Posted in Church Leadership

How to Communicate an Idea to Leadership

As the leader of a creative team, many, if not most, of the ideas we develop come from members of the team, not from higher leadership. As part of the senior team, I have the unique position of seeing and representing both the creative perspective and the organizational perspective. I hope these thoughts will help creatives when presenting an idea “up” to leadership.

As part of the process, you should consider the PURPOSE behind the idea, then PLAN to make your presentation, and finally, the best way to PITCH the idea.

1. PURPOSE

Leadership’s responsibility is to make sure resources are used to support the church’s overall mission; any idea they’ll consider needs to fall in line with that mission. So, it’s important to have an acute awareness of the big picture. It might be really cool to build a new app or install a display in the hallway, but be sure the idea advances the mission and vision or it won’t likely be given a green light. And if your church doesn’t have a defined mission or vision, perhaps you could be the one to initiate the process for developing one.

When considering purpose, it’s also helpful to be aware of leadership’s goals, both short-term and long-term. In any given season, leaders are typically focused on a specific project or goal that supports the church’s mission. What is the leader focused on right now? Is this the best time to pitch your idea, or would there be a better time? Timing can be an important factor for leaders when considering proposals. Ideas that require significant resources are ideally presented at budget preparation time so leadership can factor it into the budget for the following year.

2. PLAN

As you develop ideas to share with leadership, you’ll want to consider some factors to help with receptivity. First, as much as possible, communicate regularly with leadership. Don’t isolate yourself. Talk to as many leaders as possible on a regular basis. Ask them to lunch. Ask them about their ministry goals. The more you collaborate with leadership, the more they will know and trust you when you have an idea to share.

Second, work to break the stereotypes of creatives. One of those stereotypes is that creatives often have ideas that are unrealistic. Leaders want ideas that are outside the box but not “over the top.” Leaders want fresh ideas, but they still must be within the bounds of the church culture.

Finally, with respect to planning, make sure the idea is achievable. If the idea was not specifically placed in the budget, where will the money come from? Is there room in your ministry budget, or will you be asking leadership to fund it from another line item? Will other ministries in the church be on board with the idea, or will you be alone in its support? Have you gotten feedback from other ministries to determine if they will also support the idea?

3. PITCH

Once you’ve considered the purpose of the idea and planned how it will be best received, it’s time to pitch the idea. Before you actually meet with leadership, you’ll want to anticipate their questions and be ready with answers.

Also, depending on the size and the culture of your organization, you may only have a limited amount of time in the pitch meeting. Building anticipation may be part of your pitch strategy, but only take that as far as you believe the leader will tolerate it. Most leaders have limited time and will want you to get to the point quickly.

You’ll want to avoid using industry jargon. If you know your leader is well-informed in your area of specialty (back to the earlier point of spending time with them on a regular basis), then go ahead. But most leaders will be limited in their understanding of your world. So be sensitive by only using language they’ll understand.

Finally, provide more than one option. This is important for a couple of reasons. First, if the leader doesn’t like the idea, you need to have a backup. Often your second or third favorite idea will be the leader’s first choice. This is particularly true for projects which involve design. Second, by providing more than one option, you’ll demonstrate your versatility and flexibility, which most leaders appreciate.

Leaders expect creative ideas from creative people. Keep them coming! But as you do, consider these points to make your idea and its presentation as effective as possible.

Continue Reading

5 Ways Leaders Can Promote Church Health

For church leaders, every time we turn around there’s a new book, blog post, conference, or podcast on church health. There are so many resources for leaders to build healthy churches, yet it seems so few churches are truly healthy.

Whether it’s leadership struggles, budget shortages, or declining membership, many churches have a hard time achieving health.

Sure, health is measured in many ways. What constitutes health for one church may not be a factor for another. And it’s even possible for a church to exhibit health in metrics like growth and giving yet behind the scenes the staff culture is anything but healthy.

I’d like to present five factors that I’ve seen contribute to the health of the church I serve. These are not meant to be inclusive of all health factors, but they cover a lot of ground toward overall health.

Continue Reading

How should a leader exert power?

In the church, as in any organization, leaders exert power to achieve objectives. Power struggles seem to be one of the most common causes of dissension in the church. Such dissension almost always leads to ill-health and sometimes to decline. The way in which a leader uses his available power is one of the keys to organizational health.

There are two types of power available to the leaders of any organization: personal power and institutional power. Many church leaders have not learned the cost of depending on personal power nor the benefits of leaning on institutional power. 

Continue Reading

The Fallacy of the “3 Cs” in Hiring

There’s been a lot written about the “3 Cs” of effective hiring – character, competence, and chemistry. While these may be a good check-list, among other best practices for hiring, I believe one of these three can be misconstrued if we’re not keenly aware of the influences that affect its misinterpretation.

Continue Reading

5 Ways to Hire Right the First Time

It seems that often churches don’t have a well-defined process for hiring staff. Maybe that’s because many church leaders just haven’t experienced what a healthy process for personnel selection looks like, or they assume their network of church staff is broad enough to already know the “perfect person” for the job.

I’ve seen a number of cases where a new pastor comes to a church, and he insists on hiring staff from his former church. While this might seem to make sense in terms of building a team that already has proven working chemistry, I think this approach has more risks than rewards. It makes an erroneous assumption that the same team, working in the same roles, will be as effective at a the new church as they were in the previous one. There are just too many other variables to make this a reality. It might make the pastor more comfortable, but in my experience, it can be detrimental to the rest of the staff and even the congregation.

Whatever the reason, I believe we’d do well in the church to elevate the sophistication for how we identify, assess, and ultimately select our church staff. 

Continue Reading

3 Things I Learned in Mediation Training

I had the opportunity this past week to be trained as a “Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 31 Mediator.” You might ask, why would a church communications minister want to be trained as a court mediator? The short answer: the church needs conflict mediation.

I’ve recently considered the need for more specific attention and a strategic approach to conflict management in the church, so I began investigating what’s out there. Ken Sande’s The Peacemaker is certainly a popular and thorough approach to conflict resolution in the church, and I intend to do more follow up with the resources available through Peacemaker Ministries. But I came across the option for a 40-hour training course in mediation offered locally that I thought would be a good entree to the discipline.

Continue Reading

3 Ways to Look at Ordination

What does it mean to be ordained? It seems to mean different things in different churches and denominations. A colleague at another church recently asked me about it. He’s sensed a call to ministry and presented himself for ordination. However, due to his specific role, his “qualification” became a matter of deliberation among his church leaders. I shared with him my thoughts:

We Baptists, and I think most Evangelicals, look at ordination a bit differently than most mainline denominations. There’s less emphasis on the individual’s formal education than there is on his calling. The large number of bi-vocational pastors among our ranks is evidence of this.

Continue Reading

3 Reasons I’m Starting a Blog

Before I answer this question, I might first point out why I’ve not started a blog before now. As a church communications professional, I’ve struggled with the fact that it’s taken me this long to start. I attribute that to several causes, not the least of which is simply self-discipline. But I’ve also questioned whether I have enough to say that others would be interested in reading.

Sure, the conferences I’ve attended, the seminars I’ve led, and the multitude of emails and phone calls I’ve responded to over the years always come with the questions: “how do you do this or that?” This has reinforced to some degree the idea that I have something worth sharing. But being reactive in this regard and proactively sharing my thoughts in a blog are two different things.

I’ve also been hesitant to jump on the bandwagon when it seems there’s so much opinion already being shared out there, even among church bloggers. Does the world really need one more voice on church culture? I can’t judge the motives of others, but to the extent that many people enter the blogosphere simply to build a platform or make a name for themselves, I’m not interested in joining the ranks.

Continue Reading