Where there is no vision, the people parish… (Proverbs 29:18). I have an issue on my heart today that I’d like to talk with you about. I know from speaking with people in assorted roles within ministry, uncertainty and frustration about how to address and handle ministry business is present in varying degrees. Sure, that makes sense. Having spent many years working with secular businesses, I’ve found commonality in the two areas, operationally speaking. Many CEOs rely on their egos (and the egos of their senior staff), read the latest management “cure-all” book over a Grande latte, or even hire an executive coach in another State that accountability and advice to solve the company’s problems. From experience, I know these methods are often expensive and seldom bear fruit.
Let’s shift gears back to the ministry. See if this scenario sounds familiar: A pastor is working diligently at his ministry and it’s doing okay…but it could be better. He has a few problem areas that nag at him and he isn’t quite sure how to fix them. As time passes, the nagging grows un-ignorable. He’s forced to find a way to fix the problems. But how? Perhaps he pays for and attends a conference, workshop, seminar or leadership summit to get his answers. He listens, takes copious notes, attends every breakout session he can, talks on break to others, pours over his handout material and notes in the hotel room in the evenings and at the end of the event, he’s got the answers he came for! He’s charged up with energy and enthusiasm and heads back home to cure the “ills” of his ministry.
After getting reacquainted with his family and catching up on his mail and meetings, he finally makes time to call his staff together and discuss what he learned at the event. He gets them around the conference table but his enthusiasm seems to have waned a bit from the realities of playing catch up. Plus, he discovered when he collected his seminar materials and notes; he found some entries that no longer made sense. What’s he’s experiencing is typical. Human retention, when not reinforced with practical application and repetition will deteriorate at an alarming rate. He presses through, anyway. When he begins to talk about what he learned and how it will fix the problems they have, the staff displays polite, albeit blank stares. Their non-verbal expressions say, “Oh boy, here’s another program I’ve got to deal with!”
As fired up as he was, the Pastor recognizes that this may be a little harder than he thought. He needs to try and create buy-in from the staff, but equally critical, he has to try and remember the answers to what will fix the problems that are impeding his ministry’s progress.
ENTER: THE PROBLEM.
Let’s assume he’s remembered the answers. He and the staff are not out of the woods, yet. No one has the foggiest idea “how” to go about implementing any of the fixes. In most organizations, this phenomenon stops progress dead in its tracks. In others, sheer, gut-wrenching determination will log progress initially, but it only delays the inevitable breakdown due to frustration when things don’t work as they’d hoped.
Now, I’m not positive but I’d be willing to guess that this situation may have actually happened to one or more of you. It’s a fact that although the seminars, summits, books, tapes, conferences, et al, are terrific resources for pointing out the problems and showing several varieties of solutions, they all lack one VITAL component: PROCESS.
This next statement is very important and it would be great if you would think about this one for awhile. I believe once you really grasp what it is saying about your ministry, it will bless you and enlarge your thinking. Here is the statement: Every ministry has two things in common: A present and a future. Everything in-between is PROCESS. The quality of a ministry’s process will determine its PERFORMANCE. The quality of the performance will determine the quality of its FUTURE.
I know that in my own experience, you can tell me what to do all day long, but if you can’t offer me a simple, yet effective “point A to point Z” process to get to the desired results, I won’t be able to make it work. I believe most of us are like that. That’s not to say that some people can’t read a book on a topic and have the mental capacity to create a process, but boy, does that eat up valuable time and resources!
Just as the Lord orders our steps for living, a proven process should order your steps when you’re trying to solve a problem or improve any area of your ministry. As we look back at the scenario, we saw the pastor attempting to inject his staff with his enthusiasm. In most cases, that won’t work. There’s been no buy-in created. A sound process can, and does create buy-in at every level of the organization. If there’s not buy-in from everyone, the effort will fail. Buy-in always needs to begin at the top of an organization.
Without wise leadership, a nation falls, with many counselors, there is safety (Proverbs 11:14 NLT). As we’ve heard for a long time, and any trial attorney will tell you, those who attempt to defend themselves have fools for clients. I personally believe that. In order for real change to occur with the least amount of strain on your resources, an “outside-in” perspective is critical. Sure, you may have to pay someone to come in and help you achieve your goals, but what about the time and money you waste when you try to do it on your own and fail? You see, when you try to plan or develop your ministry by yourself, you will often achieve results that are less than desirable. And yet, those of you that do this are often left wondering why your efforts haven’t paid off. Like a self-represented defendant, what are missing are: 1. a proven system and 2. Accountability you receive from an “outside-in” perspective.
A real-life illustration of what I’m telling you is this: Although I provide this service to ministries (and formerly secular businesses), I will not do my own planning, strategy and development. I have prearranged to have an outside firm come in to walk us through the process. It just makes sense. I cannot possibly achieve best-thinking or best practices if I don’t have someone outside challenging me with accountability to achieve the level of excellence God has called me to. The wise are glad to be instructed, but babbling fools fall flat on their faces (Proverbs 10:8 NLT).
What we’ve learned from today’s lesson:
1. Workshops, summits, seminars, etc are great forum for gaining knowledge, but they lack what you need…a PROCESS by which to make the desired change. It’s important for me to tell you that I am in no way advising against attendance at professional/pastoral conferences, leadership summits, or any other forum designed for your professional advancement. My intent is to merely point out that although these are effective for their intended purpose, they are not without vulnerability, organizationally speaking.
It’s ALWAYS a good idea to find someone outside your organization to walk you through the process. Some areas of consideration when seeking this help:
They should be born-again (do not become unequally-yoked)
They should be able to prove their dedication to your success by offering a money-back guarantee and be Return On Investment focused for you (this is a stewardship issue--best use of Kingdom resources)
They should have a reputable history in their area of expertise…an industry leader would be best
They should not charge by “billable hour.” Billable hours get very expensive, very fast. The investment required for the service should be a single, no-hidden-cost, all-inclusive number
They should be able to commit to your success, regardless of the length of time involved. Your relationship should be a long-term, mutually-beneficial, trusting, evolving one
I hope that this submission has been a blessing to you. It is intended to enlighten you to pitfalls that you may not have known about. It’s my sincere desire to help those that welcome it. There’s a saying about change that changed my life, you may have heard it, “If you do as you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.” It’s as true now as it ever was. Be blessed!
I would like very much to hear from you. You are welcome to call or write about anything you’d like to see an article on, or any constructive feedback that will improve my service to you and the Kingdom of God!