This is a tad gross, but go with me for a minute for the illustration.
Pretend you have a rather large open wound. Now it’s infected. And the infection is spreading.
What is your solution? What would you do?
I suspect nobody suggested a bandaid. Probably not even stitched, either. At least not initially.
To cure an infection, you must treat the source, not the wound’s superficial elements.
We know this is how to treat our body. So why don’t we apply the same logic to our organizational problems?
Problems Require Solutions
As a leadership coach and strategic consultant, I primarily work with churches and businesses experiencing some type of issue. Some problems are minimal, keeping the organization from maximizing its potential. Other cases are severe and require a strategic overhaul.
When I meet with a leader or a leadership team to evaluate their unique situation, I usually ask what’s been done thus far to rectify the problem.
The most common answer is a version of a bandaid.
Mind you, nobody says it that way, but that’s the gist of the answer.
I recently worked with a church struggling to engage volunteers. Their solution was to focus one Sunday on recruitment. I.E., Bandaid.
Another organization felt it had a somewhat toxic culture. Their solution was to repeat their staff values more frequently. Another bandaid.
Most leaders work with little or no margin. They are stuck working in it and never find time to work on it. The margin bandaid looks like passing off a sermon to the student pastor or forgoing a few meetings to “catch up.”
The problem with these, and most solutions, is that they only address the momentary problem.
They are bandaids that allow the organizational virus to fester, multiply, and run rampant.
Lingering Problems Demand Something More Than a Solution
Enter the real remedy: SYSTEMS.
Systems are the medicine for lingering problems. Solid systems treat the cause of the issue, not just the superficial, visible products of the problem.
Let’s go back to our first problem example:
Most church leaders would make a stage and email push once. Perhaps you’d be more creative, but if your solution is focused on what you need now, you’re placing a bandaid on a gaping wound.
What you need is a systemic approach to gain, train, and retain volunteers. Perhaps something like this:
Step 1: Create one-off ministry moments throughout your church (I.E., Student Ministry Back to School Bash) and target those adults in your active database who are not serving. Invite them to participate in this one-night-only volunteer opportunity. You can do the same with a food drive, marriage event, etc.
Step 2: Create a dynamic volunteer experience for these one-time-only volunteers that makes them feel appreciated and wanted. Value their time and their experience.
Step 3: Then, follow up with each volunteer personally and via an email nurture sequence to move them emotionally, mentally, and spiritually towards a Sunday morning volunteer experience.
Those are just the first few steps. But you get this point.
I have a church client utilizing a similar system now. They just told me they doubled their student ministry volunteer team over the summer.
BTW: I have a FREE VOLUNTEER FUNNEL MODULE available if you want to see how these steps work together.
Struggling with margin? You need a system to create ongoing margin. Need to address your culture? You must engage in an intentional assessment and behavior-based reinforcement system.
Solutions Alone Can Fall Short
If you address a problem with a solution, you aren’t removing the potential for the issue to resurface.
However, if you address the problem with a system, you’ve now created a long-term solution that will keep the problem from resurfacing.
Short-term solutions don’t fix long-term problems.
If you’re a church leader, systems can help you:
- Always have a fully funded church.
- Never lack for volunteers.
- Create a discipleship path for everyone in your church.
- Utilize social media and other digital assets effectively.
- Create consistent margin.
- Define and reinforce a healthy work culture.
- Create an expectation of participation in your church.
- Reach the unchurched in your community.
- Intentionally support other great non-profits in your community.
- Plan more dynamic church services.
Basically, everything is better when under a system. Systems make organizations more predictable, effective, and efficient.
Where Is Your Organization Lacking Systems?
Perhaps the best way to investigate this question is by asking, “Where are you experiencing repeating or lingering problems?”
Singular problems may only need a solution, but ongoing issues or repeating problems are a red flag that a system is lacking.
Final Note: I’m a strategy and systems leader at my core. I’ve created several courses and masterclass experiences to help leaders like you better systematize your ministry approach. Check them out, and let me know if you’d benefit from a broader conversation.