Faith Communities are Living Systems

Systems dynamics is a valuable area of thinking for ministry leaders. To understand the systems that impact ministry success, as well as societal health, are vital. Too often, though, systems thinking is dismissed as only information technology or process flows, and many leaders do not see the living systems impacting their lives every day.

There are two types of systems. The first are constructed, built by mankind, which is what most leaders are familiar with. Within the church, this can be hard to identify, however, things like Sunday morning services, small groups, and follow-up procedures are all designed by the hands of man. The other type of system is living systems, those designed by God. Living systems can be found in nature, within the human body, as well as in the interconnectedness of relationships (Hall et al., 2010).

Living systems have been at the core of mankind for the majority of human history, however, in recent decades, mankind has allowed constructed systems to become the primary focus of culture development and interaction. The church has followed suit allowing the focus to move away from created systems toward constructed systems. Unfortunately, the living church has adopted a constructed culture as its primary, which is not highly relational, not in step with other living systems, and not well suited to nurture Christianity, a highly relational living system (Hall et al., 2010).

This can be seen in social media. Social media is a rich source of innovation (Holman, 2011) and are changing how churches communicate and connect (Kasper & Clohesy, 2008). Church planting efforts use it to brand their DNA and leverage it for marketing, team building, community engagement, and various aspects of church life (Railey, 2016), however, ministry leaders must remember it cannot replace the living system of face-to-face relationships that nurture a healthy Christian culture.


Hall, D., Hall, J., & Deman, S. (2010). The Cat & The Toaster – condensed. Retrieved from

Holman, B. J., John Loehr, and Richard. (2011). The Global Innovation 1000: Why Culture Is Key. Retrieved December 7, 2016, from

Kasper, G., & Clohesy, S. (2008). Intentional Innovation: How Getting More Systematic about Innovation Could Improve Philanthropy and Increase Social Impact. W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Railey, C. (2016). A Healthy Church in Every Community: Creating a Culture of Multiplication in the Assemblies of God USA. Assemblies of God Theological Seminary.

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