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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.

16 Mar '13

Herding cats and congregational alignment

Posted by T.J. Addington in church health, organizational alignment
Congregations are effective to the extent that their people are moving in the same general direction. When leaders have a direction and can mobilize their people in that direction, there is great power. When leaders don’t have a direction or people don’t know the direction, or there has not been significant effort to herd the cats in that direction, mission suffers.

It is not easy to herd cats and it is not easy to get a group of people pointed in the same direction. But it is possible and wise leaders work on making it happen. Here are some basic tips in how to make that happen in your church.

Clarify the basics. 

Leaders need to have clarity before they can communicate clarity. They need clarity around four key areas. One, what is our mission? Two, what are our guiding principles or the non-negotiables for how we do what we do and relate to one another? Three, what is the single most important thing we need to focus on (central ministry focus)? Four, what do we want the end result of our ministry to look like (spiritual vitality)?

Leaders, pastors and staff must have a common set of commitments and a common vocabulary around these four core issues so that they can communicate them consistently and clearly with the congregation.

Communicate constantly.
 You cannot over communicate the basics. While we may get tired of hearing ourselves saying them, it is in the constant communication of what is truly important that people start to assimilate those beliefs. People crave clarity and good leaders provide the clarity on a regular basis. If you can communicate those key issues in a simple, clear and consistent manner, people will start to remember them.

Be upfront with new members and attenders.

The reference point for what church is or should be for people who have had prior church experience is some church in their past. They often come into a new church thinking that your church will be like some past church. It won’t in all likelihood. Use new member classes or informal gatherings of new attenders to communicate who you are, what your commitments are and what your direction is. Clarify the four issues noted earlier.


This is important if you truly want your culture to reflect your mission, guiding principles, central ministry focus and end result. The fact is that you do not want people importing values that are inconsistent with who you are or want to be. Not all churches fit all people. Be clear as to who you are and what people can expect in their experience in your congregation.

Ensure that every ministry in the church is communicating the same thing. You will either lose alignment or gain alignment depending on whether every one of your ministry leaders and key volunteers is communicating the same message. For instance, all staff, volunteers and ministry leaders need to know those things that you are clear on regarding mission, guiding principles, central ministry focus and the end goal of your ministries - and have a plan for how they will communicate them in their particular ministry. If all ministry leaders communicate and live out the same message – it will get through.

Use small groups to focus the congregation on key ministries. 
Small groups can either align or miss-align a congregation depending on whether there is a strategy to ensure that leaders are paying attention to the key ministry commitments of the congregation. For instance, one should ensure that every small group is intentionally helping people move toward a common definition of spiritual maturity – depending on how your church as defined maturity. Or, if community involvement is key to your ministry, every small group should have a plan for how they will contribute to community ministry.

All small group leaders should have the same understanding, commitment to and concern for the mission, guiding principles, central ministry focus and the desired end result of ministry. If they do not have the same commitment as staff and leaders, the cats will not be moving in the same direction.

Develop your "way"
Executives from around the world pay big bucks to attend Disney seminars on the “Disney Way.” It is the way that the Disney Company does business, treats employees and the unique culture they espouse. Every church ought to have “a way” or a culture that defines it that is inculcated into every staff member, every board member, every volunteer or key ministry leader – and then into the congregation as a whole.


Your way includes the culture you want to create (guiding principles), the mission you exist for, the desired end result of your ministry (spiritual vitality) and the central ministry focus – the developing, empowering and releasing of people into active, meaningful ministry.

This also includes a common vocabulary that is spoken in your hallways, the living out of your preferred culture and a consistent message over time. Done well, you will develop your unique culture and the cats will move generally in the same direction.