Achieve peak performance with a leadership culture of shared purpose

Organizational clarity, alignment and collaboration are essential for managing effective churches.

By Jim Baker

Brentwood Baptist Church sits in the heart of the Nashville, TN suburb of Brentwood, where 20,000 new residents have moved in recent years. Our church has more than doubled in membership, staff and budget since our campus relocation five years ago. In the midst of this rapid growth we have learned that organizational clarity, alignment and collaboration are everything.

In fact, we have learned that our effectiveness is ultimately the result of how well we execute these three critical processes. Our commitment to organizational clarity, alignment and collaboration has helped create a culture of shared purpose and achieve consistent levels of peak performance.

To create this culture within your church you must first frame a definition and understanding of these vital processes. Through dialogue among key leaders we came to the following agreed upon definitions:

  • Clarity: The idea that the church’s mission, vision, values, objectives, goals and rewards are understood throughout the organization.
  • Alignment: The integration of the staff, ministry teams, resources and processes to achieve the mission, vision, values, objectives and goals of the church.
  • Collaboration: Staff and ministry teams working together interdependently to accomplish pre-determined objectives.

Everyone in the same direction

Clarity is the byproduct of getting everyone headed in the same direction with shared purpose, objectives and goals. How you create the purpose, objectives and goals have a tremendous impact on the support it receives. People will only trust these goals if they understand how they were created.

With that in mind, we invited 200 key leaders and staff to a weekend retreat with a professional facilitator where we confirmed our mission, vision and values, defined several key objectives and hammered out potential strategies for each objective. From there our staff leadership team and trustees determined annual churchwide goals and metrics for each objective for the next five years, which were ultimately approved by the ministerial staff and congregation.

Alignment is only possible when each individual and ministry team is able to see a direct relationship between what they are doing and the mission, vision, objectives and goals of the church. Therefore these must be unifying concepts that are actionable by every individual and group.

Avoid sub-optimization

Without alignment, the church’s mission, vision, objectives and goals can be interpreted differently by everyone. Also, in the absence of alignment the pull is towards sub-optimization, a situation where individual and/or team objectives and goals are given priority over the church’s objectives and goals.

To establish alignment and accountability throughout the organization we implemented the following steps:

  1. Staff and ministry teams are linked to the churchwide objectives and goals through an annual goals template that reflects how their ministry plans to contribute to each objective and goal. This template is designed to give the organization a visual and quantitative measure of how individuals and teams are aligning with respect to the churchwide objectives and goals.
  2. Key agreed upon metrics are established and reviewed annually for each objective and goal and are included in the goals template.
  3. Achievement of goals and key metrics are linked to a system of quarterly recognition by our trustees and annual compensation rewards by our staff resource team.
  4. Quarterly performance reviews are conducted by supervisors where a status report on each objective and goal is reviewed.
  5. For accountability and reporting the staff and team goal templates are rolled into a Quarterly Goals Report to the Trustees and an Annual Goals Report to the church. These reports are also shared at quarterly staff meetings.

Facilitating collaboration

Collaboration requires cooperation across department and ministry lines and therefore is one of the most effective deterrents to organizational silos. Collaboration also capitalizes on the various gifts, talents, passions, experiences and strengths of staff and volunteers within the church. Finally, collaboration creates synergy where efficiency and effectiveness are maximized. To facilitate an ongoing culture of collaboration we instituted the following practices:

  1. A personality, spiritual gifts, abilities, passions, experiences, and strengths assessment is required of every staff and ministry leader. These profiles are stored in an electronic database and are used in putting  together ad hoc and standing teams.
  2. Cross training is required of each staff and ministry leader.
  3. Each staff member is required to have collaboration related goals on their annual goal template.
  4. Collaboration templates are developed for churchwide initiatives such as sermon series, capital campaigns and VBS to reflect how each ministry plans to cooperate and contribute to the initiative.
  5. Examples of collaboration and reports from cross departmental teams are shared at each quarterly staff meeting.

Maintaining the culture

Church employees and volunteers need to see the larger purpose in their particular jobs and ministries and their connection to the mission, vision, objectives and goals of the church. Most people have a good idea of what they do in the church but don’t have a clue about the church’s objectives and goals and how their job or role connects to it. That is why the senior leadership of the church must be concerned and even obsessed with organizational clarity, alignment and collaboration.

As a leader intent on maintaining such a culture these are the questions you should be continually asking yourself:

  1. Am I taking every opportunity with staff and volunteers to clarify and illustrate at least some aspect of the church’s mission, vision, objectives and goals?
  2. Has our church’s mission and vision been translated into a comprehensible strategy reflected in mutually agreed upon objectives and goals?
  3. Have we established key metrics for each goal that will help us determine if we are successful?
  4. Have we developed a visual system for tracking the alignment of each ministry to the objectives and goals of the church?
  5. Have we determined a system of accountability and reporting across the organization?
  6. Do I know the gifts and strengths of staff and volunteers and am I effectively placing them on collaborative teams?

Also, as you interact with staff in hallways, meetings and performance reviews ask the following questions:

  • What is our church’s mission as you understand it?
  • Why is it important to you?
  • What are the core objectives of our church?
  • How are you supporting those?
  • How are you working together with other staff?

Organizational clarity, alignment and collaboration are ongoing processes that require constant monitoring and adjustment. Establishing this culture is not easy and every church and organization must find its own way. But the outcome is worth the effort. Supervisors will spend less time fretting over what their reports are doing and more time focusing on the future of the ministry. Employees and volunteers will know what to do and feel empowered to do it. And everyone will be excited, surprised and delighted with extraordinary results.

Jim Baker is executive pastor of Brentwood Baptist Church, Brentwood, TN. []


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