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Every leader wants their church to be aligned.

They know the power of having an army of volunteers and staff focused on a common cause. However, few leaders seem to pull it off. And the result is often confusion – people working at competing purposes and pulling in different directions.

If you were to ask three of your volunteers “What do you think is our vision? What are we as a church here to do?” Would you get the same response?

The first step in getting on the same page is Creating Organisational Clarity.

The strength of an organisation is not just their mission, vision, and strategy.

It’s also their leadership team’s alignment to it, their entire staff’s understanding and alignment to it, and their leadership and staff’s ability to explain and defend it.

As a parent, when we see a behaviour that is outside what we have instructed, we are often tempted to address the behaviour, rather than help the child understand the moral reason why. We know that in the long term they will be better off if they not just understand, but own it themselves, but we often don’t have the time or patience so we spend more time correcting than training.

We get frustrated by a behaviour, but we haven’t helped them build a foundation of ownership around the vision. We haven’t helped them understand WHY we do what we do.

And so it is with organisational behaviour. As leaders, isn’t it true we often get frustrated by the behaviour of our volunteers or staff? They are on their phones instead of greeting new guests. They didn’t complete a project as they were not focused when we discussed the logistics. We get frustrated by a behaviour, but we haven’t helped them build a foundation of ownership around the vision.

We haven’t helped them understand WHY we do what we do. We have often just told them what to do. We need to help them understand why we do what we do.

Here are four questions that provide a framework for building organisational clarity.

1. We start with answering the question, “How did we get here?”

● We help them understand the Shared History, which lets everyone know how we got here and why. We as leaders and organisations have gone through a lot, and oftentimes we did something because of where we were in the past or what occurred in the past and so it is helpful to understand how that impacted our current reality.

● It is also important to share the original organisational Beliefs and Assumptions, so everyone knows what we believe and why we are doing this. For example if we feel like life change happens best in the context of a small group, or that people should belong before they have to believe, then these beliefs impact everything. One core belief we held that impacted our beginning was that we believe the church is the body of Christ, so it should have his purpose & personality. We believe his purpose was to seek and save that which was lost (Luke 19:10), and his personality was characterised in that people who were nothing like Jesus, liked Jesus and he liked them back.

2. Then, in light of what we believe, we must answer “Where are we going?”

● We need to have clear Mission, Vision & Values. Our organisation must know, own and be able to defend our mission, vision and values. There is a lot written about this, so I’ll just say that they must be simple, memorable, portable so they can be easily institutionalised across the organisation.

3. Once we have a clear goal defined, then we can answer, “How are we going to get there?”

● We need a clear Strategy so everyone can articulate that they know what our current strategy is to accomplish our mission and vision. We often say, we marry our mission, but date our model, so the mission is more critical than the strategy, but to generate momentum, we need everyone executing our strategy together.

4. After they understand the strategy, we then must answer their burning question, “What is my role?”

● We need to provide clarity for their Role(s), so they know their role (and those of their teammates); how it helps the strategy, and how to know if they are achieving successful results. Then once they understand their role, they then know how to behave.

● Then after everything else has been clearly defined, understood and known, we can then ensure they know the required Behaviours necessary for that role and they are able to evaluate their behaviours in light of our mission, vision and strategy.

The second step in getting on the same page is Creating Organisational Alignment.

The win is an organisation where everyone doesn’t just know and understand the mission, vision and strategy, but they “own it and defend it!” We have to take them on a journey to become owners of the vision, it doesn’t happen easily.

I have found that most leaders spent years wrestling with ideas, going to conferences, reading books before they internalised and owned their vision.

So how can we expect others to own it and defend it without expecting them to go through a journey as well?

Here are five keys to building organisational alignment.

1. Cast the vision clearly. They need to know the vision so well, and it needs to be so simple, clear, memorable and portable that when they are having coffee, they can write it down for a friend on the back of a napkin.

2. Debate the principles passionately. If they don’t have the space for wrestling through the idea, beliefs, assumptions, theological framework of ideas, how can we expect anyone to own it, much less defend it. We need to create a culture of trust where there is space for unfiltered debate so they can voice questions, doubts and fears in healthy debate and discussion.

3. Repeat it regularly. Remember vision leaks. You are not done until they are sick of hearing it.

4. Celebrate it systematically. In our organisation, we often say, what’s rewarded is repeated. So create systems to share stories and celebrate wins. (Baptisms, staff meetings, etc.) to ensure that celebration is a normal part of our culture and teams. It is important to share stats as well, but highlight stories, as stories move our hearts.

5. Embrace it personally. DNA is more caught than taught. What you live out will have a bigger impact than if you preach about it every week. If you don’t own it personally, it won’t be transferred to others.

Now let’s get practical on some ideas for how to apply these principles of building organisational clarity and alignment.

As we consider a strategy we need to think through the entire organisational structure including elders, board members, staff, volunteers and attendees, we must ask how do we help each group own it. It is difficult for anyone other than the lead pastor to lead this effort. Also, we must remember the key principles that DNA is caught more than taught, and transferring DNA is a process not a one-time thing.

How do we help elders, board members and leadership team members own it?

-Have the lead pastor lead them through the elements of organisational clarity in their meetings.

– Work on it, not just in it.

-Establish consistent blocks of time to celebrate and evaluate how we are doing in light of our mission and vision.

-During elder and church leadership meetings share stories celebrating the mission & vision.

-Read books and watch videos around the mission & vision.

-Create time for unfiltered debate/discussion around the content you are processing.

-Pray specifically for those we as leaders are investing in to invite to church.

If we are not praying at our leadership level for our churched friends, how can we expect our churches to be passionate about it?

-Set up time for retreats/Off-sites to celebrate, evaluate and have discussion/debate around one area of the vision.

How do we help staff own it?

-During staff meetings share stories that are wins of people moving toward our mission and vision.

-Cast the vision clearly and walk the staff through each area of understanding and owning the mission and vision. Break out into discussion groups around the content.

-In department staff meetings, have each leadership team member lead their teams through the content and create safe spaces for discussion and debate.

-As a staff create off-sites or retreats for deep dive discussion around one area of the vision.

-Another great way to help ensure alignment is to create an on-going feedback loop where at three months and one year of hiring, new staff are given the opportunity to share any areas they see out of alignment.

How do we help volunteers own it?

-In weekly volunteer meetings, cast a vision for why we do what we do.

-Share stories, always have a story to share in these meetings that ties back to our mission and vision.

-Celebrate volunteers in these meetings when and where you see them living the vision and mission.

-Meet with leaders one-on-one and infuse vision into every meeting.

-For on-going training and development leverage one day events and monthly leadership events to systematically train and build alignment around the vision.

How to help attendees own it?

-In adult worship services create a sermon series on mission, vision, values.

-In the Sunday programming, be intentional to connect everything back to the mission, vision & strategy (including the welcome, baptism, offering, and guest experience).

-Let it leak out from each message and announcement.

-Be intentional in leveraging Nights of Worship, social media posts, church email newsletters and blogs to cast vision and build alignment with your attendees

Oh and one last thing, which I don’t want to skip over. This all begins with the lead pastor.

Do they know why?

Do they own it?

It all starts here, as no one else can do this for the organisation.


Irresistible Churches Network, a Global Network working to create a church in every community which unchurched people love

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