10 Keys to More Productive Ministry, continued

Michael Hyatt recently featured a guest blog post from J. D. Meier entitled 10 Proven Practices for More Productive Leadership. While Meier’s practices target a marketplace audience, I think they are applicable to the ministry leader as well. In yesterday’s post I offered the first five keys; today I will finish with the last five…

6. Focus on outcomes, not activities. Getting lost in the production is a sure path to missing the desired outcome. Take programs, for instance. Churches are full of them and some have become the equivalent of the sacred cow. If the desired outcome of a particular program is to encourage spiritual formation, but the people involved are stressed out, angry, and frustrated…well, it’s missed the mark. To refuse to let the program die is to allow activity to take precedence over outcome.

7. Pick a theme or focus for the year. Meier suggests doing this for the month, but in the life of church ministry, a year may be more practical. I once spent a year with my adult discipleship team simply focusing on spiritual formation. We worked on a common understanding of formation, what contributes to it and what does not, how we could develop programs that would encourage the congregation towards deeper formation.

8. Ask better questions. As we talk with others about their unique design for ministry, we want to cultivate the habit of asking open-ended, non-directive questions that will guide people to the answers they have within themselves. When dealing with ministry, we need to ask questions that will get at the real problem, need, or issue (see key #1). I love Meier’s suggestion of asking, “What does success look like?” It’s a great catalyst for visioning!

9. Get their fingerprints on it. My favorite art activity as a child was finger painting. I loved the experience of using my hands rather than a paintbrush to create a colorful masterpiece! For whatever reason, those paintings felt like a truer expression of me. Same holds true for ministry today. When I can get my hands on it and in it, I’m much more motivated. I take ownership and truly care about the outcome. I want to offer that same experience to those I lead, which creates significant buy-in.

10. Focus on “good enough for now”. Two key points to this one: “good enough” and “for now.” Perfectionism is a real joy-stealer. It’s often unobtainable, and so it flings wide the door to discouragement. The Amish are known for their exquisite quilts, yet it is said that even the finest of their quilts will have a mistake in it. How? The quilter will intentionally (if necessary) make a mistake because they profess that¬† nothing is perfect except God. That said, I’ve learned from my own quilting experiences that I can take what was “good enough for now” and learn how to improve it the next time.

As with the Meier’s original post, I encourage you to make a checklist of these 10 keys for yourself. We all know that checklists are useful only when they are consulted, so put it where you will see it regularly. Pick one thing at a time to work on…and, when you’ve noted some improvement, practice key #10 and move on to the next one!

10 Keys to More Productive Ministry

Michael Hyatt recently featured a guest blog post from J. D. Meier entitled 10 Proven Practices for More Productive Leadership. While Meier’s practices target a marketplace audience, I think they are applicable to the ministry leader as well.

1. Know what problem you are trying to solve.¬† While this sounds obvious and simplistic, it is a practice that often gets lost in knee-jerk reactions. Case in point: You’ve just completed your annual stewardship emphasis and there simply isn’t enough money pledged to meet the budget. The knee-jerk reaction is thinking that people aren’t giving enough, but the real problem may be that you simply need more people. Potential solutions for those two problems are quite different!

2. Get smart people on a cadence. Meier offers this model: Monday Vision, Daily Outcomes, Friday Reflection.

  • On Monday the team identifies three wins for the week.
  • Each day the team identifies three wins for the day.
  • On Friday they reflect on the results by asking two questions: What are three things going well? and What are three things to improve?

This creates a momentum for recognizing glitches before they become train wrecks. It also provides balance between celebration of what’s going well and realistic recognition of what needs to be improved.

3. Set boundaries and buffers. Early in my ministry leadership experience I had three volunteers come to me within a couple months and say, “I’m done. I quit. I’m totally exhausted.” Each one was recognized as a high-capacity leader and had served on one committee or team after another. Two of them left the church. I vowed that I would do all I could to see that no volunteer ever came to me again exhausted and burned out. Boundaries are essential.

In my current role in a much smaller congregation, it is often necessary for a volunteer to serve in more than one role, even on two different teams. The buffer I use when creating the master schedule is that no volunteer serves in more than one capacity on any given Sunday.

4. Lead with your why. Meier rightly states that the key to great results is passion plus purpose. A critical question to ask, then, is “Why do I do what I do?” Figure out the why and, if you realize that your ministry is all work and no joy, re-visit key #1 before going on to key #5!

5. Give your best where you have your best to give. It is absolutely essential to joyful ministry that you and your volunteers know how God has uniquely designed each person to serve. When our roles align with our design–in other words, when we serve out of our strengths–work becomes fulfilling and fruitful. For example, positioning the introvert at the church door to greet guests is not honoring their God-given design. Within five minutes, they are exhausted from the effort of making small talk and are no longer offering a smiling welcome as people arrive!

Keys 6 through 10 in tomorrow’s post…