Lawrence Huey: Why Everyone Is A Systems Person


Years ago I found myself among leaders  in a breakout session at a conference talking about what leadership development might look like in our organizations.  You know the scene.  It’s where some ask questions and others share what they’ve tried, and we gather various ideas from different people to see what might work for us.  It’s there that I asked, “Do you guys want to talk about leadership development systems?”  One person quickly responded: “I’m not a systems person.” They weren't interested and our conversation ended there.

What if I told you that we’re actually all systems persons?  Anytime you and I get together to share ideas, what’s happening is that we’re adding new ideas and experimentation into an existing system.  You may not know it, but you have systems. The only distinction is that some systems are effective and some are ineffective.

Andy Stanley once said that his goal as a pastor on a Sunday morning is to “host attendees from the parking lot to the point of the sermon.”  Did you catch that?  He wants people to go from a point A to a point B.  I think we all do.  What you do to determine that journey is a system.  Even if you’ve never thought about what you want out of a particular experience, whether it’s a Sunday service, guest experience, leadership development, giving, etc., you do already have a system; however, if you’ve never thought about it, chances are that your system is not very effective.  In other words, your current systems can be hurting you.

Effective systems are created by intentionally coming up with what you want to see take place and crafting a plan for how you’re going to make that happen.  How will we move people from point A to point B?  It’s simply an intentional or strategic process. 

You can have, and should have, all sorts of different systems.  Any environment you can imagine or any engagement you’d like people to have has a system because there’s a process.  If you want people to visit your church and come back and become an attendee and later a member, you need to determine your process of making that happen. 

The thing about systems is that they aren’t sexy.  In our culture, even though we discipline ourselves against outward appearances, we still like things that are sexy.  Preaching is sexy. Vision is sexy. But preaching and vision won’t solve all the problems, or even most of the problems in our ministries and organizations.  It’s understandable why some of us when faced with problems may feel they need to re-communicate vision and just preach it some more. Christine Caine once said, “Your gifting will get you in the room but only character will keep you there.”  I think of vision like gifting – it will get people in the room.  It will get them energized and excited.  But systems are like character – they keep people in the room.  After passion has subsided, they need something solid.  They need systems.  We don’t just need sexy, we need solid.  The good news is that when the quality of your systems match the quality of your vision and communication, people have great experiences all around.

At the end of the day, we all want to succeed, see others succeed, and change lives. Because that’s our ultimate goal, we need to do the diligence of working through our systems so people don’t get lost along the way. 

What comes to mind for you?  What area of of your ministry or orgainzation do you want to tackle first?  Let’s talk and come up with an effective system together.