Previously, I wrote about how we try to keep a finger on the pulse of our environments in order to monitor quality and consistency. That's always a challenge in family ministry, where children and student ministries both function like churches themselves with their own teaching plans, small groups, volunteer teams, communication systems, events, care, and just about everything you see in a church overall. It's a challenge to simply monitor how all of that is going and an even greater challenge to make it better.
So, how do we do it?
How do we improve quality and consistency in our ministries?
I think it comes down to two important things, systems and leadership. In terms of how they work together, systems set the floor and leadership raises the ceiling of an organization.
Systems Set the Floor for Family Ministry Quality
The ceiling/floor terms are common in the sports world, where a college athlete coming into a pro league may be described as having a “high floor” or “high ceiling”. A high floor means you know what you're getting. Their worst performance is still pretty good, and overall they're consistent. A high ceiling means there's a lot of potential for growth and they could become one of the absolute best.
In ministry, we want to set a high floor. We want consistent experiences week in and week out in every environment. We also want those experiences to be good. I believe the best way we ensure that is through great systems. Systems are the collection of defined processes used to execute everything we do in ministry. Here are 3 characteristics of systems that help set a high floor in our ministries.
3 Characteristics of Systems That Set A High Floor
They create behaviors you want to see
As Andy Stanley says, “systems create behaviors.” Systems that help set a high floor address behaviors we don't want to see continue. A great exercise we can do is list out all the behaviors we see in our organization that we don't want. The obvious ones include volunteers coming late, leaders not taking initiative, communicators not preparing ahead of time, etc. Good systems help champion the behaviors we want to see and remove the ones we don't like.
They are documented
The purpose of a system is to allow anyone to carry it out, in the same way, to get the same results as originally intended. Ideally, it is something that is easy to replicate and easy to teach. Documenting your systems allows that to happen. However, they do take time to create initially. Documenting a system is as easy as typing up the step by step guide to doing whatever you want people to do.
They empower leaders
Many of our systems are simply designed to help volunteers execute ministry the way we want to see it done. That is important, but great systems also include a way to empower leaders. For instance, can volunteers create and improve on our systems (lead), or are they just suppose to do what they're told (follow)?
One other thing I should mention is that few people enjoy defining, documenting and improving systems. As leaders, it's our job to ensure we have great systems, but that doesn't mean we have to do it. The best advice I can give is to find people who do love this and equip them to do it for your ministry.
Leadership Raises the Ceiling
In the business world, a franchise is simply a set of systems that have been defined, documented, tested and replicated. Whether good or bad, going to multiple locations of a franchise should produce similar results. The systems, if implemented correctly, should create a “floor” in terms of your experience. Leadership at each location can drastically change the experience, however, because leadership is what raises the ceiling or potential of an organization.
How can we leverage that in our ministries?
4 Ways Great Leadership Increases the Potential of Your Ministry
Great leadership can grow the potential of our ministries simply because leadership affects everything (positively or negatively). As Bill Hybels says, “Everything that matters in this world rises and falls on leadership.” There are dozens of ways leadership can help raise the ceiling in our ministries, but here are 4 I believe are critical.
Leadership provides direction
It's obvious, but leadership is guiding people somewhere. One would think all churches and ministries are headed somewhere, but in fact far too many are simply going about things how they use to do them without any clear sense of vision or direction. Leadership can grow the potential of our ministry by pointing to where the ministry needs to go. Ryan Stigile had a great post on Tony Morgan's blog about the importance of seizing good opportunities.
What is the next hill to climb or opportunity to seize?
Leadership provides focus
As leaders we will often times make the wrong choice in terms of what our team or organization should do. But, far more often we don't make a choice and end up doing too many good things. “Good is the enemy of great.” as Collins says. Great leaders know what to say “no” to and ensure the best time, energy and resources are focused on what matters most. Our perspective of our ministry's potential may be skewed by the fact that we have too much invested in things that aren't making a big difference in the end.
What would it look like to bring that all into focus on a new opportunity or something that is already working?
Leadership makes others better
Leaders should make everyone on their team better. If not, then change is in order. That's a post for another day, but one of the best ways to grow the potential of our ministries is to lead our team to reach their existing potential. This is the thing I'm most passionate about, as I have never encountered a church or leader who has fully tapped out the potential God has given to them. I love helping people and organizations reach that potential and experience how God uses that as part of his mission.
What are we doing intentionally, regularly, to make our team better?
Leadership identifies and recruits talent
Great leaders know their own potential and the potential of the organization is limited by how much they do themselves. It's Maxwell's Law of the Lid, where our effectiveness is limited by our leadership. Only by recruiting and empowering others can we continue to grow. Almost every ministry leader, particularly in children's and student ministries, would say their number one need is more volunteers. The volunteer equation I wrote about here addresses the correlation between our volunteer team size and the potential of our ministry. Leaders recognize this and are always recruiting people to join in and be part of chasing the vision.
How do you and your team regularly recruit and hold each other accountable for recruitment?
Solid, well-defined, documented systems can help raise the floor of our ministries and ensure everyone has a helpful experience. If we want to really raise the ceiling and increase the potential of our ministry, leadership is required.
Right now we're most focused on the fourth one, recruiting.