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Books for those in ministry organizations who desire to take their leadership, teams, governance, and ministry effectiveness to the next level.

09 Dec '13

Ten things I wish more ministries understood

Posted by T.J. Addington
Having worked in the ministry arena for many years I have seen a whole spectrum of organizational health from the excellent to the ugly. I am thankful for each organization that is committed to health and focused ministry. On the flip side there are some key things that I wish every ministry understood. I list them below in no particular order.

One: Money is not the answer to everything!
Ministries, unlike business does not have to make a profit, just stay in the black. Because they rely on donation income it is easy to think that they can always get more - that the key to more ministry is more money. Actually, while funds are important, there is never an unlimited pot and it may well be that we could accomplish just as much if not more by doing what we do differently. That is how the rest of the world operates and we should as well.

Two: Size is not the determiner of success
Using the size of a ministry (or church) as the determiner of success is foolish. Large organizations can look impressive but be highly ineffective. The larger one is the more difficult it is to be nimble and flex to meet the missional agenda. I desire an effective organization, not a large organization.

Three: People matter - a lot
Staff are not tools to accomplish our mission. They are the heart of any ministry and we are stewards of their gifts. Too many leaders are so focused on their own agenda that they are willing to use staff for their ends rather than mobile staff toward common ends. There are frankly too many toxic leaders in ministries who disempower and discourage good staff.

Four: Commitments mean something
Our word is our bond and when we promise something we need to keep our promises. For some reason Christian leaders seem to be less concerned about keeping their promises than they should be - all in the name of pushing their mission forward. Ethics and truth matter a whole lot and say a whole lot about an organization. This even means that we pay our bills on time!

Five: Spirituality does not make up for substandard organizational practices
I know Christian organizations that are known for prayer retreats and who talk a lot about following Jesus whose organizational practices would get low marks in the real world. They pay poorly, treat staff poorly, allow toxic leaders to lead and rarely chart a consistent course. Their "spirituality" does not make up for their shoddy organizational practices. It never does. Ministries of all organizations should be committed to the highest degree of excellence.


Six: Faithfulness is not the whole picture

I have talked to many in ministry who would say that faithfulness in doing what they do is the most important thing, irregardless of the results of their work. Often they quote from John 15, where Jesus talks about Him being the vine and we the branches. They are right about the importance of faithfulness and wrong about the importance of fruit. That passage talks about "much fruit." Results matter in all arenas of life including ministry.

Seven: It is OK to transition people out of the organization who do not fit
Many ministries have a sense that they need to be life long employers to those who have been faithful staff members even after those staff member no longer make the kind of contribution they ought to make. This is both poor stewardship for the organization as well as for staff members who are no longer in their lane. Leaders who think this way do neither party any favors. Rather it is an abdication of responsibility to both.

Eight: You have to know who you are and where you are going
Organizational clarity is leadership 101. What has God called us to do; what are our non-negotiables in how we do ministry; what must we focus on day in and day out and what culture must we have in order to fulfill our mission? Many ministries have foggy clarity leading to equally foggy results. Focus matters!

Nine: Senior leaders should always be held accountable
There is a tendency in the ministry world for leaders to have very little accountability for their actions or for the results of the ministry. Yet they hold others accountable and are ultimately responsible for the ministries results. I know many outstanding ministry leaders but I also know of many who frankly don't belong in leadership because they are not stewarding the organization well or are not fulfilling their own role well (after all they have staff to carry the water for them). Accountability always starts at the top.

Ten: Governance boards should ask the hard questions
That is what governance boards do but my experience is that this is rare in the Christian arena. After all we are doing ministry and we assume the best and don't want to be seen as having a business agenda in a ministry world and we gloss over what would never be glosssed over in the secular arena. That is an abdication of the oversight role of a board. If they do not ask the hard questions which sharpen the leader and the organization who will?