3 Key Areas of Church Operations That Must Be in Alignment
Aspen Group's upcoming Alignment Conference has put the word alignment on my mind a lot lately. As ministries grow—and especially as churches pursue a multisite strategy—the opportunities for misalignment are many and pose threats to ministry success. Misalignment in mission, vision, leadership, and facilities can affect your ability to advance your church's purpose and grow God’s kingdom.
But there's another critical area--operations--that is often overlooked and yet significantly affects a church's ability to provide effective ministry, advance its mission, and provide transparency to donors.
As churches grow and sites are added, the church's operations, such as budgets, decision rights, staffing, and ministry measurements or metrics, can all become misaligned.
This can cause pain and missed opportunities. Senior leaders can help to ensure operational alignment by asking some critical questions of their staff.
While changing and updating accounting systems is no fun at all—and can be a fair amount of work—the accounting system for the organization is a key tool that should be utilized to meet your needs. Ask your finance team: Is our accounting system set up to efficiently track and manage our financials for this next phase of ministry?
Listen carefully for indicators. For instance, maybe the system works, but isn’t efficient. Maybe it takes a lot of time to navigate, requires a lot of manipulation, or doesn’t allow for clear reporting. These are all signs that a review and a change to the system might be needed. Fortunately, changing your system doesn’t necessarily involve throwing it out and getting a new one. It could simply mean an overhaul of your general ledger or implementation of a new feature, such as project tracking. How you manage your financial systems will have a huge impact on your overall ministry effectiveness.
Metrics and data can give you incredible insight and help you measure the successes and opportunities in your ministry and programs. Sometimes we become captivated by our existing metrics, and we keep hanging on to them long after they’ve stopped being relevant. Try asking: What do we need to know about our church during this season of ministry? Then ask your team to begin building and providing the metrics that meet those needs.
Growing ministries can put significant pressure on existing staffing structures. As senior leaders, we should ask ourselves: What did the organization look like when we developed the existing staffing structure, and is it still the ideal structure for our current ministry?
Some clues that your staff is not ideally structured can be found in the amount of conflict among teams, the effectiveness of communication between departments, your retention rates, and the overall health and work-life balance of your staff.
Asking yourself and your staff a few critical questions can help ensure that your operations are well aligned with your ministry and goals for the future. These questions may lead to some uncomfortable conversations, extra work, and potentially painful changes. Through years of ministry though, I’ve decided that no amount of discomfort or pain on my part is too much considering what’s at stake. If the trouble I take to revamp a general ledger or create a new metric dashboard means that a ministry is healthier and better poised to reach people for Christ, it will be time and energy well spent.
How about your church? Are your operations in alignment? If you're a multisite church, which systems and processes have you had to revamp or revise to suit this ministry model?
Amanda Lee is the product developer at Thrivent Church Solutions Group and co-founder of Infinity Giving—an organization dedicated to connecting the world’s wealth with healthy ministries by ensuring operational strength and developing sustainable giving strategies. She'll also be a speaker at the 2016 Alignment Conference, taking place October 18 at Community Christian Church in Naperville, Illinois. Find out more about Amanda and register today.