Here’s a situation at churches and ministries I encounter from time to time: A leader with great gifts plants a church or launches a ministry. At the start there’s no money, so he or she hires friends, relatives, church members, or eager volunteers – all with very little or no experience.
But the church or ministry takes off, simply because of the talent or calling of the leader.
The leader starts traveling, speaking, hosting conferences, appearing at events – all on top of preaching or teaching at the church. Things are buzzing. Publicity happens. There are a lot of balls in the air, and the team is working day and night – all because of the talent, calling, and/or popularity of the leader.
The problem in this scenario is that while everyone works hard and is loyal, no one on the staff has any real training on how to run or manage the growing organization. They didn’t know any better at the start, because there was never an older, more experienced mentor or outside coach to teach them best practices about managing an office, planning schedules, financial guidelines, HR policies, communication, etc.
Now the team thinks they’re doing it right because it’s all they’ve ever known and they’re experiencing such success. But the truth is, the success is happening only because the leader is so personally gifted, and what they’re experiencing is just the tip of the iceberg of what’s actually possible. Plus, if they were doing it correctly, they wouldn’t be killing themselves in the process.
Then, the time comes the leader wants to expand his or her influence. The leader realizes it’s time to publish a major book, expand the social media impact, launch a media ministry – in short, build a major platform.
But it never happens.
Expanding a leader’s platform involves hard things like focus, deadlines, commitments, scheduling, returned phone calls and emails, communication skills – in short, it needs to become a priority. But by now, the church or ministry is used to living moment by moment, doing average work, and thinking they have it all under control.
I asked my friend and ministry consultant Sam Chand about it. He told me, “That’s the first conversation I have with my clients. It’s really about responsiveness. I make it clear that I will not chase you and will drop you if I have to chase you. Also, I do not work with “staff” alone. The CEO/Lead Pastor has to assume full responsibility for everything. They can’t use staff for any excuses.”
Sounds tough, but the truth is Sam’s exactly right. To take the next steps in expanding ministry and influence, a leader has to focus and respond quickly to outside vendors, advisors, coaches, and mentors. And most important, he or she has to seek that outside expertise and coaching for the team in the first place.
Is your organization like this? Do you look successful on the outside, but on the inside you’re about to implode? Is your team exhausted and at the end of their rope? Are they dropping the ball? Are you experiencing rapid turnover?
Inside you know you’re missing opportunities, but you just can’t figure out what’s wrong – and denial isn’t helping.
Every organization of any size needs to understand basic management principles. They need to have a clear line of authority, employees who understand what professionalism means, and how to respond in a timely manner to people outside the organization.
But that takes training and coaching.
What’s the story on your team? Do they have the skills to take you from where you are to where you want to be? Or are you a team member and recognize what I’ve described?
Training your team isn’t always flashy, hip, or cool. But it’s what creates the foundation for you to grow. We’ve helped teams of all kinds learn how to get in shape so I know it’s not too late to start.
But the clock is ticking, and your calling matters.
Phil Cooke, Ph.D. is a producer and media consultant to churches and ministries across the country. His latest book is “The Way Back: How Christians Blew Their Credibility and How We Get It Back.” Find out more at www.philcooke.com.