A wise person has observed that “nothing starts without a champion and nothing lasts without a system.”
That truth explains the reason that many organizations (including churches) that start well do not continue on that trajectory and eventually plateau out. And why other organizations and churches are able to transition into long term effectiveness.
Champions are those individuals who have the vision, drive and fortitude to start something new and fresh. Ministry founders are such champions. Church planters are such champions. Missionaries who forge new ground are such champions. Every successful ministry had a champion whose vision and tenacity along with God’s blessing are why they are there.
While starting takes a champion, actually lasting takes something very different: systems that allow the ministry to stabilize, grow and flourish for the long term. As long as the ministry is dependent on its founder for its glue one either has a personality driven ministry or one where everything comes back to the champion. The personality gives the organization excitement and drive but long term that champion or personality will not be present so the transition from founder driven to leader and system driven is a crucial issue.
On a large scale, this was played out with Prison Fellowship with the ministry moving beyond the wonderful leadership of Chuck Colson or Focus on the Family as it moved on beyond James Dobson. On a smaller scale it is played out in numerous ministries where there is a transition from founder to systems.
Founders and champions can make this transition but it is a hard one. Founders are visionaries who were champions for a ministry that had to run by the seat of its pants to get started, was messy in the process and were highly flexible because the founder was the voice and the decision maker. That works for a while. But eventually for the ministry to get to the next level, the founder must either become a leader and build systems or the chaos and messiness of champions takes a toll on focus and effectiveness of the ministry.
Champions are always necessary to get a ministry up and running. They must then transition to leaders with a developed leadership team and systems if they are going to be around for the long run and meet their full potential.