The Advantage: Focusing on Results

We’re working our way through Patrick Lencioni’s The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business.

Lencioni consults with businesses, nonprofits, and churches, and he frequently explains how the lessons apply especially to churches, because the work churches do is so much more important than the work done by anyone else.

Lencioni insists that a good team must be focused on whether it really achieves the desired results.

What would members of an executive team be focused on if not the results of their organization? Well, for one, the results of their department. Too many leaders seem to have a greater affinity for and loyalty to the department they lead rather than the team they’re a member of and the organization they are supposed to be collectively serving. Other distractions include a concern for individual career development, budget allocations, status, and ego, all of them common distractions that prevent teams from being obsessed with achieving results.

Some people find this extreme emphasis on results to be a little cold and uninspiring. But there is no getting around the fact that the only measure of a great team—or a great organization—is whether it accomplishes what it sets out to accomplish.

In church, the preacher may be focused on the quality of the sermons but care little about the strengths of members’ marriages and families. The teen minister may be focused on attendance at his devos, but care little about the church as a whole. The small groups minister may care about the numbers attending groups but never focus on whether the groups are actually serving the congregation’s over-arching goals. For that matter, the elders may focus on attendance or contribution with little real concern for the congregation’s Christ-like-ness.

In fact, this is entirely typical church behavior. Most ministries are highly siloed, that is, highly focused just on the health of their ministry and not on the health of the congregation as a whole. Indeed, most would struggle to even define congregational health.

But when the elders and staff meet together and agree on congregational goals, they should all be willing to subordinate their ministerial ambitions for the sake of the congregation’s larger goals.

Of course, this means that the elders have to review and evaluate the ministers the same way. If the youth minister is only evaluated by how well his ministry does, even though he pours his heart and soul into the congregational ministry as well, he’ll likely decide to do what he’s rewarded for.

The only way for a leader to establish this collective mentality on a team is by ensuring that all members place a higher priority on the team they’re a member of than the team they lead in their departments. A good way to go about this is simply to ask them which team is their first priority. …

When members of a leadership team feel a stronger sense of commitment and loyalty to the team they lead than the one they’re a member of, then the team they’re a member of becomes like the U.S. Congress or the United Nations: it’s just a place where people come together to lobby for their constituents.

When your budget meetings are about fighting for limited funds, rather than allocating funds to accomplish congregational goals, when each team member fights for his own turf and not for the congregational good, then no one is pushing for the church — only for their subset of the church. And that’s a very unhealthy place to be.

Therefore, the teen program must be viewed as a ministry that supports the over-arching vision of the church. The preaching ministry is one of several ministries that supports the over-arching vision of the church.

If the vision of the church is to be a small-groups church, then the sermons need to point to small groups nearly every Sunday (as Rick Warren in fact does at Saddleback). Small groups is not the topic for September, to be ignored until the next September. No, small groups is part of the sermon series on marriage and parenting, the series on evangelism, the series on loving each other, the series on benevolence … because small groups is at the core of the congregation, they’re naturally a part of nearly every discussion that deals with congregational life.

Just so, for a small groups church, the teen and campus ministries aren’t exceptions. They have to work within and not against the small group concept. They make every effort to coordinate and not compete with small groups. They don’t schedule events that conflict with the small groups schedule.

If the focus of the congregation is on personal evangelism, then personal evangelism is the theme of campus ministry, the singles ministry, the seniors ministry, the preaching ministry — nearly every ministry there is.

And throughout the year, the leadership asks whether it’s working. Are we in fact becoming a small groups church? Are we in fact becoming evangelistically effective? Whatever the goal, is it being accomplished?

If your goal is that the members become more Christ-like, then you look for Christ-like and un-Christ-like behaviors. They may be hard to measure, but they shouldn’t be hard to observe.

And there are no exceptions. Whatever the goal is, it’s a congregational goal, the entire eldership, staff, deacons, ministry leaders, and members should all be pulling together to do the same thing. There is no competing priorities. And good things will happen.

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2 Responses to The Advantage: Focusing on Results

  1. This is important stuff. The MOST important is the capacity to really hear God and find out what he wants from a particular group. The challenge is that the easiest stuff to measure is always the least important stuff to do. We often address the wrong goals because we can chart them readily. If the elders really want to complete people in Christ and see them become more Christ-like, they would be best off surveying the community around them. Ask the unbelievers in your neighborhood what they think YOU are. Better yet, ask the unbelievers around you to guess what YOUR goals are. And take the results to heart.

  2. Ray Downen says:

    Good thinking. When all the leaders share the same goal, then the group is apt to know what the goal is and probably share it. Christ’s church should have the goal of growing Christians and also finding and growing NEW Christians. If the leaders seek to bless all the congregation and grow in Christ together, growth is likely. People have differing ideas. Leaders should seek to form a goal based on the strengths of the entire group. Yes, we want to be like Jesus. Then let’s study Jesus and learn all we can about what He taught and what He practiced. Do we usually preach about Jesus, or is it about particular doctrines we like? Are our lessons aimed at learning more and more about Jesus and helping the members live as Jesus lived? They should be if our goal is to be His family, His church.

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