I’m getting pretty good at responding to e-mail

Now there’s something I’ve not ever been able to say with a straight face!

Anyone who knows me knows that it’s not unheard of to have an e-mail note get lost in the swampland called “Paul’s Inbox.”

That was until recently…

When I realized that FOR THE SECOND TIME I had neglected to contact a couple who had asked me to marry them!


After contacting them… asking forgiveness… and buying them Starbucks (that always helps)…

I swore to myself that this would not happen again. So I created a system.

Now my system won’t work for everyone, but it is working for me… so I thought I’d share.

  • I set two alarms on my phone. One for 11:00 a.m. and the other for 2:30 p.m.
  • When the alarm goes off I know it’s time to check and respond to e-mail.
  • I carve out 30 minutes for each segment. Though it is not taking that long, I know I have that time reserved.
  • If, for some reason, I miss the 11:00 then I know I have one more chance that day… 2:30. And if I miss the 2:30, then that response will have to wait until 11:00 the next day!

So far those who are in regular contact with me via e-mail are impressed. Seriously.

I feel great, and I am demonstrating respect to those who reach out to me.

Now, here’s the thing…

this has everything to do with my learning edge right now… it has to do with  quote from John Maxwell:

“You can’t change your life until you change something you do daily.”

I’m finding that the more I pay attention to the details of my daily life, the better my life is becoming!

No joke! Even the lovely and talented Mrs. Peterson said to me the other day, “I see you changing.”

I like that!

So you see, this is so much more than e-mail! It has to do with paying attention to what happens in my day, being proactive, and staying on top of my game.

So here’s to all of us who are working hard to get better as we get older!

Let’s be like wine… not milk! #betterwithage

Resources for creating organizational systems in the church (6 of 6)

The following are some resources that you may find helpful as you develop your thinking on systems. I have placed them in categories based on the thirteen systems I have identified within the church.

This is NOT an exhaustive list by any means! I would love your feedback on additional resources for each system!

Leadership Structure

  1. Staff Your Church for Growth – Gary McIntosh
  2. Go Big – Bil Cornelius and Bill Easum
  3. Leading At A Higher Level – Ken Blanchard, et al

Finance & Stewardship (2 systems here: operational and strategic)

  1. The Stewardship Seminar (CD set) – Nelson Searcy
  2. Re-Think Money – Casey Graham’s teaching material
  3. Total Money Makeover – Dave Ramsey
  4. How to Increase Giving In Your Church – George Barna
  5. Money, Possessions and Eternity – Randy Alcorn

Campus Management

  1. The Nomadic Church – Bill Easum & Pete Theodore
  2. Multi-Site Church Revolution – Geoff Surrat, et al


  1. Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done – Larry Bossidy & Ram Charan
  2. Made to Stick – Chip and Dan Heath


  1. Simply Strategic Growth – Tony Morgan & Tim Stevens
  2. Building a Contagious Church – Mark Mittelberg
  3. The Contagious Christian – Mark Mittelberg & Bill Hybels
  4. Just Walk Across the Room – Bill Hybels
  5. Inside the Mind of Unchurched Harry and Mary – Lee Strobel
  6. Church for the Unchurched – George G. Hunter III
  7. ReChurching the Unchurched – George Barna
  8. Breaking the Missional Code – David Putman & Ed Stetzer
  9. Love One Another – Gene A. Getz
  10. The Evangelism Seminar (CD set) – Nelson Searcy
  11. Purple Cow – Seth Godin

Worship (Weekend Experience)

  1. First Impressions – Mark Waltz
  2. The Experience Economy – Joseph Pine & James Gilmore
  3. An Hour on Sunday – Nancy Beach
  4. Communicating for a Change – Andy Stanley
  5. Planning Worship Services for Life Transformation (CD set) – Nelson Searcy, et al.
  6. Can We Do That? – Andy Stanley & Ed Young
  7. Planning a One Year Preaching Calendar (CD set) – Nelson Searcy
  8. The Creative Leader – Ed Young


  1. The Assimilation Seminar (CD set) – Nelson Searcy & Kerrick Thomas
  2. Fusion: Integrating Newcomers Into the Life of Your Church – Nelson Searcy & Jennifer Dykes Henson
  3. Beyond the First Visit – Gary L. McIntosh


  1. Growing True Disciples – George Barna
  2. Building Up One Another – Gene A. Getz
  3. Go Big With Small Groups – Bill Easum & John Atkinson
  4. Connecting – Larry Crabb
  5. The Connecting Church – Randy Frazee
  6. The Small Group Seminar (CD set) – Nelson Searcy
  7. Breaking the Discipleship Code – David Putman


  1. Volunteer Revolution – Bill Hybels
  2. Strategic Volunteers – Tony Morgan & Tim Stevens


  1. The Leadership Challenge – James Kouzes & Barry Posner
  2. Developing The Leaders Around You – John Maxwell
  3. Any book written by Patrick Lencioni


  1. E-Myth Revisited ­- Michael E. Gerber
  2. The Purpose Driven Church – Rick Warren
  3. Advanced Strategic Planning – Aubrey Malphurs
  4. One Size Doesn’t Fit All – Gary L. McIntosh
  5. Simply Strategic Stuff – Tony Morgan & Tim Stevens
  6. Simple Church – Thom Ranier
  7. 7 Practices for Effective Ministry – Andy Stanley, et al
  8. Good to Great & Good to Great & The Social Sector (a monograph) – Jim Collins
  9. Breaking Growth Barriers (CD set) – Nelson Searcy
  10. The Learning Organization – Peter Senge
  11. The Strategy Seminar (CD set) – Nelson Searcy

Have you missed out on the earlier posts in this series? Check them out here:

  1. 3 Reasons You Need Organizational Systems
  2. What Are Organizational Systems and Processes?
  3. Organizational Systems and Processes Are Biblical
  4. How to Create Organizational Systems and Processes
  5. 3 Principles for Creating Organizational Systems and Processes

3 principles for creating organizational systems (5 of 6)

There are three principles that you must keep in mind as you develop your systems and processes.

Keep it Simple – or it won’t happen.

Too much “to-do” is like a pile of poo-poo… no one wants anything to do with it! If your system is going to work effectively, it must be simple. Create a system/process where average people can create produce exceptional results!

Don’t assume anything! Document every step (process), but don’t overcomplicate the system in the process! When I was raising support as a church planter I wrote out a process (part of my fundraising system) for the monthly newsletter that I sent to our supporters. I had one wonderful lady who helped me with this process and we did it the same way every time. How? I had written out a fourteen step process:

  1. Write the letter
  2. Have the letter proofread
  3. Print the letter
  4. Fold the letter so that when they open it they are looking at the top of page one.
  5. Print the address labels (Connection Partners)
  6. Print the return address labels (Paul Peterson)
  7. Print the Commitment Card
  8. Cut the Commitment Card
  9. Put the Commitment Card in the small envelopes
  10. Put the return address labels on the small envelopes
  11. Put the stuffed, small envelopes & the letter in the larger envelope
  12. Put the Address labels on the larger envelopes (both sender and receiver labels)
  13. Seal the larger envelopes
  14. Mail the larger envelopes

You say, “That’s ridiculous!” I thought so too… until I begin to spend stupid amounts of time each month making sure I had “dotted all my i’s and crossed all my t’s.” Once I wrote the process out I saved myself and my helper a lot of valuable time!

Make it Scalable – or you’ll end up fighting.

This is a big one! Once you establish a “way of doing things” it’s going to develop a fan base. When you need to revise your system/process because it’s worked so well, that fan base will likely reject your proposal to change the way you do it! For instance, let’s say that as part of your marketing system you serve breakfast to your whole church when there are only 20 people coming. That’s a great idea, until you grow! What happens when you have 200 there for breakfast? 2,000? Is it likely that you’ll be able to sustain that practice? Not very. In my mind, this is not a scalable system (though this guy may prove me wrong).

When you are creating a system with processes, ask yourself, “Is what we’re doing now scalable?” One more example. I have seen churches dismiss the children halfway through the service to go to “children’s church.” That’s fine when there are 25 kids and one service. What happens though when you’ve got 200 kids and a second service? This practice is not scalable. Again, when you’re creating your system/process, ask yourself, “Can we do this when we grow?”

CAVEAT: there will be exceptions to this principle, but they should be just that… exceptions.

Think Reproducible – so you can pass it on.

In this age of multi-service and multi-site church, this is an important principle. Michael Gerber refers to this idea as “franchising.” Essentially you create a system/process that gives as “little operating discretion as possible.” Some will call this “micro-management.” Some will call this Starbucks. A venti Americano tastes the same in Cincinnati as it does in Atlanta! Why? A reproducible process that guarantees the same result every time!

It is possible for someone to have virtually the same experience at your 9:30 service as they would at your 11:00 service… if you have created and implemented simple, scalable, reproducible systems! (Keep in mind here that I am talking only of the “organizational” side of the church. I do not presume upon God to “act” the same way in every service. But if things go as planned it will be a similar experience in either the early or the late service.)

Certainly there will be some logistical issues that you’ll need to address (e.g. attendance, parking, etc.) but at the end of the day “reproducible” is a reality that can be achieved by your organization. Just follow the steps for creating a system/process and pass that paper on to your next service, site, or church plant!

So there it is! Keep your “way of doing things” simple, scalable, and reproducible and you’ll be well on your way to having systems/processes that move you closer to achieving your vision!

(Tomorrow, a list of resources for helping you think through each of these systems).

Have you missed out on the earlier posts in this series? Check them out here:

  1. 3 Reasons You Need Organizational Systems
  2. What Are Organizational Systems and Processes?
  3. Organizational Systems and Processes Are Biblical
  4. How to Create Organizational Systems and Processes

How to create organizational systems and processes (4 of 6)

Systems. In order to determine the systems you need, a couple of things are necessary:

  1. You must be clear about the vision of the organization.
  2. You must be clear about the activities the organization must engage in to effectively achieve its goal.

Systems genius, Nelson Searcy, has identified eight systems that are at work in the church (download his report here). For what it’s worth, I have learned a ton from Nelson’s work, have incorporated much of his thinking into my own, and highly recommend his work. Working with Nelson’s eight, I have identified a total of thirteen systems within the local church and have divided them into two categories: Operational and Strategic.

Operational = those things that must happen but which will not necessarily advance your organization’s vision (e.g. paying the bills, cleaning the building). There are four operational systems:

  1. Leadership = what is the leadership structure in your organization?
  2. Financial = how does your organization manage the finances?
  3. Communication = how does your organization communicate internally and externally?
  4. Facilities = how is your facility managed?

Strategic = these are the systems that when working together will move you closer to achieving your goals. There are nine strategic systems. Keep in mind that in this article, I am writing about the church:

  1. Marketing = how do you let people know “we’re here!”?
  2. Weekend = how do you prepare for and present the weekend experience?
  3. Evangelism = how do you help people find Jesus and teach them to help others find Jesus?
  4. Assimilation = how do you engage people in your church?
  5. Discipleship = how do you facilitate spiritual growth and healthy, vision-oriented community?
  6. Volunteers = how do you connect people to fulfilling, vision-oriented service?
  7. Stewardship = how do you help people develop a lifestyle of generosity?
  8. Leadership = how do you identify, recruit, train, and engage leaders?
  9. Strategic evaluation = how do you assure that your systems are doing what they were created to do and are doing it in synergy with each other?

Now that we’ve identified the 13 systems within the local church, the question becomes, “How do you put together a system?”

Four steps  + one bonus to creating a system:

#1 Begin with the end in mind. Andy Stanley would say, “Clarify the win.” In other words, how will you know your assimilation system is working? I would suggest that your assimilation system is working if people are serving and giving! Why? Because people aren’t going to give to or serve in an organization to which they’re not committed! For every system you create, ask yourself, “How will we know if it’s working?”

#2 Start where you are and take baby steps to where you want to be. This is where processes come alive! If your marketing system is working, people will show up. Then you want them to come back (assimilation system). What needs to happen for that to take place? Do you need to get some follow up information? Do you need to invite them to a special event? Do you need to have a service worth coming back for? Do you need to give them a gift? There’s a ton of ways to get them to come back, the question is “What’s your way to accomplish the goal of your system?”

#3 Ask “Who?”. Ahhhh… so important! It doesn’t matter how much “what” there is, if there’s no “who” there’ll be a lot of “so what?” and too much “no what” You must assign a manager to every system and a name to every process! I highly recommend that you read chapter fourteen from E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber as you work through this process! By the way, that entire book is a “must-read” for any organizational leader!

#4 The most important piece… write it down! I’ve stressed this multiple times but it’s a point that bears repeating! It doesn’t matter how basic your process is, write it down! Once it’s written it can be improved, until then you spend all of your energy trying to remember “how we did it last time!”

BONUS: the purpose of your “Strategic Evaluation” system is to regularly review your systems to see if they are working! Do it! Patrick Lencioni in his book, Death by Meeting, suggests a quarterly “strategic meeting.” This would be a wonderful time for you to evaluate your systems and processes!

So how do you do it? Clarify your goal, create your steps, assign a person to each step, document the process, evaluate the results, revise the system!

Now go get started!

In case you’ve missed the first part of this series:

  1. Three Reasons You Need Organizational Systems
  2. What Are Organizational Systems & Processes?
  3. Organizational Systems and Processes Are Biblical

Organizational systems and processes are Biblical (3 of 6)

You’ve heard it before, the old argument that the church should not be run like a business. While I understand the heart of this argument, I disagree with it. “Business” is a neutral concept which is neither inherently good nor bad. Wikipedia says that “A business is a legally recognized organization designed to provide goods and/or services to consumers.” There is a component of the church that meets that description. The church is a divinely created organization/organism designed to worship God and witness to the nations (thanks to John Stott for the “worship/witness” paradigm). A similarity between church and business is that both are created for a purpose… to provide value to others. Dissimilarities would include the purpose of the organization – to generate a profit vs. to glorify God. But that’s a discussion for another day.

Church as organization and organism

Theologians and church scholars commonly agree that the church is both an organism and an organization.

  • Organism: a form of life composed of mutually interdependent parts that maintain various vital processes.
  • Organization: the act or process of organizing. Organize: To put together into an orderly, functional, structured whole.

Examples of church as “organism” include:

  • The presence of God in worship
  • The resolving of differences between believers
  • The relationships developed in small groups
  • The salvation experience

In short, the “organism” side of church has largely to do with life, spirit, attitudes, etc., things over which we, largely, have no, or limited, control.

Examples of “Organization” in the church include:

  • Service times
  • Hiring policies
  • Budgets
  • Governmental structure

The organization side of the church consists of things over which we have much control, and this is where systems and processes have their place.

I’m confident that most people will not struggle with the “organism” (life) side of church. The “organization” (systems) component however may cause some difficulties. Let me share two scripture passages with you that will make the case for the organizational component of the church:

  • Paul opens his letter to the Philippian church with these words, “Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons” (Philippians 1:1 NIV). These verses give us a clear governmental structure within the local church… a system.
  • In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3 Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” 5 This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. 6 They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. 7 So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith. (Acts 6:1-7 NIV) These verses demonstrate the chaos that can occur without organization (systems/processes) and the transformative results that can occur when there is organization (systems/processes).
  • In both of these passages we could identify multiple systems/processes (e.g. the clear character descriptions for leadership within the church; the processes involved in the daily care of the church). Suffice it to say there clearly are systems and processes that are regularly identified within a biblical definition of church.

It is possible to have organization without organism = systems/processes without life. I’m equally convinced that you cannot have organism without organization. Anytime there is life there are systems/processes present. The question is, are the systems/processes facilitating healthy life, AND is the organization aware of those systems/processes and their influence? Peter Senge, author of the The Fifth Discipline, says that systems create behaviors. Andy Stanley says, ““Great sermon series do not create behaviors. Systems create behaviors.”If these guys are right you’d do well to be aware of and intentional about the kinds of systems/processes you have in place in your organization.

Have you missed the first two parts of this series?

What are organizational systems and processes (2 of 6)

Bathtime. That’s a big deal in our home! We have four (soon to be five) little people PLUS mommy and daddy! You can be sure that we have a system for bathtime… a way we do it. The system is comprised of small steps (processes): who does the bathing? When is it done? Where is it done (bathtub or shower)? Where are the towels? Who dries and dresses? And the list goes on. The system is working when all of the processes are in place and executed properly.

I like to define systems as, “A group of processes that when working together achieve a desired result.” Processes are to systems what Legos are to a Lego house. An individual Lego piece is nothing, but when strategically placed together with other Lego pieces it works to create a magnificent structure!

So that’s it! Not too complex but necessary and helpful!

(Tomorrow I’ll make the case that system/processes have a biblical precedent.)

Did you miss it?