In my consulting practice I usually try to get business people to think about what their organization does (driven by its primary purpose) before they think about its structure. This follows the ancient Roman architectral design principle of ‘Form follows Function.’ It is better to design the functions of a building, an organization (or a church) before you decide how to organize the people doing these functions.
Most people find this very hard to do — their natural tendency is to want to know the ‘pecking order’ first. Who is the leader? Who is my boss? Who wields the power? I was part of a team many years ago that invented a way to get people to think in fresh ways about what their organization needs to do, without worrying about its structure. We called this method Value Streams.
Simply put, a Value Stream describes all the work necessary to satisfy the needs of a particular type of customer. For example, if a business has both large corporate customers as well as individual consumers, they would like to design the work for these two types of customers differently because their needs may be very different. You don’t worry about how the work is structured; you worry about what work must be done to meet needs. Value Stream thinking puts a premium on satisfying the needs of customers. [You can also have Value Streams focused on internal ‘customers’ too, such as a People Value Stream that is all the work that must be done to meet the needs of employees.]
I have used Value Stream thinking to create a fresh model of a local church. This model has the following advantages:
- It focuses on the needs of diverse people, whom the church is meant to serve.
- It takes into account the differences between people in different situations, making the church sensitive to their different needs
- It look at all the activities that a church might do and asks the question, “Who is this particular activity in service of?”
- It provides a way to assess whether, and to what extent, a church’s current activities are meeting the needs of their key ‘customers.’
The following diagram shows a simple Value Stream model that fits any church.
Here is a brief explanation of the model. In the future, I will publish a more detailed model together witha Guide to the design process required to customize the model to meet the specific needs of any local church.
The Primary ‘Customer-facing’ Value Streams
- The People ‘outside’ the church — non Christians — are served by the Connecting Value Stream. This might include activites like welcoming, evangelizing, initiation into the church, Baptism, and others. This value Stream responds the the Great Comission of Jesus.
- The Members of the church — Christians, whether members of the local church or not — are served by the Belonging Value Stream. This might includes activities like liturgy, education, Bible Studies, community-building and others.
- Poor and Needy people — whether Christian or not — are served by the Serving Value Stream. This might include activities like feeding the poor, clothing the naked, healing, visiting the imprisoned, and other activities by which Christians fulfill the most basic command of Jesus of loving our neighbors.
The Supporting Value Streams
- The people who do the work in the Conecting and Belonging Value Streams are support by the work of the Spiritual Value Stream. This might include activities like preparation for ministry, creating or enabling liturgies, coaching, retreats and others.
- The people who do the work in the Serving Value Stream are supported by the Equipping Value Stream. This might include activities like special training, program creation, collaboration with other agencies and groups and others.
The Enabling Value Streams
- All the work in the other value Streams is served by the Leadership Value Stream. This might include activities like parish council, recruting and organizing volunteers, transformation and others.
- The financials and church building are served by the Stewarship & Facilities Value Stream. This includes fund raising and management, build programs and maintenace and others.
- The professional employees of the church are served by the People Value Stream. This might include hiring, training, and other traditional HR activities.
This model can used used in a variety of ways
- As a way to assess how effecteively a church’s current activities are linked to the needs of primary customers.
- As a means to help everyone in a church see where their particular activity fits, and how it supports the overall church community
- As the starting point for rethinking how a church might better prioritize and apply its resources.