What would you say if someone asked you the question in the title of this post?
“What are you improving at your church right now?”
Would you know what to say? It’s an important question.
In fact, if you can't answer that question with at least one specific goal-oriented project, your church may be in trouble without even knowing it.
Always Get Better
Every church should constantly be improving. And not just in general terms. We should always be working on specific action plans to make our church better tomorrow than it is today.
Because you never stay the same. If you’re not improving, you’re falling behind.
This is not about keeping up with the latest trends. It’s about fighting off entropy – the tendency for everything, left untended, to get worse, not better.
In the church I pastor, for instance, we’re always working on at least two improvement projects at all times – one in our facility and one in our ministries.
We recently completed facility improvement projects by upgrading the windows in our classrooms and re-tiling the nursery floor. Next up? New entrance signs for our parking lot and new tile for our preschool entryway.
As far as programs go, we’re in the early stages of a major overhaul to our First Impressions (ushers and greeters) team, which will roll out this fall.
So why not leave well enough alone? Because “well enough” isn’t good enough. And “good enough” … isn’t.
The mission of the church is too important for any congregation to settle for business as usual.
Whether you’re small and stuck in a rut, or big and coasting on numerical success, any church that stops improving, stops being as effective as it can be.
Four Questions To Get Improvement Started
So, if you don’t know what your church is improving, what should you do? Here are four simple questions to get you started:
1. What are your three (or four) least effective areas of ministry right now?
You can also ask this question about the three or four most-needed facility improvements. But why list three or four, instead of one at a time?
First, it forces you to find areas of need that you might otherwise overlook.
Second, it allows you to prioritize your needs.
Third, it will give you an idea of what your next project might be.
2. Which need should we tackle first?
There are two ways to approach this question.
The first is to improve the area that meets the church’s greatest current need. If your church can do that successfully, go for it!
But many times the area of greatest need is too hard to tackle right now due to many factors, including lack of funds, time, resources, leaders, ideas, and so on. If so, it’s important not to let that create a feeling of inertia or frustration. Can’t improve something big right now? Improve a smaller thing. But do something.
In fact, there’s one huge advantage to doing an easy project first. Especially in a church with a lot of needs, or one that hasn’t worked on improvements in a while, it gives you an easy win and a wonderful feeling of accomplishment. The morale boost from that can be a very helpful way to get momentum and create a track record of success.
3. How can we divide this project into doable pieces?
Breaking two or three projects into smaller pieces with goals and timelines is a great way to discover which project to start first.
This also helps you understand what people and resources you’ll need. By the way, the sooner you get the necessary people involved, the better.
In a church with a history of control issues, this can be especially helpful. Once you’ve outlined the proper sequence of events and defined the skills needed at each of those steps, the project tells you who’s needed based on their skill set, not on their committee membership or seniority.
4. How will we know when we’ve accomplished our goal?
If the improvement you have in mind doesn’t have a clearly definable end goal, it may still be something worth improving, but it’s not what we’re talking about in this blog post.
For instance, “becoming better worshippers” is a great goal for a church to have. But you’ll never get to the point where you can say “that’s it! We’ve become the worshippers we want to be. Now, on to the next project!”
For facility projects, determining an end goal is easy. For ministry projects, the goals may not be as easily defined, but it’s important to have them.
Without a clearly defined point of accomplishment, small projects can become money- and time-suckers.
But clearly-defined goals help with everything from budgeting to timing and more.
Asking Is Starting
If your church has gone a long time without making these kinds of improvements, it may take a while to answer these four questions, let alone finish the projects.
But if you don’t start, you’ll never accomplish anything and you’ll keep spinning your wheels.
On the other hand, the moment you start asking those questions, you’re already working on improving something!
So start looking, start asking, start recruiting and start improving.
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