Planning and Scheduling

Most people who are not professional project managers, build plans without much rigor. For simple endeavors, this can be just enough structure to get to done.

We have already discussed in our Planning and Goals Post about defining what done looks like. In this post, we are going to talk about how to put a schedule together, and how to think about resourcing the plan. This is a conversation about When and Who.


Schedules and resources are inextricably linked together. Your ability to accomplish the What by When of a goal, is determined by the ability and availability of the Who. But the starting point of a schedule is a sequence. These activities in some order will get to done. The order is determined by dependencies. Dependencies are simply an inability to start some activity until some other activity is finished.

What are the benefits of building the schedule to achieve a goal?

Continue reading “Planning and Scheduling”

Planning and Delegation

Many leaders find it hard to let go. They find it very hard to let other people run aspects of their project, their ministry. They feel a constant need to be in the center of everything, coordinating, keeping track, holding the project together. I know how this feels.

The thing is, this is a sure way to make a project fail. You inevitably become a bottleneck. People end up waiting for you to make decisions, your “say so” becomes important to the timeline. Inevitably, you will burn out, alienate people, be frustrated, and think it was everybody elses fault.

But think about this: This is not the principle on which God operates! He, being infinitely competent, and infinitely capable, has chosen to delegate the work of his Kingdom on earth to us, incompetent, incapable us. Why, because he knows that we need it in order to grow in our relationship with Him. If he does everything how will we glorify him? Continue reading “Planning and Delegation”

Planning and Goals

Pastors and other vocational church leadership staff are educated in many things. If they have an M.div they typically have studied the Bible very deeply. They typically have studied church history, and probably have some counseling or other shepherding in their education.

In talking with pastors and other staff that I know, neither their undergrad or seminary experience prepared them for the “normal challenges of organizational leadership”. Some of them are great leaders, but it really is innate skill or talent, undeveloped until it needed to be exercized in the heat of battle.

Today’s post is about two simple activities in organizational leadership: Planning and Goals.


Planning is an activity that takes goals as an input, and creates action steps as an output. Goals are expressed as a what by when; some desired outcome on some desired schedule. Goals can be very simple, such as, “Preach a sermon series on marriage in May”, or they can be grandiose and complex, such as, “Convert our sunday school communities to small group communities by the end of the year.” Continue reading “Planning and Goals”

What are Your Bottlenecks?

I could ask the question differently. I could ask what is preventing your church from growing faster. I could ask what is preventing your congregation from growing deeper in relationship with Christ. I could ask the question relative to any specific goal you have what is preventing you from acheiving it. But I really want you to think about your ministry holistically. What are your ministry bottlenecks?


Sometimes the bottleneck appears to be finances. Sometimes the bottleneck appears to be human resources or volunteers. Sometimes that bottleneck appears to be a cohesive vision. I am going to say that none of these things are really bottlenecks. All of them are symptoms of a different bottleneck. A leadership bottleneck. Continue reading “What are Your Bottlenecks?”

Growing From a Seed

— An Incomplete Parable or Analogy —

Jesus used all kinds of parables and analogies in His teaching to his disciples. They lived in a primarily agrarian society, so agriculture was very familiar to all the people of Jesus day. Sheep and Shepherds were common place. Growers of fruit and other crops were also common. Jesus used these very familiar images in his stories, explaining the kingdom of God, because he knew that they would be very familiar to the people around him.

They are not as familiar to us. In this post-industrial age, how many of you have ever met a shepherd, or have raised any kind of livestock or grown crops. These word pictures don’t necessarily resonate with us, the way they did with the people Jesus came into contact with. Yet we persist in using His parables, and analogies to explain spiritual things to our peers. Even in this blog, Fruit Producing Ministry, I use agrarian metaphor to reflect the mission of The Church, as an output of agriculture.


This is a parable of leadership. Churches grow from a seed. We already call the most common way of establishing a new church a “plant”. In fact it is more like a cutting. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The lesson in this parable is that a growing plant needs different kind of leadership at different phases of growth. Continue reading “Growing From a Seed”

Five Signs of a Recovering Church

A couple months ago, I read this article about five signs of a declining church, or something like that. When I wrote my curation post, I said that I might write a post about five signs of a recovering church.

Your church has been through a difficult time. A split, a staff member is disciplined, core members dribble away for a couple years, a big fancy mega-church opens a campus down the street and half of your congregation is now “over there”, your senior pastor left to answer a call in Tucumcari, NM. Stuff happens, and it can take the wind out of your sails.

What are 5 signs of a recovering church?

1) Leadership is not in denial about the underlying problems that caused <whatever problem> and are actively forming a plan to correct them. Continue reading “Five Signs of a Recovering Church”

Linking Front and Back Doors

I recently read this post by Thom Ranier about “closing the back door”, which is about helping new attenders become long term participants.  It seemed at the time, similar to a post I wrote about serious defections from churches called “Dealing with Leaks“. 

Thom talks about 4 “keys” to assimilation.  They are pragmatic, relatively easy to measure, and relatively well understood by most evangelical church leaders.  The problem I had with them as I read, was that they keys treated all people walking in the door generically – with no concern or understanding of what brought that person to your midst.

My proposal is that you have to tie that back door to the front door. I expect that most people who “bounce” off your church, who don’t stick, stay, or plug in; can be predicted by understanding where they are “spiritually” and practically, when they show up. Continue reading “Linking Front and Back Doors”

Pray For Your Enemy

A few weeks ago, our pastor preached about hanging on to negative emotions caused by hurts suffered. He suggested a simple first step: pray for your enemy.

This is not revolutionary, as Jesus himself urged us to “…love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you…” Matthew 5:44. This is classified as one of the “hardest” sayings of Jesus. It is not a suggestion, but a command. It is not just a higher standard for leaders, but it applies to all of us.

Pastor decribed his own reactions as he took this practice to heart and started daily praying for people who had hurt him.

1) The initial response: I can’t do this – it is hard to pray blessings upon those we resent, or hold grudges against.
2) It gets easier – after a couple of days of this daily practice, you find it becomes more comfortable and less forced. I have a mental picture of praying for someone through gritted teeth.
3) You realize that your “list” was way longer than you thought. – The act of praying for our enemies, helps us to release the hold that our enemies have over us, and our eyes start to open to how much we are really holding on to. Continue reading “Pray For Your Enemy”

Leadership Sourcing

Recently I read this post by @outreachninja Bob Franquiz. He describes what he calls a “frankenstein church”. In his description what he is referring to is a church that brings in leadership from the outside, rather than raising leadership from within. I know that Bob is trying to be provocative, and to generate interest in his free webinar. I know that his heart is for the family of God, and the Mission of the Body of Christ.

While I usually agree with Bob in his writings, this one, kinda rubbed me the wrong way. Mostly, I struggled with it because it was not a thoughtful discussion of the benefits of building a leadership pipeline (very true), or even a thoughtful discussion of some of the bad things that can happen when new leaders from the outside that are not invested in the methods and mission pre-existing in the church (also fairly common).

The post was written in a way that suggests that the only good way to grow leadership was from within, and failing to do this always causes a resulting ugliness in a ministry that is easy to see.

So I want to add some balance to Bob’s post by talking about some benefits and drawbacks of both leadership development plans. As I do this, I want to suggest that there is a balance and there are decisions to be made about any leadership role. LIke most things there is no one right answer for every situation.

Develop leadership from within the ministry

  • is a natural outgrowth of a spiritual formation process.
  • provides mature believers challenges for their faith that causes continued growth.
  • produces leaders who are already familiar with programs, theology, doctrine, policy.
  • produces leader that are generally accountable to the remainder of the leadership hierarchy or group.


  • produces leaders that tend to be emotionally invested in status quo.
  • leaders tend to replicate themselves, so you end up with less diversity in the leadership pool.
  • requires a bootstrapping period while the first batch are being equipped.’
  • depending on the body, may not produce the broad range of talents and gifts necessary to support ministry plans

Engage leadership from outside the ministry

  • can bring in talents and gifts that are currently lacking in the body.
  • requires hiring period, but less bootstrapping so can be enacted more quickly


  • can bring in personalities and opinions that are divisive
  • can bring in leaders who are not ready to be accountable
  • can bring in leaders who are not familiar with programs etc., who can unknowingly harm existing programs.

I think that Bob in his article is focusing on these three drawbacks. He doesn’t exactly spell this out, but that is what I smell. The fact is regardless of how you “acquire” leadership, you need to have a good way to onboard leaders so that they know what is expected, and to ensure that divisions or factions don’t form. You also need to guard against stagnation and inertia within the leadership community so that a resistance to change does not develop. You should ensure that ministry plans are aligned with leadership acquisition and development timelines.

Check out these ther ministry staffing and leadership posts:


[Spew #3] Steve Jobs and Staffing; Conversations; Leader Advice

How to Change the World: What I Learned From Steve Jobs

The passing of Steve Jobs has created a flurry of articles and blog posts advocating his sainthood or demonizing him or just remembering stuff he said.  There are two pieces of advice that you can take away from ministry staffing – Avoid the bozo explosion and Hire people who can tell you what to do, rather than hiring people you have to tell what to do.  They are related.

Seth’s Blog: Open conversations (or close them)

How you ask and answer questions can change the conversation dratically.  In ministry do we ever really want to close a conversation?  Really? 

7 Random Pieces of Advice for the Younger Leader | Ron Edmondson

Truth: this is not just for young leaders…