by Mary E Peterson, Housing Specialist
I was young and a little crazy when we started the pregnancy help organization. Someone said to me, in jest, "You are just too naïve to realize what you are attempting can't be done." Looking back, they were probably right. But nonetheless, God took me on a wild adventure of organizational development. Within fifteen years, I had the joy of sitting on my couch brainstorming the basics of a vision for a start-up ministry and I also had the joy of ribbon-cutting on our fifth location. For better and for worse, I experienced rapid organizational growth and learned a lot of lessons along the way. Here's a taste:
1) Know your mission. Grow from your mission.
I love a crazy new idea and lots of them were thrown at us -- run a ministry restaurant, start a theater troupe, build a neighborhood of low-income housing for single mothers. All of these captured my attention for a time but ultimately, were set to the side to stay focused on our core mission. Be really good at what you're good at. Be the ministry that the Holy Spirit breathed life into. Let the other stuff go...even if they seem wildly interesting.
2) Balance administrative growth with programmatic growth.
Programmatic growth is the fun stuff and it's the work that grantors and donors get excited about. But it is through building an administrative foundation that programmatic growth is sustained. Sometimes years’ worth of fundraising, staff development, and system building has to be done in order to grow well. If the foundation isn't strong, having the perfect furniture doesn't make sense.
3) Spend time on systems.
Systems are the plumbing to your organization -- getting information where it needs to go so that when you need it, it's there. Without systems, the entire organization experiences stress. Sometimes leaders who are great at big visions aren't great at systems. If that is case, get the right people involved to help build out the systems for your ministry. Growth is always disruptive but less so when strong organizational systems are in place.
4) Be wise and prudent. Be bold and courageous.
I love it when Scriptural ideas seem at odds, and this is a great example. Both statements are absolutely true. Plan, strategize, research, and consider. But also, dream, stretch, act, and step out in faith. Have a Board and staff around you that can do both!
5) Don't get ahead of your team.
The hard part of being a leader of vision is bringing the whole organization along. If you get too far ahead of them, you risk staff frustration, team exhaustion, and organizational strain. My rule of thumb as a leader was to peak ahead a few steps to see what major decisions lay ahead. I would begin to think about those decisions and gather information so that when it was time to consider them, we weren't starting from a blank slate. But your team needs to go on the journey with you -- and you might need to take the pace down to travel together!
Want to talk more about growth related ideas? Join us for a webinar on Growth and Ministry Development July 22, 2021 at Noon (Eastern)!