Guiding Your Church to Be More Systems Driven with Lane Sebring

Welcome to the unSeminary podcast. I’m so excited for today’s conversation with a genuine friend of the podcast, Lane Sebring. Lane is the executive director at OneLife Church in Tennessee and also runs a resource called The Preaching Donkey.

OneLife Church was planted in 2009 in Knoxville, Tennessee, has launched their third campus and is conceiving a fourth campus. Lane became part of OneLife when he arrived 15 months ago in 2017.

47% of all multisite churches don’t make it beyond 3 locations, but OneLife is on the verge of moving past that and working on a fourth campus, however that doesn’t happen without systems. We’re talking today with Lane about what it is he’s learning about systems development and how he’s helping to make that happen in OneLife to help the church step forward.

  • Become systems dependent. // When Lane arrived at OneLife, it had two campuses and was planning the third. What they found was that a lot of what they were doing was duplicating and not scaling. Because they were doing something at one campus they would just do it at another campus. But they began to feel pressure when the reality of the third campus set in. The Craig Groeschel Leadership Podcast talked about the rule of 3 and 10, in that when you hit 3 of the thing and 10 of the thing you have an exponential increase in complexity. The staff at OneLife asked what are things that needed to be done when going to three campuses or four or five? They decided to become systems dependent, not people dependent.
  • Make a list of everything done in the church. // The OneLife staff began to compile a list of everything they did. The question asked was, “What do we do more than once in the same way?” It could be something that was done once a year or every week, but it was something that was done more than once in the same way and needed to be documented in a system. They asked across the staff, leadership team, and volunteers to find out what were all the things they did, even things that were only existing in someone’s head and weren’t yet written on paper. This is not just activities, but welcoming people to the church, cleaning, setting up audio equipment, etc.
  • Not just duplicating, but multiplying. // Once the list was made, it was prioritized based on needs. The immediate need was to make sure when they went from two campuses to three, they were not just duplicating but multiplying. They wanted to make sure the pastor at the new campus had everything he needed to hit the ground running. The way things were done at the other campuses would be on paper so he and his teams would have it to refer to and it would be simple and allow them to easily follow the system.
  • A system is simple. // People are often afraid to hear the word “system,” but OneLife’s collection of systems is simple. For example, their generalized system for auditorium is on one page, so that any volunteer can take it and follow it for everything they need to know. It asks three questions: Who does it? When does it happen? How do we know we’re winning? From there, the page gives one-sentence job descriptions and talks about what to do and how to do it.
  • Focus on the campus. // The central team at One Life is responsible for plans, standards, systems, and resources while the campuses are responsible for shepherding people and execution of plans and standards. So it was decided to focus on the campuses with areas such as kids’ ministry and first impressions. These parts of your church can provide a greater impact in helping people to return and so it’s important to put a lot of focus on these areas of your church.
  • Become a preaching ninja. // Lane has been blogging for about 5 years now and has now released his second book. Become a Preaching Ninja: Sharpen Your Skills, Hone Your Craft, and Maximize Your Input as a Preacher was inspired when he started thinking about how there is so much emphasis in the church world on leadership, developing as a leader, and becoming a better leader. This can feel like preaching is secondary to leadership. Lane wrote this book to help people examine the areas where they can be masterful if they give it a little attention, and where God has wired them as a speaker.

You can download a sample systems checklist here and follow OneLife Church at their website. To learn more about Lane’s book or get in contact with him, visit www.preachingdonkey.com.

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Rich Birch
Rich Birch is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 5,000+ people in 18 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. He has also been a part of the lead team at Liquid Church - a 5 location multisite church serving the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. Liquid is known for it’s innovative approach to outreach and community impact. Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution.His latest book Church Growth Flywheel: 5 Practical Systems to Drive Growth at Your Church is an Amazon bestseller and is design to help your church reach more people in your community.