It’s not often that you hear of a church and her board members who felt like they prepared TOO well for the future. You rarely hear board members say that they built too large of an addition to their building. No, the more frequent reality is that we church leaders are too “diligent” in our deliberations and we who serve on church boards are too careful. And we end up underestimating our growth potential and its needs.
I’ve served on four church boards overseeing building programs and we had intense discussions about what to do as we faced our growth. We spent many months talking about building on to our existing facilities. It’s a big step for a congregation! And yet every one of those boards built too small and went through another building campaign within ten years.
I remember a particular elder in one church angrily slamming his fist on the table, “I will not have a gym in a church that I attend!” The church board went ahead and built a modest gym that could also be used as a dining hall. Two years later, that man was again red-faced at a board meeting, but for a different reason. He apologized. “I was wrong,” he said, “That gym has been the best thing for our church and our community.”
It’s all about perspective isn’t it? And sometimes our views (yes, even yours and mine) have been shaped in ways that limit our future in ways that we don’t want! We think we see the big picture and the larger context, but we really don’t. The sooner we recognize that, the less hassle and problems we’ll face leading forward.
It’s helpful to have an outside group like Arbor Research Group come in and help provide fresh perspective and expertise. Even in my role here, on boards, and in other leadership contexts, I hire other groups to help me sort through various decisions and needs. We need it – and it’s worth, a truth we need to remember when we’re engaged in discussion about whether it’s worth the money. Godly experts with proven track records and expertise are usually worth every penny – and have a return on their work that you and I cannot imagine!
The Need for Evaluation
Worse than being too conservative in building campaigns, we often react too late to address issues or to conduct evaluations of our ministry. The reasons vary for this hesitation, and it can be as simple as the fact that we’re optimists, but the reality is that our perspective is quite limited in truly knowing how we’re doing beyond the general numbers.
- When was the last time you conducted any sort of evaluation about any area of your ministry?
- What if you knew exactly how it was going, what people thought of it, and why it was or wasn’t effective?
- What decision are you facing where you just don’t know enough to make it to your satisfaction?
It is my consistent joy to turn over a written and visual comprehensive overview to leaders about an area of their ministry. For those next 5-10 years, they then have the confidence, the data, and the perspective to make an array of decisions. They know the truth. I’m tempted to joke here that the “truth will set them free,” but in reality they do experience a new leadership freedom.
Few, if any other, sectors of our community ignore regular evaluation like Christian churches and ministries do. And that’s not our best foot forward in stewardship.
The Need for Preparation
Churches facing building programs, pastoral succession, a changing community dynamic, or programmatic decisions need to work years in advance. These are historical trouble points for churches. I am sure that you and I could share a few stories over coffee about that. The shame is that these don’t have to be obstacles, but can be rich opportunities… if we leaders just knew. And that’s what we do – we provide the expertise, data, and “know-how” as leaders and boards face important decisions.
One way that preparation is hindered is that we haven’t taken the first step to assess or evaluate what’s going on and what’s possible for the future. We have no growth projections for decision-making. We have a recipe for success in our minds, but we don’t know if we have the ingredients to get there. We hear what others have cooking and we want in on that too.
If you’re at a point where you want to talk with someone about a building campaign, our friends at Church Growth Services are as good as it gets. For the last three decades they’ve helped churches of all sizes with stewardship problems and possibilities. If you need first-step coaching and leadership input, our friends at Unstuck Group have their fingers on the pulse of what’s going across the country.
If your questions are a bit more personal, complex, or need a custom answer, send me an Email and we can schedule a time to talk on the phone about your particular situation. I’d love to get to know you, learn more, and then share about some possible directions.