I read a book titled
The Business of the Church; the uncomfortable truth that faithful ministry requires effective management
. The title says a lot. The book does a good job looking at the business aspects of a congregation and suggesting ways to manage them. While the church is not a business, the church does have business to conduct, and is subject to the same realities that all not for profit organizations face. Our business must be conducted in a professional, efficient, thorough way if churches are going to be around as a place where people can experience God’s saving grace. Difficult decisions may be required at times. Some may have a negative impact on people and some may be unpopular. But the reality is
things that don’t change stay the same
. Make a note of that.
How do we, as the leaders of our churches, make things happen and get things done?
One requirement is a commitment by the members of the group to engage in spiritual practice together as part of the fabric of the collaborative effort. That can take place in many forms- sitting together in silence, listening and responding to scripture together, engaging as a group in formation processes- and your practice will be organic and in your context. Engaging in these intentional practices as a group sharpens our individual and corporate ability to discern God’s will. It’s an active part of our decision making process.
The other requirement is action. I came across the following statement: “The efficacy of our actions will be determined by the quality of the contemplation that precedes them.” I love that. It is out of that contemplative, discerning heart that I get the guidance to move forward through action. Make a decision, figure out the next action, assign responsibility, follow through, and expect mutual accountability. That is what it takes to get things done. To
do what we say we’re going to do
. It sounds like common sense, but my experience is we’re not always good at it!
Many times I hear wonderful ideas come up and consensus that we should do whatever it is we’re talking about. But I’ve been in meetings where I wonder if there’s some unspoken agreement as to who is going to do what because during the meeting the details aren’t discussed. The meeting ends, and there’s no follow up at the next meeting. I’m pretty sure you have stories about great ideas, or worse, real needs which just got lost in the shuffle. There’s a little saying I like:
Ideas are cheap.
It might be a great idea but unless it’s clear who is going to do what and by when, and where the accountability is there’s a good chance that it’s not going to happen.
And we need to be able to admit when we blow it, too. The next time we get together we need to talk about what we said we were going to do the last time we were together. And if something was supposed to happen and it didn’t we need to admit it and decide what, if anything, we’re going to do next. Fail fast, succeed sooner. This is what effective ministry requires. This happens in all organizations, including the office I work in. I don’t want to lose an opportunity to make a difference because it slipped through the cracks. I want to own it and drop it because we made a decision to drop it.
To this point, I think one of the single most effective steps we can take to make sure we do what we say we’re going to do is to take the last five minutes of any meeting to clarify who is going to do what before the next meeting. The chair/convener needs to make sure those details are written down, in minutes or on a to-do list, to be distributed and then referred to at the next meeting. Just as important is to figure out what to do if what we said we’re going to do didn’t get done. What needs to change to avoid this from happening in the future? How can we more effective leaders?
Done well, whatever plan you’re working on will change and improve continuously. This work requires a commitment to bringing our whole selves to it. And it can be a rewarding, transformative experience. I encourage us all to be the change we seek in the world, and in our vestry meetings.