Being a leader in ministry is tough. For me, it’s not that the hours are longer, the work is harder, or the pay is less. Those things are common with many jobs. Leading a ministry is tough because I believe it is hard to measure success.
Businesses have profits to look at. Sports teams have win-loss records. Even those in public safety can look at crime rates or other numerical data to prove a point. It seems that all too often, though, ministries just drift with no plan in place to “chart their course.”
Many churches or other ministries end up solely measuring “nickels and noses,” as some might say. In order to find out if their ministry is effective, they look at the attendance, and the offering. If both are increasing, all must be well. Or is it?
Ministries must be more strategic than businesses, because our metric for effectiveness is much harder to define. I mean, how do you know if your youth ministry is going well, or if your mission is succeeding?
Without just looking at “nickels and noses,” most people would struggle coming up with a good answer for this.
I just finished the book The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization by a group of authors, most notably Peter Drucker. It was a great, short read with some great insights for non-profits.
Here are the 5 questions he lists, and a quick explanation of each.
Question 1: What is our Mission? “The mission says why you do what you do, not the means by which you do it” (:14) If the mission is clearly states for all the staff and volunteers know it clearly, then they should be able to answer the question, “Is what I am doing contributing to this goal?”
I think coming up a with a clear mission statement is extremely difficult. As the authors say, “changing lives is always the staring point and ending point” (:13). Good mission statements define the mission with greater clarity.
Question 2: Who is our customer? “The primary customer is the person whose life is changed through your work” (:25). If the organization knows who their customer is, they can focus intently on meeting them where they are. If they are unsure, they skip from one person to another, not really effectively meeting any of them.
Question 3: What does the customer value? Years ago I asked a group of high school boys what their friends asked them about coming to summer camp. Their answer surprised me. The number one question they got from their friends was this:
“Is the food good?”
High school boys are hungry, most of the day. When we found out this was so valuable to them, we made it a point to get the word out how good the food was at camp. If we wouldn’t have asked that question, we would continued to work under our own assumptions, and they would have been way off base.
Question 4: What are our results? “The results of social sector organizations are always measured outside the organization in changed lives and changed conditions – in people’s behavior, circumstances, health, hopes and above all, in the competence and capacity” (:51)
Coming up with a way to measure this is very difficult. We’ve tried for years. We’ve come to realize it is an ongoing process, but worth the effort.
Question 5: What is our plan? “Goals flow from mission, aim the organization where it must go, build on strength, address opportunity, and taken together, outline your desired future” (:66)
We lack plans because we lack a clear mission. Instead, we drift, and hope that where we end up is where we want to be.
These questions are tough to answer, but christian leaders need to take the time to try. If we do, it will help everyone on the team use their energy to move the mission forward.
What do you think? Could you clearly define the mission of your church or ministry?