Over the years I have kept a file of “rules” that seem to be constant in effective churches, regardless of size, denomination, leadership style, or geographic location. One is the “Class of Leaders” rule:
Growing churches have 20-25% of their involved members in Class II activities.
“Class II?? I don’t even know what Class I activities are!” you may be thinking.
Class I activities: Church roles and tasks that focus primarily inward on ministry to existing church members, activities, and structures. Positions such as choir member, usher, Sunday school teacher, board member are generally Class One activities.
Class II activities: Church roles and tasks that focus primarily outward on ministry to non-Christians within a church’s ministry area. Visitor follow-up, Vacation Bible School, community service are examples of Class Two activities.
Here’s the key insight: There is a direct correlation between Class II positions…and church growth.
But, here’s the catch: Most churches have a severe shortage of Class II activities available. The ratio of Class One positions to Class Two positions in most churches is around 15:1. That is, at least fifteen roles and tasks exist for maintenance of the existing congregation for every one activity that focuses on outreach. Another way of saying it is that 95% of ministry positions in churches are inward-focused.
What is a healthy balance between Class I and Class II positions? After all, there are many activities required to maintain the existing church. I believe a ratio of 4:1 provides a reasonable balance. A church should have four “maintenance” positions for every one “mission” position. Or, approximately a quarter of all volunteer positions should be Class II—outward-focused.
What You Can Do About It
Here are a few ideas on how to move toward a healthier balance of Class I to Class II positions in your church…
• Make a list of all your ministry roles and tasks—any elected, appointed, or volunteer activity that presently exists in your church. Once you have listed all the positions, identify which are primarily Class I functions (inward-focused) and which are Class II (outward-focused). Count the total number in both categories and then divide the number of Class I functions into the total. This will give you the percentage of Class I positions (and, through subtraction, Class II) in your church. If you’re like most, somewhere around 90-95% of your roles and tasks will be inward-focused. Bring this up at your next leadership meeting and encourage discussion about the implications.
• Developing Class II leaders can begin in your newcomers class. Help new members, new believers, and new attendees identify their spiritual gifts, and then guide them in exploring how their gifts can be used in Class II activities. Newcomers should learn that all Christians are witnesses (I Pe. 3:15), and that all gifts are given for the building up of the body (Eph. 4:12).
• As you review the various ministry opportunities in your church, this is a good time to ask whether any of the existing positions—particularly Class I positions—could be eliminated. Honestly evaluate each activity in terms of its useful function and contribution to your overall purpose, and consider whether it is taking time and people away from possible Class II ministry.
• Ask your present Class I leaders to brainstorm ways that their activity might be broadened to also include a Class II function. For example, a church in Knoxville determined to become more outward-focused. The ushers (along with other groups) were challenged to think of ways their positions might become more outward-focused. One of the ushers’ ideas was to escort visitors at their service to a seat next to a member in the sanctuary…and then introduce the member and visitor to each other, thus encouraging a conversation between the two. It was a small effort, but one that could go a long way toward making a good first impression with church visitors.
• One way to add more Class II activities is by starting new “side-door” ministries. A side-door is a church-sponsored class, group, club, or activity that is designed to include non-members, with an ideal ratio 50:50 (members to non-members). Successful side-door ministries bring people together who share a common interest or concern. It might be raising a child with autism. It could be coping with prostate cancer. Some churches have side-doors for people who are unemployed or looking to change jobs. The possibilities are endless. In side-door groups participants share important things in common, and friendships sprout quickly. These friendships with non-Christians often become the “bridges of God” over which many cross into new life and fellowship in the church.
If your church has all of its leaders focused inward in Class I activities, you are not wisely investing the “talents” (Mt. 25:14-30) the Master has given you. Class II leaders are the hands and feet of Jesus in your community. Recruit, train, and deploy Class II leaders and you will see a significant re-focusing of priorities, ministry, and growth in your church.