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The ONE Thing That Could Change Everything
This question is very much appropriate for any of us, no matter what, where, or how you lead.
But I want to pose this question primarily to anyone in ministry leadership.
If you’re a pastor, executive pastor, student or children ministry director, groups pastor, elder, or anywhere in between, take a second and answer this question:
What is ONE thing that, if you could figure out, implement, or fund, would positively change everything about your church?
Do you have something in mind? If not, give this question a moment before moving on.
An Attitude of Platitudes
I’ve spent roughly 22 years in ministry leadership. First, as a lead volunteer and deacon/elder before transitioning out of the marketplace into church staff leadership. My last 13 years were spent as a lead pastor.
As a pastor, I perpetually worked to make our church better. I believed (and still do!) the church’s mission is the world’s most important mission in the world. If there was anything we could do to make our church better, reach more people, and grow more disciples, I would do it. We’d often joke that we’d do anything short of sin to lead more people to Jesus.
I’d often ask our staff and key volunteers the question I asked you above: What is ONE thing that, if you could figure out, implement, or fund, would positively change everything about your church?
I was frequently taken aback by their answers. They meant well. And they wanted to be helpful. They wanted their church to be better. They wanted to reach more people and grow more disciples. But church people tend to suggest platitudes, not plans. Things like:
- If we just had more Jesus.
- I wish our church had a heart for worship.
- We need to be more in the Word.
- We need “deeper” teaching (I heard this a LOT! And I eventually learned how to answer without sarcasm).
You’ve heard all of this before, too. You may have suggested it all the same.
I once interviewed to become the senior pastor for a large, multisite church in leadership disarray. During a site visit with the Elders, I asked our question: What is ONE thing that, if you could figure out, implement, or fund, would positively change everything about your church?
An elder quickly said, “We need to become a house of prayer.”
What? What does that even mean?
I actually asked him that question. “What does that mean?” He platitude’ed his way around his answer like most church people do.
I get it.
No church goes wrong by elevating more of Jesus. Prayer helps. A heart of worship through time, talent, and resources, not just music, can change a community through the church.
Platitudes don’t happen by accident. Platitudes are destinations, not directions.
So What IS the ONE Thing That Could Change Everything?
The ONE thing is something that provides direction to the destination.
The ONE thing answers “HOW,” not “WHAT.”
The ONE thing focuses on plans and steps that guide our intentions.
The ONE thing is…
What Is Strategy?
Strategy feels a bit like jello. When we think about strategic plans or ministry strategy, it feels somewhat undefined. And for a good reason. Most church leaders are ill-equipped for strategic discovery, design, and delivery. Yet most church leaders have been through some version of a strategic planning session. You answered some questions, wrote on a whiteboard, and took away a three-ring binder that sits on your shelf to this day.
A healthy strategic plan should feel more like a journey than jello. It should be clear, actionable, and measurable.
Fundamentally, “strategy” is the “how” to your what.
Without a strategy (or model, method, or plan), all success is accidental and unrepeatable. Worse, failure is hard to diagnose and rectify.
For instance, when I was the lead pastor for a North Point campus location for over a decade, our mission was “to inspire people to follow Jesus.” That was our “what.”
Our strategy statement followed our mission: “by engaging people in the life and mission of our church.”
Putting it together, we exited “to inspire people to follow Jesus by engaging people in the life and mission of our church.” I’m not arguing this should be your mission and strategy. I am strongly suggesting that a mission alone isn’t enough. You must have a “how” for your “what.”
A Mission Without Intention Can’t Come to Fruition
If you do nothing else as a church leader, clearly define HOW you plan to accomplish your mission. And don’t allow platitudes to replace strategy. They are not the same. And please don’t assume your compelling vision will be enough! So many pastors and church leaders are adept a communicating vision but not executing the vision. Casting vision without implementing vision doesn’t accomplish the vision. Actually, it creates distrust among the congregation and community.
If I were sitting with you and your team today, I’d ask you HOW you plan to accomplish your mission and vision. If you’re like most churches I sit with, your answer would be aspirational, hopeful, and compelling but severely lacking in steps, plans, and metrics.
What Should You Do First?
Here’s what I suggest to churches every day: (1) Discover your actual reality. (2) Design a clear strategy (plan, steps, responsibilities). And (3) Deliver a successful solution.
If you want to attempt this on your own, here are some questions to help you along the way:
PHASE 1: DISCOVER YOUR REALITY
- What are you trying to do?
- Who do you hope to be?
- How is it going?
- How have things changed?
PHASE 2: DESIGN YOUR STRATEGY
- Describe your desired destination.
- Design a ministry model that meets the demands of your mission, community, and cultural moment.
- Designate tactics and delegate steps.
- Define success.
PHASE 3: DELIVER YOUR SOLUTION
- Organize your staff to better orchestrate the strategy.
- Incrementally and sequentially implement the plan.
- Measure progress and perfect the system.
Give this a try. Set aside a half-day, or, better yet, take a two-day off-site retreat with your team and key leaders (perhaps elders) to work through this process.
This post may help: How to Execute a Strategic Plan at Your Church – Defining Success
You can get more information on my strategic consulting process here: The Church Accelerator Process.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out if I can serve you as your work to add more intention to your mission. I partner with churches around:
- Church Growth & Discipleship Engagement
- Generosity & Capital Campaigns
- Church Organizational Leadership
- Preaching & Communicator Development
- Strategic Planning
- Change & Transition Leadership
Please email me ([email protected]) or check out the resources on this site.
Until next time,