Game of Purpose


What is the purpose of your game?

What is the purpose of your game?

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.”

Eventually…chaos ensues.

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.

Nehemiah's vision was to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. He focused on the "win" first, then laid out the process.

Nehemiah’s vision was to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. He focused on the “win” first, then laid out the process.

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.

Pick a time in the future and write out what you want that future to look like.

Pick a time in the future and write out what you want that future to look like.

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?



Colored Pencils

I like colored pencils! I just think they’re cool. You get fun colors, and when you mess up, you can erase it and start over! What is not to like?

colored pencils

In ministry, I tend to use a pencil when it comes to planning. Here is why…

When I traveled and worked in the entertainment lighting industry, I learned to use a pencil when drawing and marking up the design plans. When in the shop and talking with the designer, making notes, planning my strategy for all the work and organizing the equipment, I used a pencil on those plans. This is because, inevitably, when I got to the show site, something unforeseen had changed. Lighting positions needed to be slightly altered, the cable lengths needed were different, the stage was bigger or smaller than expected, a new celebrity was booked late and cues or colors needed to be added.

If I had used a pen on the drawings, I would have to scratch them out and write over the top, confusing everyone who constantly reviewed and referenced the drawings for guidance. It got messy fast. It looked ugly. It became harder to read and understand. And the lighting designer (technically my boss), would look at his beautiful drawing and wonder what I had done to it.

light plot by Bill Williams

Drawing by Bill Williams

So I used colored pencils…and lots of erasers.

The same is true for ministry. You must have a plan. But adjustments are inevitable. Unforeseen changes will occur. And during these alterations, the vision plans can get messy fast.

So use a pencil. The idea here is that, generally, the overall vision doesn’t change, but sometimes the tactics to reach that vision might. Perhaps the financial resources needed for a project might be different than you expected, or the time and location of a ministry might need to be altered. A change in staffing might need to occur to account for the changes in work. In church work, a change in time-frames is often needed. Maybe a communications challenge arose and you have to rethink how best to convey the vision.

The key here is to remember that the guiding vision should rarely, if ever, change. On that part of your drawing, use a highlighter! Mark it up with a bright yellow or orange highlighter that flashes in your face. It should be the brightest color on your plans. It is the sole purpose and reason you are there. Everything else, can be in pencil. All the pencil markings should reference the highlighted vision.

I used to do a lot of lighting work for NIKE. The designer always wrote a note on the drawings that said, “LIGHT THE SHOES!” He would put it in big bold letters then use a highlighter on top. That was the goal…the vision…the purpose we were there. NOTHING was more important that lighting the shoes. But as to HOW we lit the shoes, where we placed the lights, what adjustments were needed to light the shoes…that was all up for pencil markings.

Whatever your overall vision and goal is, use a highlighter.

When it comes to planning the implementation of that vision, use a pencil.

Or colored pencils.

And have plenty of erasers!

Something inevitably changes...bring erasers.

Something inevitably changes…bring erasers.