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Creating a culture of multiplication in times of change

By Sam Rodriguez, West Ohio Director of Faith Formation and Community Engagement

We often do not have much time to think about what we need to do when an emergency arises - we just do it. This, I imagine, has been true for many churches recently, both big and small. All this talk about change is focused on the need to adapt and accommodate to effectively continue the ministry of the Church in this time of rapid change. Recently I was reminded of a strategic paper prepared by the staff at Discipleship Ministries, titled Multiplication Dynamics, which sets out to compare the vitality of a church with a multiplication culture versus one without. Neither is wrong or incorrect, but there are many differences between the two. I’m going to lift out three of these differences in the article here; there are thirty differences in all. Please feel free to contact me for the entire list at srodriguez [at] wocumc.org.

This first comparison is not surprising, and yet it is very telling of our world today.

  • Multiplication Church: Extremely simple local church organization and focus (prioritizing worship, small groups, and outreach).
  • Non-Multiplication Church: Lots of committees and complicated decision-making. Church involved in major issues and projects beyond the minimum core of focus.

In times like these, one might realize how much time is spent on committee work and decision making, rather than attending to the implementation of a plan. This stagnation is sometimes referred to as paralysis by analysis. How many changes have you made in the last month? What would have been your usual path and time frame to make such changes? The non-multiplication church can shift by having groups and teams lead organically. In other words, they work within the group by being more sensitive to contextual needs and changes.

The second comparison shows how new things happen (or don’t).

  • Multiplication Church: Minimum of centralized activity. Groups initiate and lead new things.
  • Non-Multiplication Church: Most ministry is staff-led or planned by a central committee.

Allowing more lay-led ministry provides a great opportunity for church groups/teams to serve in their area of passion and fosters a sense of unity with staff and other lay people. If more groups/teams are doing this, it may lead to other teams feeling more empowered to do the same. How have you seen your groups/team working during this time of rapid change? Is anything different? If it is, how is it different?

The third and final comparison is the most important.

  • Multiplication Church: Trust of leaders at every level; sacraments are given to the people.
  • Non-Multiplication: High value for uniformity, managing down and central control.

Many years ago, Patrick Lencioni wrote a book titled, The Five Dysfunctions of Team, in which he points out that the absence of trust is the foundation of a dysfunctional team. Part of the reason for this distrust is due to a lack of vulnerability among team members. Building trust to the level in which one is willing to be open about one’s weaknesses can only be done through regular time spent among team members, not necessarily in meetings. It can be through play, work, being creative, and having focused conversation about ministry and other topics.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, trust is defined as “firm belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of someone or something.” Due to our present situation, you may see new leaders emerge. Make sure to encourage them as this may be a time for multiplying your leadership. This may feel uncomfortable, but this is the season in which you should let go of some of your control and see where the Holy Spirit is moving – and give your people the blessing to follow.

My prayer for you in this season is simply this: ’May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).