I was reading through a great book on church leadership by Larry Osborne, titled Sticky Teams, and he came up with a list of six things that all leadership teams should know. I found the list intriguing. So here it is with some of my thoughts and interpretations.
1. Ignore your weaknesses:
I really like this concept. We have grown up in a culture that when you came home from school with an A in math and a D in english, the following response was typical: “Focus on english and get that grade up.” Essentially, what Osborne (and many other authors, including Marcus Buckingham, John C. Maxwell, Ken Blanchard, Tom Rath, and Donald Clifton) is saying is that focusing on your weaknesses will not allow you or your ministry to grow to its maximum potential. It’s counter-intuitive for us to think this way, but our greatest room for growth is in our areas of strength, not weaknesses. If we work really hard, we can probably become average at something we are weak in. However, if we work just as hard, we can become excellent at something we are good at. People pay for and want to get involved in things that are excellent. That includes your ministry.
2. Surveys are a waste of time:
Osborne states that trying to get people’s opinions via survey is not a good use of our time. People very easily say one thing on a survey, like they think it is a good idea to start a youth ministry program, but when it comes to them actual acting on what they said in the survey, you get mixed results. I agree and disagree with Osborne’s reflection here. I think thoughtful surveys are important to get you the data you need to show success in your ministry and measure progress. That information can be helpful. However, surveys to get opinions from people you minister to might not be worth our time. Typically, we get results that we already knew we would get because we’ve been in relationship with the people we survey and have spent time talking to them. For me, survey’s can be good and bad, depending on how it is implemented and what it will be used for in the end.
3. Seek permission, not buy-in:
This statement caught me off guard. I constantly try to get full buy-in from the people I work with in ministry before implementing a new ministry or a change in the way we do a current ministry. Osborne convincingly argues that getting total buy-in is difficult and time consuming, and often ends in failure. Why? Because you typically cannot get full buy-in from everyone. Getting buy-in is like waiting until all the lights in town are green before you drive out of the driveway to go to the store. If you waited until all the lights are green, you’d never leave the house! Instead, Osborne thinks that all we need is permission to try something to see if it works. It’s a win-win for you and the people who have given you permission. If it was successful, then you will gain full buy-in and those that you consulted can brag that they gave you permission to do it. If it fails, then you can easily move on to something else while those that you consulted can brag that they knew it might not work, but thought it was worth a try. Everyone looks good in the end and you get a chance to try new things in your ministry.
4. Let squeaky wheels squeak:
Osborne it talking about people here. Every church and ministry has people that will always complain about one thing or another. Often times, leaders will listen to their complaints and go out of there way to make changes and shift ministry plans. Why? We want to make sure all of our people are happy. It’s human nature. But it does not work. When we make these changes, these squeaky wheels keep right on squeaking. Osborne states, “They don’t squeak because a lack of oil; they squeak because it’s their nature to squeak.” So let them squeak because these squeaky wheels will never be happy.
5. Let dying programs die:
Why we hold on to programs that no longer work is beyond me. In church especially, we find that we keep doing things just because we have always done it that way. Tradition. Well, first of all, we have not always done it that way, and secondly, if it’s not working, dump it. Needless to say, I am in agreement with this point. Dropping ministry programs allow us to look to new ideas that can better meet the needs of those we serve.
6. Plan in pencil:
Plans change. They are our road map and are very helpful to get us to our end destination. But, in the process, we find that there are road closures and mudslides and obstacles that force us to change our plans a bit. The path is not straight. Planning in pencil, and making sure the entire leadership team is aware that these plans are in pencil, allow us to change and be flexible when the situation differs. Rigid planning stunts growth. Flexible planning increases opportunities to minister in new ways that we did not think of when we first drafted the budget.
Take these six ideas and try to apply them for a month and see what happens. I think we’ll find that this will require a shift in the way we work and minister, but the results will be very fruitful.