The Celebration-Driven Church

October 19, 2012 § Leave a comment

[A follow-on to Spreading Effective Vision and The Agile Church, addressed specifically to the Church Spread of Kingsway Community Church.]

In less than twelve months, together with the Holy Spirit, we have completely reinvented Kingsway Church.  While our overall numbers may be the same, we have spread to two new neighborhoods, dramatically expanded our pastoral staff, and filled much of our congregation with renewed vision for reaching our communities.

What if that was just the beginning?


The process we used over this past year was to:

  1. Ask a larger team for their visions of what God wanted to do
  2. Identify the key mechanism (church planting) needed to realize those visions
  3. Refine that vision to include the whole congregation (“church spread”)
  4. Engage the larger leadership team around that vision
  5. Develop new structures to execute that vision (campuses, bimonthly meetings, Campus Launch teams)
  6. Redefine existing ministries and roles to fit into that vision & structure
  7. Raise up new leaders as needed (Larry, Andrew, Lora, Abe)
  8. Mobilize the entire congregation to participate
  9. Celebrate what we accomplished
  10. Reflect on how to build on that going forward

What if discerning and implementing this kind of transformational vision was a regular part of church life, instead of something extraordinary that happens once every few decades?


Most long-lived organizations are designed to ensure consistency — which in practice means avoiding change.  In the past decade, a new kind of structure has emerged in the field of software development that avoids this problem.  Called Agile, its goal is to enable both disciplined execution and continuous innovation.

Where Agile is successfully adopted, it produces a virtuous cycle of:

  • Engaged workers
  • Greater creativity
  • Improved quality
  • Simpler management
  • Dramatic results

The secret to achieving this is shifting “vision” from a high-level strategic concept to a low-level tactical plan.  This would need to happen with not just the Lead Elder and Elder’s Team, but also with each Campus Pastor and their Campus Team.


The key components of Agile practice I’d like us to adopt are:

1. Vision Pool

Each lead pastor (Lead Elder or Campus Pastor) maintains an ongoing, written list of problems and opportunities that various people (or the Holy Spirit) have raised.  This ensures everyone’s input is always heard, valued, and captured — even if there isn’t time or grace to do anything for them right now.

2. Prioritized Chunks

Work is done in “seasons” of 6 to 12 weeks, perhaps corresponding to a sermon series.  Before each season, the pastor works with his team to identify the top one-to-three items in the vision pool they feel God wants them to focus on next.

3. Concrete Outcomes

To flesh out that vision, the team needs to decide what measurable success would look like. It doesn’t need to be measurable with numbers, but it does need to be something everyone can recognize.  A good test is, “What is the praise report you’d like to share at the next Celebration Service that you could not have shared at the last one?”

Note that there are three different kinds of metrics:

  • Inputs: what we do, e.g., holding an event
  • Outputs: what we get, e.g., how many people showed up
  • Outcomes: what God gets, e.g., how many people were saved

All are useful, but only the last is truly meaningful.

4. True Ownership

Once that vision is agreed upon, the team is empowered to do whatever they can dream up to help realize that vision.  That is, no further direction or approval should be needed.

This requires enormous levels of trust — but that is the point.  The goal is to build the kinds of teams, and the kinds of visions, where the leader has a justified confidence in the trustworthiness of the team to execute them.  Including trusting that people will ask if something is unusually risky or infringes on someone else’s domain.

While difficult to achieve, the payoff for achieving and expressing that level of trust is enormous.  Give people a compelling vision and freedom to experiment — and even fail, within limits — and you will be astounded at what they produce.

5. Continual Prayer & Praise Updates

The price of trust is transparency and accountability.  There should be an email list or Basecamp project/Campfire forum where everybody regularly logs what they are doing.  This allows for “no surprises” without excessive meetings.

In addition, there needs to be frequent sharing of “praises” (progress) and “prayers” (impediments) towards fulfilling the vision.  Note that in the Agile mindset, there are no “problems” or “failures” — only impediments to achieving the vision.  This takes the blame off of people, and lets the team focus on how to enhance the process to work around the impediment.

Many Agile processes recommend brief daily “stand-up” meetings, which obviously won’t work for dispersed volunteers.  A good substitute may be twice-weekly videoconferences; email or even audio isn’t really enough, since the goal is for the lead pastor  to understand the emotional state of the team, so he can proactively identify and resolve impediments.

6.  Celebration and Reflection

At the end of each season, there needs to be some sort of public celebration (of what was done) and private reflection (on how things were done).  This gives the team ownership of both the results and the process, so they are motivated to improve both.

IV. Possible Structure

Note: the following is merely a strawman proposal to spark discussion, not any sort of final plan.

  1. The three lead pastors start collecting Vision Pools of issues/projects they or others would like to address (perhaps on Basecamp).
  2. Campus Pastors identify their Campus Teams, who would see those pools and share in the visioning and implementation.
  3. The monthly all-church Leadership Meeting should probably be replaced with monthly Campus Team meetings (and perhaps quarterly all-church meetings), supplemented by weekly video conference calls.
  4. The lead pastors identify the timing and proposed vision for their first seasons; note that each pastor may choose a different duration.
  5. Each lead pastor meets with their team to develop those prioritized items into a shared vision for the upcoming season, with concrete outcomes.
  6. Campus Pastors report back to the elders on their goals for their next season.  The elders should provide feedback, but do not need to approve them (unless there is a specific request for resources managed by the elders).
  7. At every Celebration Service, there is dedicated time for each campus to share ongoing or completed goals.
  8. Before the end of this season, the lead pastors work to develop the visions for the next season.
  9. At the end of the season, each campus team prepares a written “retrospective” on lessons learned and suggested improvements, which is also shared with the elders.
  10. The elders can suggest items to add to the Vision Pool of the campus teams, but can not overrule their decisions.

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