A common question church members and staff ask of church leaders is “Where are we going?” The same is true in any company or business, stakeholders want to know where the organization is going. Churches that are crystal clear on their unique and God inspired direction, and have members, staff and ministries moving together in that direction are consistently healthier and more effective.
Therefore, a primary responsibility of church leadership is to answer the question, “Where are we going?”
The Outbound Bus Analogy
Consider this hypothetical example. You go to the Jackson, MS bus station where one bus takes you north to Memphis and one south to New Orleans. And, because of a lack of signage and confusing PA announcements you get on the bus to New Orleans when you intended to get on the bus to Memphis.
Within a few minutes you recognize the train is headed south rather than north. You immediately move to the front of the bus and demand that the driver take you back to the station in Jackson so you can catch the bus to Memphis. He apologizes and says that company policy won’t allow him to do that.
You go back to your seat angry and frustrated and start complaining about the bus company, its poor signage and communication, and ridiculous policies. You expound on why you need to get to Memphis and the virtues of Memphis over New Orleans. All the while the people sitting around you are being subject to your ranting. Some join in with complaints of their own about how confusing the bus station signage and messaging is. Others become annoyed or upset with your complaints. The bottom line is you have a bus full of unhappy people who didn’t have a good trip. So, what’s the point of the story?
This is what happens in churches without an understanding of their direction. People join the church and staff without a clear understanding of where the church is going because of poor signage and communication about mission and vision. Some want to go north and some want to go south. When the church heads in a direction they oppose, they complain to the pastor, staff, church leadership and those in their Small Group or Sunday School Class. Get enough of those people in a church and low morale, dissent and disagreement will impact effectiveness and progress.
10 Sources of Clear Directional Signage
It has been said, “If it is misty in the pulpit, it is foggy in the pews.” A primary responsibility of church leadership then is to be crystal clear with the signage and messaging of direction. What constitutes clear directional signage and messaging? Below are 10 sources of signage, when consistently put into place, will clearly communicate direction and answer the question, “where are we going?”
Prayer and Scripture: The foundation for every decision about direction.
Mission: A statement of the overall purpose of the church.
Core Strategy: The expectations of church membership and the core environments the church uses to make disciples.
Values and Distinctives: The constant, passionate, biblical core beliefs that drive the ministry of the church. The uniqueness that makes a church distinctive from all others.
Vision: A picture imparted by God of His “preferred future” for the church that describes how the future will look if the church uniquely achieves its mission.
Objectives: Broad, long term outcomes that identify what is priority and what success looks like.
Goals and Tactics: Quantifiable targets that measure the accomplishment of an objective over a specific period of time. Contextualized initiatives that will be used to achieve the church’s goals.
People: The expectation that members will use their unique gifts, passions and callings to live out and implement the church’s mission, core strategy, values, vision, objectives, goals and tactics.
Policies and Systems: The standards, processes, systems, policies and metrics used to ensure effective and efficient communication and execution of the church’s mission, core strategy, values, vision, objectives, goals and tactics.
Budget: The means by which the church’s mission, core strategy, values, vision, objectives, goals and tactics are funded.
Characteristics of Ineffective or Insufficient Directional Signage
Prayer and Scripture: Church mission, values and vision are not discerned by or tied to prayer and scripture.
Mission: Is forgotten or ignored.
Core Strategy: Members don’t know their next steps or what the church expects of them. There is no clearly understood process for making disciples.
Values and Distinctives: Are not understood, communicated, celebrated or modeled by leadership.
Vision: Is undefined, unclear or not agreed upon.
Objectives: Church mission, core strategy, values and vision are not supported by focused and compelling priorities.
Goals and Tactics: Are not intentionally tied to organizational objectives.
People: Members gifts, passions and callings are not aligned with the church’s mission, core strategy, values, vision, objectives and goals.
Policies and Systems: There is a lack of appropriate policies, systems and processes for accountability, implementation, tracking, communicating and celebrating the church’s mission, core strategy, vision, objectives and goals.
Budget: Is not aligned with or reflective of the church’s mission, core strategy, values, vision, objectives, goals and tactics.
Characteristics of Effective and Sufficient Directional Signage
Prayer and Scripture: Are foundational to every decision about direction and are used to discern and communicate God’s vision for the church.
Mission: Is defined and regularly communicated.
Core Strategy: Members and guests know what the church expects of them and their next steps in their spiritual growth.
Values and Distinctives: Are consistently communicated, modeled and celebrated and define and drive the church’s culture.
Vision: Is clear, unifying, dynamic, inspiring and challenging.
Objectives: Are used to define priority and what success looks like, and are aligned with and support the church’s mission, core strategy, values and vision.
Goals and Tactics: Are tied to organizational mission, core strategy, values, vision and objectives.
People: Members are in positions of ministry and service for which they are gifted, impassioned and called and that are tied to the church’s mission, core strategy, values, vision, objectives, goals and tactics.
Policies and Systems: Are in place to insure accountability, implementation, tracking, communicating and celebrating of the church’s mission, core strategy, values, vision, objectives and goals.
Budget: Is aligned with and reflective of the church’s mission, core strategy, values, vision, objectives, goals and tactics.
If the church’s direction has been clearly discerned, defined and communicated with effective signage, then two critical things occur:
- Prospective members and staff can make an informed decision as to whether or not this is a church they can enthusiastically support with their membership, tithes and service.
- Current members and staff will know where the church is going, the plans for getting there, and how they can contribute to those plans.
Posted on December 6, 2016