Meeting Your Ministry

Nail-the-meetingWhen it comes to our church and ministry, one of the last things we want to deal with is meetings.  We can’t seem to hold a productive meeting, we can’t seem to get church members to show up at annual meetings, and our meetings seem to lead to more meetings.  All of this is discouraging.

However, Meetings are essential to your church!  As a church leader it is important to become a master at Meeting your Ministry.

Meetings Establish Ministry Alignment

One of the most important reasons you must Meet in your ministry is because meetings get everyone on the same page.  You are fooling yourself if you believe that everyone knows what is going on and has the same ideas about why we are doing what we are if you don’t take the time to tell them all together.  Left to their own devices, most people will not understand what you understand.  They need to be told, and it needs to be all together so that they all hear the same thing.  Having meetings keeps everyone working in the same direction in the same manner.

Meetings Disseminate Vision

Every time you get your staff together, you have the opportunity to let your vision rub off on them, to show them again why we are doing what we are doing.  Without meetings, vision falls randomly onto individuals, leaving you with a staff that has varying degrees of understanding and buy-in to the vision.  Bring them together and cast it again.

Meetings Bring About Action

Good meetings lead your staff to act.  They end with clear direction for the staff to follow, and allow you a venue to hold them accountable to moving in that direction.  Remember this as you plan your meetings, and be sure to end them with a time to set clear directions for each staff member: “John, you are putting together that video for the baptism service.  Becky, be sure to call Joan about that question we had about the bulletin.”  Then follow up on the action plans.

If you need help having great meetings, I recommend Death by Meeting by Patrick Lencioni.  It is a quick read and has practical advice for making your meetings more efficient, more timely, and more fun. Or if you’d rather, leave a comment and we can have a conversation.  I love helping people create better meetings.

Do you love the meetings in your church or organization?

Minimize Confusion: Organize Your Staff

Org Chart ScreenShotOne thing no one ever mentioned as I was going through my education to prepare for ministry was org charts.  We talked about a lot of things, but never how to set up the structure of an organization.  Unfortunately, this is a major task of the pastor: to set up the organization called the church.  Although you may not have considered it, organizing your staff will help you and them.

Organization Minimizes Confusion

Although the chart above may seem to create confusion, the truth is that organizing your church’s staff will minimize confusion in your church on three levels.

Less Confusion Among Staff

When your staff is clearly organized, there will be less confusion among the staff.  It will be clear to them who is responsible for what, clearing up confusion over responsibility.  It will be clear to them who is accountable to whom, clearing up confusion over management.  And it will be clearer to them what success looks like for them, clearing up confusion over priorities.  An organized staff will have less time lost wondering what they should do, who should tell them to do it, and what their work should look like.

Less Confusion About Staff

An organized staff also creates less confusion for your congregation about the staff.  When you spell out who is responsible for what, the congregation will understand better who they need to contact about their questions.  They will understand better who is ministering to their families.  They will understand better who is not ministering to them.  And they will understand better who they are accountable to for their discipleship.  Taking the time to organize your staff and publicizing it (through a org chart made public or simply with clear titles) will help your congregation understand your staff better.

Less Confusion Above Staff

Finally, organizing your staff will give you less confusion.  In an organized staff the leadership has a clear understanding on who they are leading, where they need to lead them, and who they need to find to lead.  When the staff is organized, those in management positions have no confusion about who they are managing.  They also understand more clearly what success looks like for each staff member, allowing them to manage them better.  And they will see clearly what holes exist in the organization, allowing them to plan for future staffing more effectively.

It may take some time and energy to do it, but organizing your staff is going to minimize confusion for you, your staff, and your congregation.

What problems have you seen arise with an unorganized staff?

Four Keys to a Great Constitution

As I noted in a previous post, every church needs a constitution.  But what are the key elements to have in one?  Here are the two key areas to address as you draft your church’s constitution.

1. Identity

The first thing every Church Constitution needs is to identify the church.  Included in this is your church’s name, statement of faith, denominational affiliation(s), and purpose for existing.  If you are part of a larger denomination that has a statement of faith, you most likely will simply refer to that statement rather than spelling everything out again.  By doing this, you will avoid having to amend the constitution every time the denomination makes any changes to the statement.

Be sure to include here your church’s purpose for existing to satisfy the IRS 501(c)3 requirements.  You may also include your mission and vision statements and core values, but I would suggest not.  These may change over time, and it is easier to make changes to them if they are not in your constitution.

2. Structure

Second, your constitution needs to spell out the basic structure of your church.  Be sure to include who is able to vote on legal issues, how your church will be governed, and how you will handle your annual business meeting (a legal requirement).  Make sure you check your state laws and denominational requirements.  Some denominations may also require a dissolution clause that explains what happens to the church’s assets if the church dissolves.

Your constitution does not have to be a complicated document.  It only needs to address these two areas.  You can make it quite a bit more lengthy and complicated if you desire, but I recommend against it.  The simpler your constitution is, the easier it will be to use it to set direction for your church.  The simpler it is, the less often you will have to change it in the future.  And the simpler it is, the easier it will be to create.

Why Your Church Needs a Constitution

As we move into a new generation of churches, I hear more and more church planters and lay leaders questioning the idea of a church constitution.  Whatever their reasonings (a constitution is  old-fashioned, restrictive, or they just had a bad experience with one), they are wrong.  Every church needs a constitution, and here’s why:

It Cements Your Tax Status

In order to be tax-exempt and receive tax-deductible contributions, an organization must apply for and be recognized as a 501(c)3 organization.  Churches, however, are automatically considered tax exempt and are not required to apply for and obtain recognition of tax-exempt status from the IRS if they meet the 501(c)3 requirements.  Among these requirements is:

  • The organization must be organized and operated exclusively for religious, educational, scientific, or other charitable purposes.

Your church’s constitution is its organizing document.  It shows the IRS what purposes you are organized for.  The other requirements have to do with how your church acts, but for this first requirement, you need a constitution.  Without a constitution, there is no proof that your church meets the requirements of a tax-exempt organization.

It Guides Future Ministry

How do you choose what direction to take the church?  How do you know what opportunities to move forward on and which need to be left well enough alone?  Your church’s constitution is its guiding document.  Taking the time to draft a constitution makes your choices in the future easier, since you have already laid down guidelines for what things your church does and does not do.

It Settles Disputes

When (not if) disputes occur in your church, a well drafted constitution will often help solve things.  It will already have spelled out how the church is run (no more arguments about who makes what decisions), what the church’s statement of faith is (no more questions about what we believe on what), what the church’s values are (no more wondering how we do things), and what the church’s mission is (no more arguments on what we should be doing).  A good constitution will no get rid of all your problems, but it will put an end to many potential issues, allowing everyone to focus their arguments on other things.

I’m convinced that constitutions still have value to the church.  How have you seen them have value or get in the way in your church?

3 Must Reads

Chris Brogan (chrisbrogan.com) recently threw out the idea of only reading 3 books in the course of a year.  The idea is that when we try to read a lot of books, we treat them like a to do list and don’t actually get much out of them.  Instead, he says, read fewer books, but spend more time with each to get the most out of them.

If you were to take this approach to reading on Church Organization this year, here are the three books I’d put in your hands:

 1. Advanced Strategic Planning: A New Model for Church and Ministry Leaders
In this volume, Aubrey Malphurs not only explains the benefits of long term strategic planning, but goes in depth on how to do it.  384 pages of how to make a strategic plan for your church.  This is a resource I use all the time. 

2. The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business
Ranked the #3 Business Book of 2012 by Amazon, The Advantage brings together much of Patrick Lencioni’s work into one volume.  While his narratives are easier to read, The Advantage brings all the deliverables into one book as a plan for getting your organization healthy.  It will help you assess the health of your church staff, leadership, and volunteers.

3. Fusion: Turning First-Time Guests into Fully-Engaged Members of Your Church
Nelson Searcy is an excellent systems thinker.  It is worth your time to read all of his books, but this is the best introduction to church systems.  In Fusion, you will learn how to create an Assimilation System in your church.  The principles of building a system then will help you as you look at other areas within the church.

These three books will put you in position to be a more organized and effective church.

What 3 books would you recommend I read this year?

3 Foolproof Ways to Ostracize Guests

Assimilation of guests is a must for churches.  We have to think through our system of bringing people from a guest to a member.  The first part of that system is the first impression guests have of us.  Here are three ways that churches unknowingly ostracize guests when they are brave enough to drop by:

1. Make a Public Spectacle

As a guest, I am really trying to fit in, to not rock the boat, to be a part of what is going on.  When the church does anything that makes it obvious that I am a guest and not a regular attendee, my charade of belonging is destroyed.  The greatest disaster is when the guest is asked to stand up in church and be identified, but even a simple act like giving them a guest badge has the effect of saying “you don’t really belong here.”

Churches have good intentions when they do this.  They think that having guests stand out will make regular attendees notice the guests and be nice to them or try to include them.  Or they have a great assimilation system and want to get people on the road to inclusion.  Or they really believe that the guest will feel more included if we recognize them publicly (we are honoring them, right?).

Nothing could be further from the truth.  I want to be treated like a guest, but not an outsider.  When I have a guest in my home, I don’t have to publicly announce them.  Everyone who is normally in my home naturally recognizes that they are a guests and treats them appropriately.  Churches can take the same path.  Engender a culture of community and people will naturally recognize guests and embrace them.

2. Use Tribal Language

As a guest, I am truly interested in what is going on.  I may even want to participate more fully in the life of the church.  But I have to know what is going on and how to get involved.  If your announcements use church-ese (terms that no one uses outside of church, like “Sunday School” or, for Baptists, “Potluck”), guests will be lost.  The church must communicate clearly, assuming that there are people listening who have no idea what is going on.

Likewise, if your announcements continually reference people in the church, guests will know they are not welcome.  After all, they don’t know any of these people who are known to everyone by first name.  How are they supposed to call Brother Mark to sign up for the fishing trip?  Where do I find Julie and her women’s small group?  The problem is the same with full names.  When I come for the first time, I don’t know anyone.  So using their name in announcements reminds me that I don’t belong.

3. Provide Inadequate Mapping

The first thing I used to do for guests at our church was to show them where the restrooms were.  It seems like a small thing, but in the middle of the sermon there is no one in the hallways to show a guest where to pee!  When our churches don’t show people where things are, we tell them not to come back.  It is like having a friend over to our home and not telling them where the bathroom or family room are.

Not all churches need or can afford signage.  But welcoming a guest is as simple as walking them through significant places they may need to visit in your church.  Show them where the restrooms are, where the information center is, and where corporate worship will occur.  If they have children or students, walk them through those ministry areas.  They will feel at home when they know where things are.

When is the last time you were a guest in a church?  What was your experience like?

Making Email Work for You

Email is a concise, efficient method of communicating information.  However, for many pastors and church leaders, email can become frustrating.  Every few minutes your computer dings at you, and you lose focus.

Dave Nelson, one of my mentors, told me “Manage the store, don’t let the store manage you.”  We have a vision, a strategy, a purpose.  But daily interruptions often override work that will drive the vision forward, and we let ourselves be managed by them.  Email has had that effect on me more than once.  We have to learn to use email to our advantage.

I use Outlook to manage my email and have for several years.  But I just learned a great new trick.  Outlook will automatically sort your messages as they arrive, you just have to give it some direction!  It is simple:

  1. Click on Rules on the top ribbon
  2. Click on Create Rule
  3. Choose what conditions Outlook should act on (sender, subject, etc.).
  4. Choose what action Outlook should take (move the message, alert you, etc.)
  5. Click OK

Outlook will sort messages for you so that you know which ones need your attention right away and which need your attention later or when you have time.

If you arrange things well, this trick will save you the time to sort your messages, the time lost as you move back and forth from email to tasks, and the time reading messages that you could read later.  That is a lot of time that you can then spend with people, creating, developing your skills, or walking with God.

Do you have other email optimization tips we could all learn from?