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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.

22 Oct '11

Ministry Excellence: More ministry for less money

All indications seem to point to a fundamental economic shift taking place in our country, and indeed globally. This shift may well impact the amount of money that is available for ministry and the days of year over year automatic increases may be coming to an end. This is not necessarily a bad thing in that it forces ministries to think carefully about how they use the resources they have and to look at ways to leverage what may be fewer and more precious dollars.

The foundation of ministry has always been people first and money second, although we all acknowledge that funding is important and necessary. The question is whether there are ways of doing what we do without the kinds of increases we have been used to in the past. While this issue is on the horizon for the ministry world it has been the reality in the business world for some time.

Finding ways to do more with less is known as "lean manufacturing," or "lean management" in the for profit sector. For instance, I know of one firm that was able to drive a very significant amount of overhead from its annual costs, decrease the inventory in its warehouses, speed up delivery of its product and drastically decrease inventory damage all of which went to the bottom line. And this was a very well run company. Yet, by thinking differently and doing some things differently it decreased its staff, integrated its processes and saved very significant dollars which in an upside down economy not only allowed them to survive but to thrive.

I believe that the same kind of thinking would not only benefit ministries but may become a non-negotiable in the new economy that is emerging. In ReachGlobal, for instance, we have been working with a consultant from the lean management sector to help us in a host of ways from more efficient meetings, to better planning and evaluation tools, scalable processes, eliminating duplicate systems, time wasters and breaking down divisional silos that prevent efficient and effective operations and decisions. In fact, we will not hire new support staff until we have rigorously determined that there are not other efficiencies that can be found. We call this effort ministry excellence and it is paying significant dividends. It is all about being the best we can be and using the people and dollars we have to their best advantage.

I sometimes hear people say, "we should not run a ministry like a business." Yes, a ministry is different than a business in its mission and end result but I believe that God would desire us to honor Him in our stewardship of people and resources. Perhaps the right answer is that ministries should be run better than many businesses because unlike the quarterly dividends of many corporations, our stakes are eternal. We all work with limited resources but God is able to provide what we actually need as opposed to what we usually want. It may be that He would entrust more to us as we are prudent and careful with what He so generously provides.

It would seem that the marketplace with its lean manufacturing and management has some things to teach ministries. Ministry excellence is a way to see more ministry with less money through creative and disciplined management of our resources.