The Jolt That Jump Started the Momentum

Have you ever had one of those days where you dream about the future?

Maybe you had one of those moments talking with a trusted friend where the conversations turns to what could be and your heart starts to beat a little faster. You mind races as you bounce back and forth imagining what life would be like if we could just ______________. 


Unfortunately, as I’ve talked with pastors and church leaders, I’ve noticed one huge, discouraging problem! 


This problem plagues both organizations and individuals. 

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If you’re like me, the decade markers of our lives tend to be the moments when we evaluate our progress to date. Some people have panic attacks, others have a mid-life crisis. I landed somewhere in between. I was having a fair amount of success in my job (not in the church) but wasn’t having the kind of impact I had always imagined my life would have. I was working hard, enjoying my life but I wasn’t making any progress towards anything that remotely resembled my “life’s work”. My own life was plagued with the same, huge, discouraging problem. 


So, what was the huge problem I saw?


The problem can actually be separated into two equally important parts.


1. No clear, actionable plan to move toward the dream. 

More often then not, the dream of the future is much clearer than the steps to get there. That’s probably because dreaming is the easier part. Working out an actionable plan means working through a truckload of variables. It requires the ability to uncover what’s most important and which steps require priority. It requires a clear understanding of the current situation, as well as, what’s happened in the past. 

It commonly requires some type of change management, which undoubtedly requires conviction and focused energy. 

Teams need more than emotional enthusiasm; they need solid planning and strategy that empowers and executes the vision.
— Tony Morgan

That potential for conflict can stop any sort of actionable plan dead in its tracks. 

An aggressive actionable plan requires an appropriate amount of tolerance for risk and ambiguity, matched with the right timing, level of details, understood variables and defined tasks. None of which all come naturally to one person and therefore require some level of healthy conflict. 


2. No jolt, to break you from your current reality.

A jolt is most often the required ingredient for teams to overcome the fear of conflict.  That event that can serve as a catalyst to open the planning process and present the need for immediate action. 

Better yet, an external guide to help the process can help the team move beyond personalities. An outsider, who doesn’t, as they say, have a horse in the game can provide an unbiased focal point for your discussion and planning.  

A couple of years back, our church hit a turning point by going through this exact type of process. We hired an outside organization to walk us through a process that would point us toward a much clearer path moving forward. Starting with a two-day offsite (a jolt) we spent the following year moving through a clear actionable plan. Not only did we have a map to follow, we now had a taste for clarity and focus.  


Why I became StratOp certified.


That experience is precisely why I became StratOp certified. It has always been a passion and a calling of mine to help those I care about find clarity and purpose in what they do. The StratOp process provided the clarity and longevity to accelerate that impact. It’s why I now offer a Lead Forward process based on the Strategic Operating plan pioneered by the Paterson Center over the last 30 years. 


Leading forward to the dream and vision you have for your church’s future means is what you were meant to do. Don’t stay still and grow stale, jump forward and lead your church to the next level. 

1 Big Clue You’d Better Pay Attention To

We had just gone multisite. It was exciting but there was a group of people we missed. We used to get to see them on a regular basis but now that they were in the city next door, we wanted to be together. We wanted to make sure what we stayed on the same page as a church no matter which campus we attended, so we started an event to bring our all of our volunteers together. It was fantastic. We got to see friends we hadn’t seen in a while and at the same time were able to cast vision about where we were going next as an entire church. 

It was great, but as time passed it started to run its course. 

We decided to redesign it and inject some new life into the event. We shifted from a volunteer appreciation gathering to conference style event which included a number of different workshops designed to help our church grow in their spiritual journey. It worked, that was until we recognized one big clue we had failed to pay attention to. 

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You see, from a leadership standpoint, we had recognized a problem. We needed to offer practical skill-building workshops to help our church grow in their individual spiritual journeys. It was a valid problem that needed to be addressed. 

We were solving a problem, filling a need and it even worked for a while…until we told staff that the event was mandatory to attend.  

Maybe you’ve experienced this. You put a bunch of time, effort and money into a training event for you volunteers, but no-one shows. Or maybe you start a ministry but no one attends. From the leadership side of the equation, everything looks good. The content is top notch, the issues are important ones to address, but you can’t seem to get people excited, and the only way to get people there is to make it mandatory. 

The moment you make something mandatory…it’s time to pay attention. 

The moment you make something mandatory…it’s time to pay attention.
— StevenJBarker

In some fields, mandatory makes sense. If you are regulated or have to ensure that every staff member MUST complete a training it may make sense. But in the church world that list is very short. 

More often, needing to make a meeting mandatory means we haven’t done the work to help our staff understand why a meeting is important and valuable to the effectiveness of their ministry. 

The moment we called our workshop event mandatory for all staff to attend, we realized that they didn’t see the value, and if they didn’t see the value, how would anyone else in our church. Slowly but surely, egistration numbers fell season after season. 

So what do you do if you’ve got a mandatory meeting for staff? 

First, write down why you started having this meeting in the first place. Is that reasoning still valid? 

Second, write down every staff member's name. Next, to each name write down what value they would miss out on if they didn’t attend. Think of each member’s specific situation. What challenges are they experiencing right now? How is this meeting helping them solve the pressing needs of their department or team? My assumption is that they are working hard, and if your meeting isn’t helping them move closer to your common goal, it’s probably hurting. 

 Next, decide whether or not the meeting needs to be retooled or canceled moving forward. 

What do you do if a ministry event has become mandatory? 

Kill it and start over. It’s one thing when you tell people you pay that they must attend something. It’s a whole other thing when you are telling your community it’s mandatory. Even if you recognize the value of the event, it’s very likely your audience does not. 

Start over and re-evaluate why you started the event in the first place (seeing a theme here?). While you may be right in seeing the need for a particular event or ministry, you many not be approaching it in an accessible way. Your people need to buy in. They need to see the need before you tell them about what you have planned. 

We need to lead people to heights they may have not seen before, be we can’t just put on the leash and start pulling. 

Question of the day: What mandatory ministry or event do you need to cancel or retool? Why haven’t you done it yet?