 minutes)
Training: Review our approach/teach a new aspect of what we are doing and why (10 minutes)
Action: Go over who we are reaching out to and who is going to get it done (25-30 minutes)
Prayer:  Prayer is a huge part of what we are doing. More on that later (3-5 minutes)

That is what happens in class. I am trying for the class to be “real” so if a need comes up or a name comes up that we feel we should pray for we just stop and pray right then. This class is not about what happens in class. It is about what happens outside of class. In the days that follow, those who agreed to reach out to others are contacting people. They are making calls, meeting them on Sunday, emailing and connecting. Many of them are emailing me the results of their conversations and I have to say it is very exciting! Things are happening that were happening before but were too few and far between. People are seeing we care about them. Members are involved in ministry. People are being prayed for! God is doing some great things! Soon we will be coordinating Bible studies (Jesus 101) with those who are ready through all of this as well.

Again, there is a ton of background on each of those and I am going to go through the theory very soon. First I want to give you what we are actually doing. This is just the start. It is going to take me quite a few posts to lay all this out so please stick with me and please ask any questions you have along the way.

Bible Class – Connecting with Community Resources

As our 20s & 30s Bible class continues to try new things and reach out to more people we decided we needed someone to come in and talk with our class about homelessness in our county. There are over 6000 homeless people in our county and growing. So there is definitely a need and a very visible one at that. I can’t tell you how many times we have discussed the problem of homelessness in our Bible class and we haven’t really had ready solutions or answers other than putting a band aid on the problem or throwing a few dollars at it. Either approach seems more focused on making ourselves feel better than actually fixing the problem or really doing something meaningful to help lift someone out of that situation.

We had the director of the coalition for the homeless in our county come and speak to our class. He brought with him a gentleman who used to be homeless, but lifted himself out, to share his story. It was powerful and helpful. It normalized it a bit for us and really put a face on the problem. We had a lot of questions left to ask about how we can make a difference that we weren’t able to get to so we are having them back for one more week to be able to ask them our questions and learn how to really address this issue. I hope to share some of that information next week.

It is important that we partner with relevant community resources so that we do things that are meaningful, effective, and so that we don’t spin our wheels. We want to make a difference. Often we have to evaluate things and talk with those who have more experience and expertise in these areas than we do. So we have taken one small step to partner with community resources to expand our efforts to impact homelessness in this county.

Has your church ever partnered with non-church agencies or organizations to make an impact on your community?

How was it done and what was the result?

More next week on practical things we can do to address this issue.

The Importance of Equipping – Ephesians 4:11-16

Ephesians 4 has so many valuable points to make about the focus of ministry within the church. Here are the verses,

11It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

14Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” – Eph 4:11-16

First we see that ministry starts with Christ and it ends with Christ. He is the one who gave different people different responsibilities within His body. Without a doubt, that is an act done out of sheer grace. Then Paul tells us what the purpose of those rolls are – to prepare God’s people for works of service resulting in the building up of the church. Ultimately this results in unity, knowledge, and maturity.

So ministers aren’t the ones who are supposed to run around and “do church” for everyone else. Ministers should be in the business of preparing the church to be about the mission God gave the church to fulfill. That is called equipping. The church is at its best when the whole body of believers are joined together, united in Christ, supporting one another, and growing as each part does its work. That is a beautiful picture of a body in motion, not a single part out of sync with the rest…all working toward the same goal under the leadership of the head, Jesus Christ.

It is when ministers think they have been prepared by Christ to do all the works of service, leaving the rest of the body to be a spectator, that the congregation begins to break down…faith, knowledge, and maturity are all found lacking in those situations because bodies are made to move, not sit. Bodies aren’t made for a few select members to get the body functioning to its fullest. Bodies are made to be used. When they are used, they grow.

Ministers should never buy into the lie that it is all up to them…if it is going to get done, they are the one who has to do it. Remember, it is Christ who expects all his people to reach unity in the faith, knowledge and ultimately through maturity. Some ministers have such high standards for the quality of work they desire to be done that they would rather not let anyone else touch it or it might not get done as well…this too retards spiritual growth and results in weak and immature Christians. Some times you just have to be willing to let people have enough space to mature, even if it means a few mistakes along the way. It is amazing what people can do once they have “permission.”