Systems Thinking for your church

Equipping leaders to answer questions from a systems perspective.

Kelly johnson

This process was very worthwhile, and I would highly recommend other churches and leaders engage in it. The material and sessions are well done and pull together so many critical aspects of ministry. Having an external facilitator was so important – it removed biases, favoritism, clinging to current practices, etc., yet engaged the group and pulled us all together. - Immanuel Community Reformed Church, Lansing MI.

Systems thinking is a conceptual framework, a perspective that sees a complex whole composed of interdependent parts. It helps leaders recognize full patterns and see how to change them to make their organizations more effective. Systems thinking has been developed over the past fifty years, primarily through the work of Jay Wright Forrester (system dynamics) and made widely known by Peter Senge (The Fifth Discipline). 

We equip leaders to answer questions from a systems perspective, for example:

  • What’s really happening in my church? Why?
  • Why are we not accomplishing our stated goals?
  • What are the sources of resistance to change and growth in the church?
  • Why do we keep dealing with the same problems?
  • How can I lead the church to be healthier and more effective?
  • What changes are most important for our congregation?

We equip church leaders to apply the concepts and tools of systems thinking to overcome obstacles common in churches. Very often, leaders find themselves repeatedly facing the same problems or multiple problems that keep surfacing regardless of the number of attempts to solve them. This dynamic tends to stifle leaders and negatively impacts church effectiveness by creating negative reinforcing cycles. Too often, leaders respond by looking for the person or group responsible for the problem, which increases conflict and negative feelings within the congregation. All of this is the result of linear thinking.

We help leaders think about and engage their churches as complex social systems, recognizing that all parts of the church are interrelated in circular processes. We prepare them to engage the unseen dynamics of a system in order to effectively intervene to improve their churches’ effectiveness.

This is accomplished through teaching thinking concepts, training to use system thinking tools, and coaching or consulting to apply theses to their unique congregational context. We often hear that systems thinking helps church leaders “get out of the blame game” because the system is the problem, not any person or group. Gaining this new perspective on their church also tends to energize and encourage leaders who had felt stifled and overwhelmed. And those are our twin goals:

  1. Empower an encourage stifled leaders and help get stuck churches unstuck.
  2. We equip leaders to easily shift between linear and systems perspective.

Are you ready to explore whether Systems Thinking might be the next right step for your church?