Decide Where People Go

Decide Where People Go
By Andy Stanley And Bill Willits

For the past thirteen years, the Braves major league baseball team has been the pride of Atlanta. (Before then was another matter.) Because their broadcasts reach a nationwide audience on “superstation” WTBS, the Atlanta Braves have been dubbed America’s Team. Since 1991, they have won eight divisional titles and five National League championships. In 1995, they won the World Series.

Every spring, these boys of summer begin their preparation for the upcoming season with one end in mind. They show up at spring training with one destination in sight: postseason play. From the front office to the bat boys, from the coaches to the players, everyone’s goal is the same. It is not enough for them to just “play ball” and take home a paycheck. Success for the braves is measured by playing in October.

We have discussed two of the three critical questions that helped bring directional clarity to North Point Community Church. Both questions”What do we want people to become? and What do we want people to do?”were critical in helping us define and set into motion our mission. The last question we needed to answer was Where do we want people to go?

Where Do You Want People To Go?

Intentionally or by default, people are going to end up somewhere. One way or another, people are going to arrive at a destination. The question is, will it be where we want them to be? Will it help them best do what we want them to do?

Answering the question Where do we want people to go? allows you to clarify the “win” for your organization. Regrettably, many churches are not clear on what a win looks like for them, so they don’t know how to go about achieving the win. Using a Little League analogy, my friends and colleagues Andy, Reggie Joiner, and Lane Jones discuss this dilemma in 7 Practices Of Effective Ministry:

Some organizations are like Little League batters. If they just hit the ball anywhere, they get excited and feel good about what they’ve done. It doesn’t really matter if they get on base or if what they do actually gets them where they want to go. They are just trying to hit the ball somewhere. They’re not thinking about home plate and the steps to get there.

They go on:

Unfortunately, churches have a reputation for doing the ministry without an end in mind. They build as many rooms as possible to reach as many people as possible. They start new ministries to target a variety of issues. They create countless programs to meet the growing needs of those who are attending. It all makes sense. It all seems right. It even feels productive. But there is no overall strategy and no runners are moving home. The question they should by asking is not Are we hitting the ball? but rather Are we getting closer to home plate?

So where do your want people to go? Have you decided what home plate looks like for you or your church? Or, like some, have you created multiple home plates?

Heading To Class

One approach is to assign people to a class that targets their age group or season of life. It’s a good system for connecting people, unless there are competing options.

When I led the adult Sunday school charge in a former church, we wanted adults to ultimately end up in an age-appropriate Sunday school class. At least, we who were leading the Sunday school wanted them there. This is where it got fun. The discipleship leaders wanted these people to attend a discipleship class. The membership leaders wanted them to attend a counseling class. For the staff, it was frustrating; for the participant, it was confusing.

For many churches, a class is the ultimate destination in their strategy. It’s where they want people to go.

Improving Their Serve

For other churches, the destination is a service team. They ultimately want people moving in the direction of a ministry or service group impacting the community or an area inside the church.

It goes something like this: “God has gifted each person uniquely with a spiritual gift, and those gifts are to be employed for His glory and for the building up of His body. The best thing we can do is to help people discover and start using their gifts in a place of service.”

While in the ministry trenches together, it is believed that the group will experience community. For these churches, a service team is used as a pathway to community.

New Members Seminar

There are churches where the preferred destination is a doctrinal seminar for new members. They want to make sure that everyone is on the same page theologically, so their desire is to move attendees toward this kind of experience. They make it clear that they want people to go to their membership class or weekend retreat.

There is not a right or wrong approach. Any one of these can work. One may work better than another at creating opportunities for meaningful relationships to develop, but the critical issue is that you need to have clarity about where you want people to go. What’s most important is that you clarify your organizational “win” and let the people around you know what it is.

There’s No Place Like Group

As we discussed this question at North Point, it became clear that our approach would be to move people into small groups. From children to adults, we wanted people’s destination to be the same: everyone regardless of age or season of life, would be encouraged to move into a small group.

We wanted to send a consistent message about something we believe very passionately. We have found that the best place for sustained life change to occur is within intentional relationships. And like many church leaders, we feel that the best place for encouraging intentional relationships is in a small group. While we believe other approaches can work, we think the small group model works best.

We’ll discuss our small group approach more completely later, but for us, the answer to where we want people to go is clear. We’re unanimous about where we want people to go: to a small group.

So what do we want people to become? People growing in their relationship with Jesus Christ. What do we want people to do? Pursue three vital relationships. Where do we want people to go? Into a small group.

Crystal Clear

A scene from the Tom Cruise movie A Few Good Men comes to mind. Cruise plays Lt. Daniel Kaffee, a naval attorney assigned to provide legal defense for two enlisted men charged with the mysterious death of a fellow soldier. Through the course of the investigation it becomes clear to Cruise that these two Marines were following orders to discipline the soldier by giving him a beating, but never meant to kill him. In order to pin the responsibility on those who gave the order, Kaffee makes the risky move of calling Col. Nathan Jessup (played by Jack Nicholson) to the stand, knowing that if he is not successful, his inappropriate questioning of a superior officer could be grounds for a court-martial.

During their exchange the young lawyer asks the hardened colonel if it was absolutely clear to the men under him that the soldier was not to be touched. “Crystal,” replies the highly decorated Marine. As Lt. Kaffee continues to push, the colonel grows weary of his authority being called into question and unleashes a string of questions aimed at his accuser, making sure the young lawyer feels the gravity of the situation.

“Have you ever spent time in an infantry unit, son? Ever served in a forward area? Ever put your life in another man’s hands, asked him to put his life in yours? We follow orders, son. We follow orders or people die. It’s that simple. Are we clear?”

Kaffee responds, “Yes, sir.”

“Are we clear?” Jessup seeks to hammer his point home.

The young lawyer, feeling the weight of the words and struggling to do the right thing, pauses. If he continues this line of questioning, it could cost him his career. If he doesn’t press further, two men will alone bear the shared sin. Steeling himself, he responds.


Becoming crystal clear on what you are trying to do is critical for any group or organization. Without clarity an organization becomes pointless. Getting clear begins when we answer three important questions:

What do we want people to become?

What do we want them to do?

Where do we want them to go?

Answering these questions is vital for gaining clarity of mission and strategy. These are issues all leaders need to be clear on. Crystal clear.

Article “Decide Where People Go” written by Andy Stanley and Bill Willits is excerpted from Creating Community: 5 Keys T o Building A Small Group Culture written by Andy Stanley and Bill Willits.

This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”