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Unstuck: Building a Healthy Foundation
May
19


Unstuck: Building a Healthy Foundation

Part of what I do when I start a church consulting engagement is make sure all the critical pieces for a healthy ministry are present. Secondly, I ask questions and review communications and practices to see what elements get the most focus.

I believe a healthy organization includes all six of these elements:

  • Purpose – This is the mission of the organization. Though all the other elements are required for a healthy organization, a clear purpose is the most important. Without this, the most common question is “Why do we exist?”
  • Strategy – This is the current plan to carry out the purpose of the organization. It may (and should) change through the years. Without a strategy, the most common question is “What should we do?”
  • People – You have to build a solid team to accomplish the purpose of your organization. Outside of the purpose, I believe it’s the next most important aspect of a healthy organization. Without good people in the right roles, the most common question is “Who is with us?”
  • Structure – The structure of your organization needs to support the strategy you embrace. Just like the bone structure in our body changes as our body grows, the structure must stay fluid as your organization grows. Without structure, the most common question is “Who is responsible?”
  • Systems – The systems clarify the processes for carrying out the strategy. Within a church, systems are the simple, replicable processes to help people move from where they are to where God wants them to be. Without them, the most common questions is “How should we do this?”
  • Metrics – Theses numbers and heart-change stories provide the measure for whether or not the purpose is being accomplished. A lack of supporting data may mask an unhealthy organization even where life-change stories are prevalent. A lack of life-change stories may mask an unhealthy organization even when numbers look positive. Without metrics, the most common question is “Are we accomplishing our mission?”

Now, as I mentioned, these elements are critical for organizational health, but not all of them are equal. I still believe the “purpose” has to be the priority. If that’s not the case, the organization can get unbalanced and unhealthy.

For example, consider the organization that puts people first. In those instances, I often see very inward-focused congregations that are not concerned with reaching people outside the faith. Instead, they make decisions based on the people who are already on the team or in the church.

Consider the organization that puts systems first. In those instances, where it’s more about the systems, the focus is on following the rules. The rules overshadow the overall purpose, and sometimes the rules create barriers to accomplishing that purpose. This is the church that’s concerned about following Robert’s Rules of Order.

There’s also the church that puts the strategy before the purpose. In those instances, the church is so concerned about making sure the strategy stays the same, that they are left behind as culture and people change. This is the church that tends to want to preserve the past.

Now it’s your turn. Draw a picture of your organization. Make a circle to represent the six elements I identified above. Are there any elements that are missing? Which element is in the center of your picture–which one has the focus? Now do the same exercise for the core ministry areas of your church. At the ministry level, all the elements need to be present, but they should all support the overall purpose of the church. (UPDATE: Mark Howell elaborates further on the genesis for this exercise.)

After you’ve completed the exercise with your ministry team, come back and share your learnings. Join the conversation by sharing your comment.

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