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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.

28 Oct '08

What spells Success?

Do you know what success looks like for your church, team, ministry or organization?

Being able to clearly define success can be a huge factor in an organization's effectiveness. In my experience, however, most leaders and their staff cannot clearly answer the question. And, many times, the factors that we believe would spell success actually do not - and we are chasing the wrong things.

For instance. Many mission agencies define success by the number of missionaries they have and the number of countries they operate in. If you doubt that, just look at their materials. The problem is that those two statistics have nothing to do with effectiveness or results.

And, that definition can have negative unintended consequences which include bringing people into the organization that are not really qualified (because we are enamored by numbers) or starting ministries in new places where we do not have the necessary infrastructure or leadership.

In a similar fashion, local churches often simply believe that it is about numbers and one can get numbers by participating in the shuffle of believers from one church to another. Reading the New Testament one does not get the impression that numbers are the final indicator of success, rather life change is.
What is interesting is that there are actually two factors in defining success.

The first is the end product you want. In my organization the end product is spelled out by a mission statement, The EFCA exists to glorify God by multiplying healthy churches among all people. Our end goal is therefore church health, church multiplication and ensuring that the denomination includes all ethnic, and socio economic groups who make up our communities, nation and through missions our world.

Clarity on the mission, however, is only half the equation. The other half is defining the culture, practices and central ministry focus that are necessary to reach the missional goal that has been defined.

First, we need a set of guiding principles which provide true guidance as to how the organization operates. This goes beyond a static set of values to a set of principles which all staff and volunteers (or in the case of a church) members are committed to living out (see here for an example). These principles ensure that your staff are committed to practices that will help you get the results you desire. Without defining those practices you are unlikely to achieve what you desire to achieve.

The second piece is knowing what the central ministry focus must be if you are going to achieve your mission. This is the one thing that your organization must do day in and day out, without which, you will be far less likely to get to where you want to go. (see this post for an example).

The third piece is that of defining the culture you must have if you are going to achieve your mission. The culture of your organization, just like the practices of the organization will either help you achieve your mission or will work against you achieving that mission. For the local church I believe the culture is spiritual vitality. For our mission, it is healthy people, healthy teams, healthy leaders and healthy churches. In other words we know that without a culture of health at all of these four levels we will not achieve our missional goal.

In the book, Leading From the Sandbox, I describe how these four elements of mission, guiding principles, central ministry focus and organizational culture can be communicated in a simple way to all staff, and stakeholders.
The central point is that we must have the correct definition of success for our ministry. But once we have that definition, we must define the practices, central ministry focus and culture that are most likely going to help us achieve that mission - and therefore success.