Every ministry, nonprofit or church leader I know is consumed with growing their organization, and rightly so. They are under tremendous pressure to expand their footprint, enlarge their volunteer base and increase donations. They often expend significant energy wrestling with questions of growth—and finding the answers can be burdensome. This is the reality and nature of the work. Sure, for most leaders it really is “all about the Kingdom,” but it’s also all about the realities of feeding the beast.
So, I thought it might be helpful to offer a few key thoughts to help you slingshot to the next level:
1. Dream until the next iteration of the vision is legit and robust. Over the years, I’ve been privileged to interact with hundreds (if not thousands) of ministry, nonprofit and church leaders. I’ve enjoyed learning about their vision and hearing their hearts. In some cases, their vision is bold and supercharged with all the right stuff. In other cases, it’s simply not. In fact, it’s occasionally just puny. Whatever you do, be sure and get this right. Keep shaping and massaging your vision until it is bold, solid and compelling.
2. Whiteboard, whiteboard, whiteboard (or napkins, Moleskins and apps). I’m a huge fan of “working out” various aspects of your vision in ways people can easily understand. The goal is to distill, clarify and refine your thinking until things just make good sense. This may take several iterations, but keep working it! This will allow key stakeholders and teams to onboard with your stream of thought and “get it” more quickly. Here are two posts you might find helpful: 4 Secret Tips For Rocking Your Whiteboard and 5 More Secret Tips For Rocking Your Whiteboard.
3. Seek specific counsel and advice from trusted friends and advisors. Looking at your vision through different lenses is critical to calibrating the vision that is growing in your heart. Select people who have depth of character, brains, rich experience, and who aren’t afraid to ask you difficult questions. The insight you will gain can dramatically change the trajectory of where you are headed. Or, it can simply tweak and solidify your plan so you have confidence moving forward.
4. Ask for honest input from other people who don’t know you. I often find it helpful to seek input from people who are not really “in the know” about my work, but who are willing to freely share their input. The goal here is to further calibrate how your vision will be processed from someone who has little/no exposure to your world. The “colder” they are to you when you seek their input, the more likely you are to glean a helpful visceral reaction and valid input. If it’s not easily understood by those who are least familiar with you, then it may not make sense for insiders.
5. Pray, think, write, repeat. You should do this over and over and over until things become crystal clear and until you fully discern the vision the Lord has infused into your heart. It will also help you nail down the best path forward and ensure that you stay centered on what really matters long-term.
6. Write your thoughts in detailed paragraph form to give “body, definition and meaning” to your vision. Writing out a ton of details is key to getting your head clear. The more you unpack the vision through articulating a ton of details, the more coherent your own understanding will be, and the greater your chances of nailing it. Keep in mind that these details might actually be better suited in the “mission” or “strategy” sections of your document(s), but for now, just get it out of your head/heart and written out. Worry about how best to organize everything later.
7. Write out strategic objectives intent on causing the vision to manifest. This one is a big deal. To the extent that you can lean into a strategic path forward, it’s to the same extent that you will be ahead of the game—seriously. It is highly unlikely that your vision will ever become reality if you don’t plan out and aggressively execute a strategic plan. While this one is tough for most leaders, it is “must do” for success and for causing your dream to manifest. Your strategy document(s) should be coherent and integrated. When well written, they become your organizational playbook and help keep everyone pulling in the same direction. Thoughtful and well articulated strategy can help you get unstuck, articulate natural daily tracks to run on and help cultivate forward momentum.
8. Build out detailed tactics that will help you fulfill your strategic objectives. If you want to see your vision become a reality, then your strategic objectives need to be atomized into detailed tactics that your team can execute against on a daily basis. The goal is to get as granular as possible tactically so everyone is clear on things like analytics, platforms, technologies, timelines, milestones, metrics, budgets, deliverables, etc. Though tactics are prone to change as the world of communications, branding and marketing morphs, working from a strategic/tactical playbook can help you keep everything on track as you drive forward. If your organization isn’t great at strategy development, then please seek assistance. Need help with this? Hit me.
9. Hustle like you mean it. When you work with ministries, nonprofits and churches everyday, you see all kinds of behind the scenes organizational dynamics. Each person is at a different place in their understanding of their role, their work ethic, their dreams, expectations, etc. One thing is for sure—the organizations who have the greatest impact are those whose team members are intentional in their work, the ones who hustle and execute with focused intensity. Rise above the daily grind, and do the hustle.
To be clear, there is certainly more to slingshotting your ministry, nonprofit or church to the next level than I’ve outlined here. But, hopefully this will provide you with a few helpful thoughts to get your head around possible next steps and a solid path forward.