• The Church: Mainline, 107 in average worship attendance
  • The Location: Northeast US
  • The Pastor: First call, seminary trained
  • The Resources: Consultation completed, coach engaged
  • The Presenting Issue: Lack of growth, few visitors, lots of busyness with little return
  • The Real Issue: The pastor’s commitment to balance

You can lead a horse to water. Sometimes, as coaches and consultants, we just want to do a Charlie Brown – put our heads against a wall and mutter, “Good grief!”

When we teach about the four core processes we typically use a pie chart graphic that’s divided into equal quadrants: Invite, Connect, Apprentice, and Send. It’s a good representation of the idea that all four processes are important in an effective church. But the graphic is sadly misleading. Effective church leaders understand that there’s no such thing as balance, especially when it comes to the work of the church. There are only priorities – and priorities aren’t balanced … they’re juggled. 

If you’ve ever tried to juggle, you’re painfully aware that it’s not an easy task to learn. Jugglers like me spend most of our time just trying to keep balls of the same size and weight in the air and moving at the same speed and height. By doing so you gain a natural rhythm that will keep the balls moving up and down, round and round without bouncing across the room. In fact, basic juggling looks a lot like balance – every ball is tossed into the air with the same velocity and on a similar trajectory.

But an accomplished juggler isn’t restrained by size, weight, velocity, or trajectory. Each ball can be a different weight or size – it doesn’t matter; an accomplished juggler makes allowance. Each ball can be tossed into the air with a different velocity – and the accomplished juggler doesn’t flinch. And no two balls have to travel in a similar trajectory – the juggler’s hands move with ease to snatch each one as gravity takes its toll.

The same is necessarily true when a pastor manages the four core processes. Although each of the processes is equally important, they don’t get the same priority at the same time. For instance, when a church has less than 200 in average worship, an effective pastor gives the invite process top priority. In fact, in churches destined to break through the brick ceiling, the pastor will spend 75 to 80 percent of their time nurturing the invite process. They will spend most of their time networking in the community with prospective visitors and guests. On the other hand, when a church is averaging over 1000 in worship, an effective pastor will spend over half of their time managing the connect process. They will spend most their time writing a sermon that will connect the worshiping community with each other, the church, and Jesus Christ. Plus they’ll spend time ensuring the “back door” of the church is closed and visitors become returning guests who become participants who become members who become leaders who become community missionaries.

Juggling priorities doesn’t mean the church neglects any of the processes – discipleship is always important, as are outreach ministries. But each one rises and falls in the hands of an effective pastor with disproportionate priorities.

If you’re committed to leading an effective church that is faithful in discipleship and has a sustainable future, then step away from the balance beam. Learn to become an accomplished juggler of priorities and match your church’s circumstances to the right priority at the right time.

Question: Can you think of scenarios that would require a strong emphasis on each of the four processes? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.