Before I dive into this, I feel the need to repeat my statement from the intro post:
I do not claim to be an expert in leadership, merely a blessed individual in the midst of a great learning experience. My prayer is that these ideas (which are a collection or paraphrase of many others’ original ideas) will find the hearts they need to find. Sometimes the people that need the most help do not have the access to the help they need. I’ve been there. It’s rough. I hope and pray that this series is a blessing to someone out there. At the very least, all both of my longtime readers can have a deeper understanding of why I love my job so much.
Also, be sure to check out Tim Spivey’s blog.
I’m starting off with the big idea because it’s one of the most important aspects I’ve seen in successful church ministry. In fact, I would argue that it is nearly impossible to measure success in a church environment without a big idea to set a gauge.
A big idea is simple, it is the main goal or concept that sets the course for how church leadership teams function. For example, at NC3 we use the term ‘creating and developing whole disciples’ as our big idea. (Note: in my experience a mission statement describes the ‘what’ while a big idea outlines the ‘how’ ministries function.) This means that our youth ministry program measures its success by how well we are fostering spiritual growth as a whole. If our kids excel in serving others but lack solid biblical knowledge, we are not creating whole disciples. If our youth ministry activities take away from valuable family time, or time as a congregation, then we are not fostering a whole relationship with God. Ideally, our kids and families, and our whole church is able to balance service with depth, knowledge, outreach etc.
The first benefit to the big idea is that it gets all of the ministry leaders on the same page. We are all working towards a common goal which fosters a lot of healthy teamwork. It takes away the need to compete for things like bulletin attention and budget and redirects that energy towards working together. Knowing that everyone in our boat is rowing together allows me to be excited about the journey, because I know that none of my energy is being wasted. It also helps me appreciate the other ministries of our church. Our ministry would not be as strong as it is without a successful women’s ministry, worship ministry, or finance team. Our kids may not know a single person on the finance team, but we are both living under the same roof and share a common bond in our mission.
The next benefit to a ‘big idea’ approach is that it allows for very clearly defined roles among ministry leaders. My leadership extends to a very specific area of ministry, and I am expected to exceed in that area. This doesn’t mean that I can ignore other ministries, just the opposite. It means that my participation in other ministries is limited to a support role. For example, I like to contribute to the team with my graphic design. This doesn’t mean I am in charge of the bulletin or graphics of the church, but it does allow me to participate in those areas without forsaking my own ministry. Clearly defined roles also allow me to say ‘no’ to a lot of good ideas that would otherwise take away from my ministry. Our Men’s ministry leader knows that I am able to help out as an MC at our monthly breakfast, but he does not call me to plan or organize the cooking. When one person is able to graciously say no to a role, it opens the door for someone else who might not otherwise be involved to plug in. I think one of the reasons our men’s ministry is so successful is because none of the staff members have anything to do with the event planning. We participate and support in the ways that we can and leave the chair open for others to step up and serve. (There will be more about this in the next post:’Do it, Delegate it, or Delete it.”)
Another benefit of the ‘big idea’ that I mentioned earlier is that it creates a common measuring stick for success. When I look at our calendar and see that we are big on outreach events and short on service projects I know immediately what needs to change. If we are going to be successful in our ministry, I am constantly going to be making little tweaks and adjustments to make sure that the ”whole disciple’ is being fostered. This allows for our senior minister to objectively speak to me about the successes and shortcoming of our ministries. Having a clear goal and measurement of whether that goal is achieved also allows for separation of the person from the ministry when it comes to making adjustments.
Lastly, a single, solid idea creates a unique ability for a unified identity to develop within a church. I know of churches that build their ministries around reaching out to the homeless, catering to college students, or (sadly) maintaining the status quo. When a church has a distinct identity it makes it easier for people to find a church home, and perhaps just as important, it allows an easy out for those not willing to get on board with the big idea. We have people who are very passionate about specific areas of ministry, and we do our best to accommodate them with a place to serve. But for those select few who would seek to be divisive, they have a huge uphill battle trying to subvert multiple ministries and are typically easy to spot. A big idea gives the leadership the ability to gently say, “this is how we go about seeking God’s will. If you are uncomfortable or disagree with that then we wish you Godspeed on your journey to find a church home.” That may sound harsh, but unity in the church has always been a pretty big deal.
Like I said in the beginning, this is a leadership principle that we are still working on, and by no means claim to have it ‘all figured out’. I also know that this concept may seem like a long way off for a lot of churches that are struggling under their leadership. The last post of the series will be on ways to start implementing these changes in places where that may seem like a tall task.
One love, one heart.
Sticky Teams: Larry Osborne
Axiom : Bill Hybels