I was blessed with the opportunity to hear Temple Grandin speak this week. Ms. Grandin is quite possibly the most famous person alive on the autism spectrum. Her book Thinking in Pictures and the movie based on it are classics. While I went primarily to hear what she had to say about being more effective when teaching young people on the spectrum, she actually taught something I believe is crucial for everyone involved in ministries serving kids, teens, parents or frankly anyone to learn.
As she talked about her career, she shared one of the reasons she became known as an expert in her field. She showed a graph where a particular industry in her field had only a 30% success rate in their objective (don’t ask!). Within three years, she had managed to help them raise it to a 90% success rate and within thirteen years the industry met their goal 100% of the time.
While many of her innovations in her field changed the industry drastically, she admitted this particular statistic had little if anything to do with her innovations. Instead, she said, it only took making two changes to drastically improve success. Interestingly, those two factors can be repeated in any industry and in our case ministry.
What were those two changes?
- Fixing what was broken. She took a survey in each plant and discovered lots of things were broken. Simply repairing the things they already possessed created immediate drastic improvement. It may sound more difficult to do that with a ministry, but it really isn’t. Most of the ministries I help can make drastic improvements in both the quality of the ministry they provide and the effectiveness of their ministries and outreach by “fixing” a few “broken things”. The more they can fix, the greater the strides the ministry makes. You can do your own assessment of your ministry. Talk one on one with all of your stake holders and really encourage them to be honest…then listen. You will probably end up with a pretty accurate list of what’s broken. Then gather your team and figure out how to begin fixing these things. (Our consultation by email or phone is totally free and we would love to help you!)
- Getting rid of managers who refused to notice and correct broken things. This is so key and yet so difficult to do for many reasons in ministry. We have to make it clear to servant leaders – staff, volunteers, elders, deacons – that our ministry culture listens when people tell us something is broken. Then we do everything we can do to fix it. The number of excuses I have heard for ignoring valuable feedback and/or neglecting to correct things that are broken in ministries is ridiculously long. At the end of the day though, they are just that – excuses. I can only imagine how Jesus or the Apostles would have reacted when hearing why leaders refuse to fix what is broken in ministries dealing with children, teens, families or anyone for that matter.
Want to improve the effectiveness of your ministries exponentially? Learn an important lesson from Ms. Grandin: Find and fix what is broken and replace any leaders or volunteers who refuse to notice and correct broken things. The stakes are too incredibly high to allow us to continue ignoring the broken parts of our ministries. Find ’em. Fix ’em. And lovingly ask those who value anything more than getting those precious souls to Heaven to get out of the way. I truly believe it’s what God wants us to do. Check out the story of Jesus cleansing the Temple and quite a few others if you don’t believe me! (And no, this does not mean I advocate ignoring scriptures which go against popular culture, as a means of “fixing what is broken”. Trying to change scripture as a way to attract more people is one of the “broken things” in some ministries.)
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