By Todd Adkins
We know our job as church leaders is to give the ministry away by equipping the saints for the work of the ministry. But the reality is you can’t actually give that ministry away until you have clarified it enough and simplified it enough to hand off. I want to talk to you about three very different approaches to the way that that is done or not done.
Often church leaders respond to giving the ministry away not in the greatest manner when it comes to a crisis situation. They think that they are the only people that can do it to the expected standards at least. They treat it as if they are the Iron Chef. The Iron Chef says, “I don’t know what disparate ingredients I am going to get on Sunday, and only I have the experience, the insight, the special unique knowledge to whip up something palatable. Not only palatable, but to take these ingredients and make a great tasting cake to serve our guests.” So, they sacrifice giving the ministry away on the altar of excellence almost every single Sunday, because they think that they are the only people that can do it to that standard. They are going to deliver a 10 out of 10.
The next approach is Grandma. Grandma is wonderful, and everybody loves Grandma. She knows how to make the cake, and she makes it great every single time, and we all love it. But, the problem is, she never takes the time to write down the recipe. It’s all in her head. Let’s be honest, there may be a bad Grandma or two who enjoys being the only person who knows how to make this very special cake, but let’s give her the benefit of the doubt. Regardless, it means that she never actually gives the ministry away either. She never shares it with anyone. She just does it herself. It’s not anything against Grandma. It’s not an excellence issue or a pride issue. She just hasn’t taken the time to write that recipe down.
Finally, we have the cake-in-the-box approach. Cake in a box is great. And it’s an 8.5 or a 9, and it’s still funfetti, and it’s good. It says, “here are the ingredients you need. In fact, I’ve put a lot of them together for you. You really only need to add a couple of eggs and some oil. Mix those for two minutes. Follow some steps, set your oven timer, slide the cake in, and we are going to get a great tasting cake every time.” This process is scalable. This process is repeatable and actually practices Ephesians 4. And we effectively give our ministry away.
Our job is to identify the places where we have been locked into an Iron Chef or Grandma mindset and then document the steps, the essential systems, the strategic hand off that happens from ministry to ministry. Then we need to look for ways to simplify those processes and reduce the number of steps by removing the trivial good, removing some of these processes from our ministry.
If your organization struggles to get past a “This is the way we’ve always done it before” mentality, then you should probably check out another course that I did called “Breaking Path Dependence.”
Once we look at ourselves, we need to look at our key leaders and volunteers in our ministry, categorize them in one of these mindsets, and help them move toward the cake-in-the-box approach as well.
One of the handiest tools that you have at your disposal is a good old-fashioned checklist. But you may not be aware of where they come from or why they are so important. Did you know that prior to WWII almost any pilot could fly almost any plan, whether it was a crop duster or a fighter plane, because the controls were so similar? Then along came the B-17 bomber, the Flying Fortress. And it was called the Flying Fortress for a reason. There had been nothing like it before, and our best and brightest test pilots kept crashing it into the ground. The test results showed that it had been human error time after time. The problems were simple enough and they were easily avoidable. Pilots forgot to do something or they did it in the wrong order. All of these little things actually added up to something that was really complex for us to handle. How did they solve it? The flight check was born. And it completely changed those statistics overnight.
We have a similar opportunity here. Once we have simplified our ministry processes as much as possible, we need to go through the process of creating a checklist or two to dramatically improve the effectiveness of our volunteers.
Our team wants to help your church respond with vision, understanding, clarity, and agility in the midst of this season. Check out our FREE Guide to Rapidly Recruit Volunteers and Realign Ministries on Ministry Grid here.