I love this definition of a factory: “The source of prolific production.” Isn’t that what we all want in ministry? Don’t we all want to create an environment where disciples, small groups, ministry and even the church are produced at a prolific rate?

Recently I was with a group of pastors and business leaders from Southern California. Our discussion was focused on how to most effectively and efficiently multiply campuses and churches. To get the conversation rolling, I simply wrote, Build a car vs. build a factory on the whiteboard and then instructed them to discuss that statement. It was fun to sit back and watch them share their thoughts and reflections. The reality is that there is a huge difference between building a car and building a factory, even though the final product or deliverables are similar.

These are bright guys … here is a summary of some of their observations:

Building a Car:

  • Dependent on skill of labor
  • The process tends to move slowly
  • Is difficult to reproduce
  • Can be more costly than expected
  • Requires resources that are difficult to find
  • Creates a product that is less reliable
  • The builder determines the process
  • Only needs small vision
  • Has less risk

 Building a Factory:

  • Is about economy of scale
  • Puts emphasis on the process (clear beginning and end)
  • Reduces costs
  • Is about long term strategies and vision
  • Increases productivity
  • Is more sustainable
  • Focuses on a specialized skill
  • Produces a more reliable product
  • Requires bigger vision
  • Is less resilient to change and transition
  • Has more flexibility and adaptability
  • Involves many specialists and experts
  • Involves increased accountability
  • Is focused on goals and is measurable
  • Is easier to export
  • Requires leadership

The conversation was really focused on the following questions regarding churches:

  1. How much time, energy and resources do churches spend launching one campus/site or church plant as opposed to spending the same amount of time, energy and resources to “build” a factory that will plant many campuses/sites and churches?
  2. What is the most effective way to multiply and reproduce what we do best?
  3. What ecosystems and infrastructure must to be in place to best support numerous campuses/sites and church plants, as well as Campus Pastors and Church Planters?
  4. What is the most effective and efficient way to launch high impact, sustainable campuses/sites and churches that transform communities and cities?

In my opinion there are some great observations here. Here are some of my conclusions from our conversation:

  • Building a “factory” to launch campuses/sites and plant churches may actually take less effort than just doing one—and reproduces at a much faster, more efficient rate.
  • The guys in the room were vision guys, builders and entrepreneurs. When they were talking about building a factory, they seemed way more energized about how it could impact the church and new communities.
  • One pastor noted that by launching one campus/site or planting a church doesn’t change much of how we operate. By building a factory that rapidly produces campuses/sites and churches, everything about the current state of the church must change. There was energy around that thought!
  • It’s easy to stop after launching a campus/site or planting one church. However, building a factory keeps you focused, accountable and productive—and therefore, the results are greater.
  • It’s hard to launch more than one church campus/site or plant at a time without a system in place to multiply rapidly.
  • Factories produce a more sustainable product. They can endure change and, in the end, they are far more cost efficient.
  • Factories have way more resources to get the job done.

On the street where I live, there are a number of houses with ongoing projects. Two houses are working on custom cars in their garages and one house is working on a kit airplane. We have lived on our street for over ten years; in that time, neither the cars nor and airplane have left their garages. I know the owners. At one time, they had dreams of what they might produce and someday drive or fly. Instead, their dreams have become places to store boxes and barriers to walk around in the garage.

I asked one of my neighbors when and why he decided to give up building the car. He responded, “Years ago! It was hard work! I’m not a specialist and I don’t have all the resources I need to finish the project. I thought it would be easy … but it wasn’t. I keep it because someday I plan to finish what I started.” Interesting perspective from a guy who thought he could build a car, but hasn’t.