What are You Crying About?

About 8 years ago, a little book created quite a stir among the church-world. Presumably, those outside of the church read it as an inspirational work as it pointed one toward God. Inside the church, however, fireworks ensued. Those adept at theology highlighted its faults and discouraged us from reading it. I fell in that camp. The book was The Shack.

This week, The Shack hit theaters in movie form. I questioned whether I would see it. Negative feelings stirred within me. But, I went. I saw the movie. I liked it. In fact, it moved me. I bawled like a baby. Ugly cried. Friends handed me tissues.

I’d see it again.

What does this have to do with communicating effectively with your team?

The only other thing that brings me to tears like The Shack is when good leaders have poor communication with those around them. Wrong dates. Incorrect times. Inaccurate information. All point toward poor communication.

In the church world, it’s important for church leaders to communicate with the congregation, but we cannot overlook the importance of relaying information between ministry leaders. When ministry leaders are in the dark about what other ministries are doing, we hear complaints stemming from the silo-effect. That is, ministry leaders feel segmented and separated from their peers. Because of this, we recognize that communication takes place on two levels in the church:

(1) Staff to Congregation
(2) Staff to Staff

Good communication at both of these levels is important for effective leadership. It also makes ministry a lot more efficient. Here’s why I think it’s important to hit these two groups with clear communication:

Staff to Church

Staff leadership is effective when there is clear communication with the church/congregation. The staff is responsible for keeping the congregation informed about upcoming events/activities, changes in the staff, financial status, and many other items. The personnel may do this by way of e-mail, announcements, social media, or personal contact. The reason for the staff to keep the congregation informed is that, “What doesn’t get communicated is at the mercy of the rumor mill and the imagination of others. The secret to effective communication is to answer the questions before they are thought of!”[1] When the staff does not communicate, the congregation is left in the dark, guessing what needs to be done and when it needs to be done. Effective leaders answer all of the questions that may be asked before they are asked.

Staff to Staff

Staff leadership is effective when there is clear communication between staff members. Ministry directors must be in regular communication with each other about the plans, programs, and activities of their ministries. As Wimberly writes,

Communication is especially important among larger staffs. Staff meetings are an important time to ensure communication throughout the system. They can also be a time to coordinate the management of various subsystems of the larger congregational system. If such communication and coordination doesn’t happen, parts of the system will quickly start working against one another or will overlap in ways that create significant inefficiencies and irritation.[2]

The student ministry should be in communication with the college ministry. The college ministry should be in communication with the children’s ministry. The children’s ministry should be in communication with the worship ministry. When the various ministries are not communicating beyond their scope, there’s confusion, frustration, and separation. As in marriage, when communication breaks down between ministries, the system begins to fail. Eventually, when there is no communication, if help is not administered, divorce often takes place. When ministries are working against each other within the same church due to a lack of communication, they have divorced each other from their common mission. Sadly, simply because of a lack of communication, the entire system becomes inefficient and, especially, ineffective.

That is something to cry about.

[1] Lotich, Smart Church Management, 46.

[2] Wimberly, The Business of the Church, 34.


Effective Communication Advances the Mission

A professor of communication once told me in conversation that for each person in the congregation there is a different form of communication. People communicate in a countless number of ways. That’s way effectiveness as leaders requires the skill of communicating, not only consistently, but also differently. Because there are so many different avenues for communication it is easy to see why it is important in any organization. Here are three reasons you will want to communicate effectively.

1. Communication is important because it engages people in the mission.

People feel informed and engaged when information is shared.[1] The information shared may vary, but the people, volunteers, and staff should have a good understanding of what they can expect to be shared. For example, they may be informed about major initiatives in the church, but they may not be informed about all the purchases made during any given week. Additionally, the church should know how information will be communicated to them. The leadership needs to define the primary method of communication, which may be anything from website, pulpit announcements, a weekly email, or social media. All of these are effective ways to communicate, but the church needs to know what they can expect. Finally, the congregation needs to know when they can expect information to be shared with them, whether this happens once a week during a Sunday worship service or once a quarter in a newsletter. When the church knows what, how, and when information is communicated, its people are in the know.

2. Communication is important because it builds trust in the mission.

Charles Tidwell writes, “Administrative leaders who wish to be effective must continue to grow in their skill of communicating.”[2] When a leader communicates well, she builds trust with her followers. The secret to building trust through communication is consistency.[3] The more the leader communicates with members, volunteers, and staff, the more credibility the leader receives. Regularity of communication shows that there is nothing to hide; all is made known to the people. It tells people that the leader cares about their opinions, desires for them to be aware of important decisions, and chooses to keep them informed. The most important part of communication is not the process by which information is shared, but its “consistency and thoroughness.”[4] When communication is consistent and thorough, trust of the leader is established and built.

3. Communication is important because it clarifies the purpose of the mission.

In his book, Creating Magic, Lee Cockerell explains how he has learned that, “Clear communication is one of the leader’s principal tasks, especially when it comes to responsibility and authority.”[5] As she leads her staff, the effective leader conveys each member’s responsibility in the organization, as well as, the extent of his/her authority. The error of not communicating these clearly is staff members who are unsure of what they are to be doing in the organization and the unwillingness to delegate or receive direction. As the leader communicates these terms, she establishes her own authority as she clarifies the purpose, determines objectives, develops plans, designs organization, and administers resources.[6] The leader who communicates these items clearly proves that he deserves to be in the position of authority.

Next week I’m going to share some practical ways to communicate effectively. I’ll provide some communication tools to help you communicate with your people to engage them, build trust, and to clarify the mission.

[1] Lotich, Smart Church Management, 45.

[2] Charles Tidwell, Church Administration (Nashville, Tenn: B&H Academic, 1985), 220.

[3] Lotich, Smart Church Management, 46.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Lee Cockerell, Creating Magic: 10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies from a Life at Disney (New York: Currency Doubleday, 2008), 64.

[6] Tidwell, Church Administration, 220.

Conference Review – Innovate Now!

Located in the “Corner Bakery” headquarters building, I knew this was going to be a good conference. The smell of baked goods filled the air. Fortunately, our conference was located in the basement of the building, rather then anywhere near the bakery.

This was not your typical conference. Developed by the thinkers at Leadership Network, this experience fit more into the category of learning cohort, rather than your typical conference. They didn’t catch our attention with flashy signs and videos. They didn’t usher us into the moment with worship music. They didn’t surprise us with celebrity appearances. Rather, our intimate crowd sat in rows and engaged in conversation, networking, and strategic thinking. It was wonderful!

The genius of this experience was hearing from four presenters, the opportunity to follow up their presentations with dialogue, and space during the day to just think about how the topics would impact your organization. The focus of the day was “Strategic Staffing.”

The speakers included Pastor Steve Stroope who presented key motivators for staff. He was followed by Sam Chand (via video) who outlined seven ways to change your staff culture. Kadi Cole hit the ball out of the park with her talk about different types of teams. The day ended with Dr. Warren Bird walking us through the latest staffing trends based on his research.

The experience challenged me, inspired me, and encouraged me. Kudos to the Leadership Network team on the initiation of the Innovate Now! series. Five more like-minded experiences are slated for this year. My schedule is full, but I’m going to make time to attend these upcoming experiences because, in my opinion, they have much to offer to effective church leadership.

Register online for Innovate Now!

Question: Resources Needed

Facebook message I received this week from a friend in Dubai:

Hi friend. I’m looking for resources for a staff member to learn about church systems in large churches. Any suggestions for staff structure or ministry systems? What about small groups? (We are 2700+ across two campuses FYI)
My response:

Hey friend – it’s great to hear from you. A couple resources that will fit various scenarios:

effectivechurchleadership.com (my blog)

Anything by Peter Drucker
Henry Mintzberg, Managing
Church Administration, Tidwell
The Business of the church, Wimberly
Leading and Managing a Growing Church
Foundations of Church Administration, Petersen

There’s so much information available. Nelson Searcy has written a lot about church systems, but he also wants you to buy a lot from him. I gravitate toward Drucker and Mintzberg because everyone quotes them. It’s also important for your friend to just take time to identify the systems in the church, then gather resources around those. I venture to say that a gifted administrator can easily identify the systems. Most likely they will be finances, governance, organization, communication, policies/personnel.

I hope this helps, or at least gives a starting point. As time goes on, by blog will become more robust with book reviews, resources, ideas, etc.

Take care, brother!


Part 3: Running Well with Policies and Procedures

Today I ran in the first of eight races that I plan to run this year. It was a fun one – Hot Chocolate 15k/5k (I did the 5k). Part of me is attempting to run these races because I want to challenge myself to keep training. The other part of me is running because of the SWAG (stuff we all get). The SWAG for this race included a hooded sweatshirt, as well as a hot chocolate mug at the end. So, how did the race end for me? Well, I was 1,403rd out of 5,992. To break it down, I was the 567th male out of 1,465. For my age (35-39), I was the 83rd male out of 193. It was a nice run, but I have a long way to go before I’m running well.

As mentioned in Part 2 of the Policies and Procedures posts, while policies and procedures are clearly different in purpose, they both have a place in the Church and that place is to help the Church run well – this means effectively and with great efficiency. Just like wearing loafers to a 5k won’t help you run well, when there are no policies and/or procedures in place, the Church cannot run well because of a gaping lack of clarity. As Welch explains, “Unplanned, disorganized activities are meaningless; thus, as administrators, we should orchestrate our leadership toward the end of productive output.”[1] That is, when the activities of a church, such as its policies and procedures, have no direction and are not clear, those activities lack purpose. Our job as leaders is to set the direction and to bring clarity into the organization. The end goal of our work is life change because of Jesus Christ, but also that work should be accomplished. Since policies and procedures are specific in action and direction, they have a place in the ministry of the church. There are two major reasons that policies and procedures provide efficiency and effectiveness.

The first reason policies and procedures have a place in the church is that they provide assistance to the leaders. Welch explains, “Policy and procedure statements offer significant assistance in the management and administration of the church or organization.”[2] Leaders gain because the policies and procedures become guides for operation. They communicate how business is done within the organization, provide information for the church body, and become training material for new staff and volunteers.[3] Leaders further gain because the policies and procedures turn “recurring problems into routine processes.”[4] When a problem occurs multiple times, a procedure is written to give step-by-step instructions for staff to resolve the issue when it occurs again. This allows all leaders the opportunity to focus on and resolve major issues.

The second reason policies and procedures have a place in the church is that they provide clarity. Welch additionally points out that, “Policies and procedures present to both those in the church and those outside an atmosphere of order, business, and sense of purpose.”[5] Clarity is achieved when there is order. By nature, policies and procedures are orderly. Through their orderliness, a sense of satisfaction and fairness is achieved. This results when all points are considered and unbiased decisions are made. Strong policies and procedures do not favor a particular group of people in the church, but seek to benefit every person through stated facts. Clarity is also achieved when there is a sense of purpose. Policies and procedures are the product of a well-defined mission and vision for an organization. The mission and vision state the purpose of the church. Policies and procedures are intended to guide the church to reaching its mission, thus they give a sense of purpose.

Effective leaders run the race well. To do this, it’s important to understand that policies and procedures have a place in the Church. They are not to be feared because of their rule-like nature, but should be embraced because they provide the leaders assistance and bring incredible clarity, not only into the Church, but into any organization.

[1] Ibid., 30.

[2] Ibid., 59.

[3] Ibid., 60.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid., 59.

Part 2: Understanding the Difference Between Policies and Procedures

The world watched the United States this week. It watched us transfer power to a new president. It watched our cities fill with hundreds of thousands of people for the women’s march. It watched former President George W. Bush struggle with a rain poncho. It watched the gift exchange faux pas between our First Ladies. The United States was on stage this week and to post here about the difference between policies and procedures seems trivial. Alas, I move forward in my mission to show the world why the Church needs to pay attention to how it operates on a daily basis.

As a church grows, policies and procedures become the infrastructure needed for continued growth. That’s because well-written policies and procedures direct the steps of each employee in an organization. For example, when a children’s ministry classroom reaches capacity, a volunteer should be trained on what steps to take to alleviate the situation. When a procedure is in place, the volunteer has been given the tools for such a moment of high capacity classrooms.

The terms “policies” and “procedures” can be confusing. So, before establishing a place for them in the church, it would be helpful to define the differences between the two.

Policies differ from procedures in that they are specific in direction. By definition, a policy is, “a command decision from top management to perform in a specified manner.”[1] The decisions from the church leadership regarding performance are various and numerous. These decisions may be made by the highest level of authority for the entire organization or may be made by ministry directors for specific ministry areas. Additionally, the policies not only direct the staff, but also the volunteers. Policies guide the entire organization and its people. An example of a policy might be, “Church ABC will be governed by an elder board.” This decision made by the church leadership dictates how the church will operate in a specific way.

Procedures differ from policies in that they are specific in action. Procedures are “guides to action rather then guides to thinking. They detail the exact manner a certain activity will be carried out—a chronological listing of what must be done and by whom to get the job done.”[2] Procedures provide step-by-step ways by which a task is accomplished. While a church may be governed by an elder board (policy), the board elects new members each year by way of congregational vote (procedure). Another example may be found in the processing of the weekly offering. A team of volunteers counts the offering taken in by the church by following procedures starting at step one until they reach the final step. The procedures for counting the weekly offering guide the volunteers as to exactly how the money is to be accounted for.

While this topic won’t make headlines this week, effective leaders know the importance of policies and procedures for the church. The local church leads more effectively, its ministries are run more efficiently, when staff, volunteers, and others know what they are to be doing and how it’s to be done.

Questions for Thought:
– Think of 3 to 5 policies that you have in place in your organization.
– What are the procedures for those policies? Are the action steps clearly articulated?

[1] Welch, Church Administration, 25.

[2] Ibid.

Part 1: Policies and Procedures for the Church

My college education provided me with a Bachelor of Science degree in Medical Technology. It was my dream to be a doctor some day, that is, until I took organic chemistry. I nearly failed the class. I was bummed, but knew that I still wanted to be in the medical field, so I redirected my studies to medical technology. Using that degree, I worked in three different hospitals over the course of 10 years. I learned a lot during those years, but one thing I learned (and depended on) was the importance of policies and procedures. No test was run on a machine, no work was done, without first consulting the procedures manual. If we didn’t follow those procedures, our work would fail. We would be ineffective.

As I studied for the ministry, worked in various churches, and networked with other pastors, I learned that churches are shy in the area of policies and procedures. For many churches, these manuals just do not exist. It’s no one’s fault. A pastor doesn’t go to seminary to learn how to write procedure manuals. It’s not the pastor’s job. However, it’s apparent that churches need someone to focus on these. These manuals become recipes for efficient leadership because they provide clarity, direction, and instruction to get things done.

Obviously, the Bible wasn’t written to argue that churches need to have policy manuals, but we see examples of policies and procedures in the Bible. The Law of the Old Testament is filled with policies and procedures for the people of God. An example of this includes the observance of the Passover Lamb. The policy stated by God was that an unblemished lamb was to be sacrificed once a year in obedience to the Lord. The procedure for how this was to be accomplished was outlined for the people in Exodus 12.

As we flip to the New Testament, a great example of the importance of policies and procedures is found in Jesus’ explanation of the cost of discipleship in Luke 14:28-33. In his desire to illustrate the cost of discipleship, Jesus considers how men would plan to build a tower. He says that the first step for building a tower is to take into consideration the costs associated with such a project, (v. 28). If the builder does not take this first step, then he will not be able to complete the project. Similarly, a king must first determine if he has the manpower to take on another nation in war, (v. 31). Again, the downside of not following this first crucial step is failure.

I may have belabored the point, but that was not my goal. Simply, I wanted to give examples of how policies and procedures were used even in Bible times. This is the first of three posts about policies and procedures. My argument is that these tools will help ministry leaders have a clear picture of where they are going and how to get there. They are tools that will help us to be not only efficient, but effective, leaders. In the following posts, I will explain the difference between policies and procedures, then I will describe the place for them in the church.