Ministry Today magazine cover

Clarifying the Win





Without clear goals and guidance, churches can become efficient at doing ministry ineffectively.
The very nature of what a church does makes it difficult to keep score on its influence and success. How do you measure intangibles like relevant teaching and changed lives?

There's an old wooden sign in the church my dad grew up in. The sign has slats displaying the church's critical statistics: attendance, number of visitors and total offerings.

That sign has been hanging there for at least 30 years, but I'm not sure it truly communicates whether the church is actually accomplishing its goals—whether or not it's "winning."

Most churches do not have a reliable system for measuring what success looks like at every level of the organization. Instead, they post general statistics that give them a vague sense of progress or failure and go through the motions of continuing to do ministry the way they always have. Thus, it is possible for a church to become very efficient at doing ministry ineffectively.

Too many church leaders have bought into the myth that "clarifying the win" means establishing attendance goals and raising a lot of money. These can be indicators of the health of your organization, but strong numbers in these areas don't necessarily mean you are winning.

Instead, ask questions like: Do attendees feel comfortable inviting their unchurched friends? How many people are successfully connecting into small groups? Do they understand how to apply spiritual truths in their daily lives?

Clarifying the win simply means communicating to your team what is really important and what really matters. It includes asking certain questions, rewarding an individual's performance and celebrating significant outcomes.

Nothing hinders morale more than team members with separate agendas pulling against one another. This usually happens because the leaders have not taken the time to provide guidance. When the win is unclear, you force your team to guess what it looks like.

For example, sometimes pastors make the mistake of thinking that they should spend more time with younger leaders and less time with stronger leaders. It seems logical. But, when you fail to give a strong leader clear direction, you give that person permission to go in whatever direction seems right.

Here are four steps to help you clarify the win for your leaders and volunteers:

Sum up the win in a simple phrase. When you formally state the win and put it in front of the entire team, it becomes a lens through which you can view everything you do.

Keep the win as specific as possible. Clarifying the win is like marking a destination on a map—it's easy to know when you win because you arrive at your destination. Don't clarify a win in terms that are too general.

Restate the win frequently and creatively. Once you have carefully defined a win for a department or program, you need to spend time keeping it in front of your team.

Meet to clarify the win at every level. You can't stop at the top of the organization. The principle will only help you become more effective if the practice is carried through to the levels where practical ministry is happening.

A church really does need a scoreboard to keep everyone moving in the same direction. When people know what a win looks like, they are much more likely aim for it. When they start winning, chances are they will keep winning. Leaders like to win, and they will attract others who want to join a winning team.


Adapted from 7 Practices of Effective Ministry (c) 2004 by Andy Stanley. Used by permission of Multnomah Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.

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