During one of our Friday Night events where anyone and everyone can show up at our house for a free dinner and some fun, my youngest son, Cale, gathered some of his friends to play a new board game he had just gotten for his birthday. As the group laid out all the pieces, Cale began telling everyone how to play, beginning with the first step.
Although it started off fun, ultimately…chaos ensued.
Over the next half hour, I watched from a distance and realized that most of the kids didn’t really know the end goal. My son had never explained the purpose of the game. Sure, everyone knew they wanted to “win,” but most didn’t understand what winning actually looked like, nor “how” to win.
In my experience of working with churches, this is often the case. The church (or staff team) get together, the pastor begins to explain the process of their ministry and the first steps. Everyone is excited. Everyone is energized. This is going to be fun! Everyone listens to their leader, often the most experienced player. And they begin the “game.”
Maybe it is not always “chaos,” but certainly it doesn’t go as each player had planned.
The problem is that most of the players do not actually know the end goal. The vision. The “win.”
What does “winning” look like for your church or organization? What should it be like?
Describe it. Explain it.
Be detailed about what it means to win and what the circumstances are that lead to that winning. Certainly for Christian churches, the win is often to lead more people to Christ and have them love and follow Jesus. But this is too vague. Be more specific, more detailed, more targeted.
For the game the kids were playing, are you supposed to be the first one to the end of the trail that is mapped out on the board? Am I supposed to lose all my cards? Or get as many cards as I can? Am I supposed to get the most points? Or are points bad?
After describing the end-game, then…and only then…start explaining the process of how you get there.
Recently, I was doing some consulting with a good friend of mine at his church. I asked him to describe what the vision was for his ministry three years in the future. He immediately began describing processes and sign-up forms and practices. I’m sure he thought I was rude, but I cut him off mid-sentence.
“No, no. That is not what I mean. What is the vision? What is the purpose of this ministry? What do you want to accomplish?!”
After a brief pause, he said, “I want people to feel welcome in [this particular ministry] and feel the freedom to sign up, feel accepted, attend regularly, and grow closer to Christ. It should be one of the life-bloods of the whole church.”
That is it! The end-game! Now I know how to win. I know what the goal is!
I think Nehemiah understood this idea well. Although the dialogue between Nehemiah and King Artaxerxes is quite short in Nehemiah 2, the principle is there. When asked why he was upset, Nehemiah simply responds, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ graves, that I may rebuild it” (Nehemiah 2:5). That was all he explained. “I want to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem!”
THAT was the vision, the end-game, the goal. The “win.”
Later he worked with the people of Jerusalem on how to rebuild them and what that process might be.
So now, let’s talk about how to get there. Let’s talk about first steps, second steps, next steps, processes, plans, routes, finances, development, and whatever else is necessary.
Pick a reasonable and logical time in the future. I like three years, but maybe for you it should be one year or maybe five. Whatever works in your setting for your situation. Develop the goal, the vision, the end-game, the win. Explain it to your team, describe it, and make sure everyone understand the target and purpose.
Then, start discussing the best strategy, the best methods, and the best processes. If you don’t, then chances are everyone is focused on their own process and strategy rather than on what the purpose of the game is.
We are all playing to win…but the real question is, what does winning look like?