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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.

02 Dec '09

Mission Drift


Anyone who has done much fishing knows the challenge. You park in one spot on the water and start to fish. An hour later you realize that you have drifted a long ways from where you started and a correction is needed.

Drift takes place with organizations - churches - and ministries all the time. One thinks we got parked or anchored in the right place but over time, our location changes and it is so incremental that we often don't notice it until we are a long ways from where we thought we were.

It is mission drift. It is vision drift.

Mission and vision drift take place because it is far easier to pay attention to our activities and programs - which take on a life of their own than it is to stay focused on our reason for existence and the direction we have committed to. Over time we move from actively piloting to allowing auto pilot to do the work for us.

Recently two Northwest pilots put their plane on auto pilot and became distracted with their own laptops in the cockpit. They overshot the Twin Cities by 150 miles until finally Air Traffic Control got their attention and they turned around to come back for landing. Unfortunately this if often the case with ministries as well. But we wake up one day and wonder, how did we drift so far from our missional focus?

There are three key practices that can keep a ministry from moving to auto pilot and mission/vision drift. The first is to have absolute clarity on who they are, why they exist, where they are going and how they are going to get there. Most ministries don't have that clarity! It is clarity in the minds of leaders and it is the ability to communicate that clarity quickly, easily, continuously, all the time in ways that other leaders, volunteers and folks "get it." (If you do not have that kind of clarity I recommend reading Leading From The Sandbox).

The second key practice is that the job of senior leaders - all the time - is to keep that clarity of mission and vision in front of their teams. Unless leaders are evangelists for the mission and vision and keep finding new ways to communicate that message, drift absolutely will take place! It is far easier to drift into running programs and getting lost in activity than it is to stay focused on the prize and it will not happen unless leaders make the mission and vision and clarity job one!

The third key practice is to tie everyone's annual ministry plan and key result areas to the mission and vision in very tangible ways so that all activity, energy and focus is targeted on what is really important. Then, on a monthly basis in a mentoring/coaching meeting, supervisors dialogue with their direct reports on how they are doing in keeping their main things the main things.

Unlike the Northwest pilots there are no control towers keeping watch over most of our ministries - although that is one of the real jobs of boards. Take a few moments to think about the ministry or team you lead today. Are you and your people on auto pilot or are you focused like a lazer on the mission and vision you have been called to? If calibration is needed do what you need to do to bring your part of the organization back into alignment with vision and mission.