Managing the Vision: Deacons and Elders
September 29, 2018
Updated October 8, 2018
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Tracking the successful implementation of ministry is not free from criticism. For some it just appears too much like a business approach. While for others the discipline of tracking is just another thing they do not have time for. For most churches and small Christian not-for-profits it is not done at all, or if it is, it is done poorly. This article will outline some basic principles that will greatly increase organizational accountability in achieving the vision and mission of the organization.
Why Establish Reporting Around Goals
Charles Spurgeon, the great 19th century churchman, had this to say about metrics in the church,
“I am not among those who decry statistics, nor do I consider that they are productive of all manner of evil; for they do much good if they are accurate, and if used wisely, it is a good thing for people to see the nakedness of the land through statistics of decrease, that they may be driven on their knees before the Lord to seek prosperity; and, on the other hand, it is by no means an evil thing for workers to be encouraged by having some account of results set before them. I should be very sorry if the practice of adding up, and deducting, and reporting on the net result, were to be abandoned, for it must be right to know our numerical condition. It has been noticed that those who object to the process are often those whose unsatisfactory reports should somewhat humiliate them.
The fact is, you can reckon very correctly if the figures are honest, and all circumstances are taken into consideration if there is no increase, you may calculate with considerable accuracy that there is not much being done…”
Charles Spurgeon articulates very well what years later management guru Peter Drucker articulated as the Five Key components of a healthy Performance Measurement and control System.
Ministry by Christian organizations and churches involved in sustainable community work has also taught us much about how measureable expectations should be set within the context of healthy principles. One of the best articulations of these principles has been done by the Lupton Center at Focused Community Strategies. Their principles are:
Without applying these principles ministry cannot remain focused. It becomes dependent on the perceptions of the strongest personalities or the whims of the current committee. These principles can be summarized with three P’s.
This Sample of Church Goals is an example of how one church has established their goals and developed a reporting mechanism that allows them to regularly monitor progress for the direction they have set. The Elders are responsible for Reaching In and Reaching Out outcomes and Deacons are responsible for Reaching Out and Reaching Across outcomes. While there are management tools that are more sophisticated and would include all of the activities related to each objective, a simple format such as this is extremely helpful in guiding the work plan. It is critical that accountability for follow up is established. Accountability can be in the form of a standing committee of Council, Council itself, or a designated staff person. Not establishing accountability is the most common reason good planning fails to accomplish the vision that was set.
Establishing the outcomes is one important aspect of accountability. Monitoring all aspects of organizational life is critical to good management. Many not-for-profit organizations use an approach called policy governance to ensure that all aspects of an organization are being held to the highest possible standard. For a full introduction to this approach www.carvergovernance.com is a great site to dig more deeply into this model. Good accountability establishes four areas where tracking and reporting needs to be in place. The four areas with their sub categories are:
All four areas are reviewed regularly by the Council of the church in a time frame that is appropriate to the specific area. For instance, financial reporting on income and expenses should be done very regularly, while seeking feedback from membership on their appreciation of ministry may be a yearly report based on a survey.
While Policy Governance can drill down to a number of levels of complexity for large organizations, an introductory approach for most churches is enough to allow them to track appropriate aspects of organizational life so that the system functions as a healthy whole.
This process may seem daunting, but working through it can prevent misunderstanding and the establishment of a healthy structure where there is mutual accountability between the church Council and the Senior Pastor. Clear boundaries and expectations prevent confusion and conflict.
The key to working this through starts with prayerful discernment asking what God is already doing amongst the church membership and in the community. Establish key strategic foci around this discernment process. Then walk through the policy governance process steps. The first time through the policies might be very straight forward and simple. The key to implementing it successfully is to build a review process into the meeting structure of the Council so that the policies are constantly in front of the Council. Council can agree on what policies should be reported on quarterly, which semi-annually, and which on an annual basis. Reporting on Key Goals should be done at quarterly or as often as the Council chooses to meet. If policy governance is done well quarterly meetings should be sufficient.
So remember the Three P’s. Pray, Partner, and Practice
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