4 Documents That Keep You Organized

I am leading a church through a transition period right now. One area of my focus is helping the church become more organized. Some churches are afraid that the more organized they become, the more the church resembles a business. That fear is founded in the idea that if a church becomes businesslike it loses its role as a church. But an organized church will run more efficiently and be more effective. Let me suggest four documents that will help the church become more organized and move you toward your full potential.

  1. Bylaws

Every organization must have a written document that guides their practices. Even when a denomination has a constitution, the local church still needs to have their own bylaws that give clarity to how they will function. This document directs how membership works, who can become a member, and what benefits and responsibilities members have. It clarifies how the leadership board is formed, including who is eligible for board roles and how they will be selected. Church Bylaws should include their Statement of Faith so everyone knows what their key beliefs are.

The bylaws should not include things that may change from time to time. Bylaws need to be reviewed regularly but should not be changed lightly. Instead, practices that may change from time to time can be included in a policy manual.

2. Policies

Every organization needs policies on how to handle things as small as who gets keys to the building and as complicated as how facility rentals work. Policies guide leadership in knowing how to address situations without requiring a unique decision every time when faced with a similar issue. For example, instead of addressing every request for a key separately, policies are established which can guide every distribution of keys without another board vote needed. This creates efficiency for both the leadership and church members in that each person should know what is required of them and the correct process for achieving their desired outcomes.

Further, a policy manual reduces the amount of decisions made at the leadership level because everyone can check the policy for how to handle situations that come up.

3. Job Descriptions

Many churches are lacking in providing good job descriptions. One church I served never even had a job description for their Lead Pastor – me. Good job descriptions give direction and hold people accountable. A good job description outlines the basic responsibilities that a person must meet to fulfill their role. This gives a board criteria to evaluate the individual’s efforts and keep them accountable to.

The latest job descriptions we were working through were for the Welcome Team at church. We established clear job descriptions for the Greeters, the Ushers, and the Coffee Crew. We even had one specific to the Head Usher who would captain the team on Sunday morning and cover a few extra responsibilities. Now, as we recruit people to these roles, each person will know exactly what we are asking of them.

Job descriptions need to include the job title, who the person will be responsible to and who will be responsible to them. It needs to list the qualifications for someone to step into this role as well as a list of responsibilities of the job. It is helpful to also determine a term, so everyone knows when this role is complete.

Job descriptions help identify and organize roles within an organization, which is valuable for ensuring everything that needs to be done.

4. Systems

This is something that many organizations, churches included, never even think of. It is helpful to have systems in place. These are basically a step-by-step instruction how to handle certain situations.

For example, a Welcome Team may have a system that guides them how to get contact information from new guests and how to pass that information on to the right people who will then follow up in some way.

The clearer the system is, the more likely it will be followed.

We all benefit when things become more organized. What documents have you found to be helpful for your organization or church?

I hope you have these documents in place. Let me know if you would like help developing these for your organization.

Keep looking up,

Andy Wiebe

8 Ideas to Keep Joy in Your Board Meetings!

Many pastors and church leaders see board meetings as a necessary evil. It’s a meeting that has to happen once a month, so I will just endure every boring moment of it and get back to the real things of leading a church or organization.

I’m on the other side of the equation. I like my job and am serving in my calling, and so I enjoy board meetings and look forward to meeting together with key decision makers as we guide our church to a better future. This is the one time a month that you get to interact with the people who help you make the best decisions and look after the big picture of the church or organization you lead.

Here are a few ideas I rely on to make board meetings times of joy.

  1. Have the right attitude.

Some of us are naturally more interested in meetings than others. It might help to remind us that this is the group of people most invested in us leading well and moving the church forward. This is a time to look at the big picture of the organization and people that God has called you to lead, and entrusted to your care. What a privilege and what a responsibility! Prepare for your board meeting with an attitude of expectancy, as you seek to hear from God together.

2. Plan it.

Do not show up to a board meeting, whether you are chairing it or participating in it, without preparing yourself to be aware and ready for what will be discussed and decided. If you are participating, review materials that have been provided in advance. If you are leading, make sure you create a clear agenda and distribute it to each participant. Think through, even pray through, the agenda. Identify what needs to be discussed at this meeting, and what could instead be addressed in an email or a one-on-one conversation. The agenda will also remind you of remaining items left from previous meetings and identify how the success of the meeting will be measured. I sometimes put a suggested time marker for each item so the rest of the board knows if we are on time or starting to spend too much time on a certain issue. With effective planning, the agenda can even include an end time.

Sometimes the joy is drained out of board members because meetings drag on and on with no clear idea of when you will be done.

3. Provide information in advance.

Make sure that all pertinent information is sent out to the board members at least a few days before the meeting. Be clear which items are for information only and what will be discussed. Send minutes, agenda, and reports to everyone so time isn’t wasted reviewing these during the meeting.

4. Personalize your meeting.

Take time to be personable. It’s okay to schedule time to catch up with people and laugh at a story together. Some leaders suggest having everyone share a highlight and something they have been struggling with. The business of a board meeting has to be about people, so make sure the people on the board know they are not just decision-making machines, but appreciated for who they are and what they contribute.

5. Focus on your vision.

When you meet, make sure that you allow your organization’s vision and values guide what you talk about.

It should be a rare occasion to spend time on issues outside of your vision. If your vision is compelling and you are seeing progress, then it will be exciting to talk about what is going well. If things are not going well, then take some time to pray and ask God to give you creative solutions how to move forward.

6. Celebrate what is going well.

Celebrate something every meeting! Celebrations help add joy. Do whatever you want. Get everyone up to do a “happy dance” or high five each other. Maybe you bring in a cake and balloons. At minimum, recognize the wins and celebrate what God has accomplished through your efforts. And before you move on, determine if there is anything that can be done to continue to build on those wins.

7. Prayerfully plan how to address what is not going well.

Often there are things in your church or organization that are not going well. As a board, you need to decide how to respond to those challenges. Ask God to help you determine if there needs to be some tweaking or a complete re-think. Sometimes a small change can make a big improvement. Sometimes it may mean personnel changes or adjustments to processes.

8. Always look ahead.

Your meeting should leave you excited about what is next. Your vision should continue to compel you to move ahead. I hope you can leave each meeting motivated and encouraged to keep going. Ask God to continue to give you clear direction as you move forward.

Joy comes from knowing you are doing what God has called you to, seeing God at work in what has gone well, and prayerfully anticipating what God will do next as you move ahead together!

I hope you have great joy in your board meetings.

Keep looking up,

Andy

Leading Well When the Unexpected Happens!

We think we have a lot more control on things than we really do. We plan and prepare, but there are many things out of our control. We cannot control the weather, so it is not really all that unexpected when a picnic gets rained out. We cannot control people so it should not surprise us that people do things we hoped they wouldn’t, or don’t do things we wish they would.

Parents have hopes for their children but children choose their own paths. Business owners have dreams for their business but sometimes the market has more influence on how well they do than anything they could prepare. You plan for a big event only to have a small crowd because there were other more interesting things to do.

Most people like to be optimistic. We have to be if we want to make plans or develop anything. We have to believe that things well go well and get better. Reality sometimes chips away at that optimism.

So, what can we do when the unexpected happens?

  1. Pray

Too often we think that we need to find our way through a situation. We have worked hard on a project and want it to go well, so when the unexpected happens we feel that we need to come up with the solution. Instead, we need to remember that God is greater than any problems we come across. And God is never surprised. When challenges surprise us, why not go to God with them?

God will help you through it. He may give you an answer to quickly figure out a solution. He may give you strength as you struggle to find answers and push your way through. But God wants to be part of our lives. And if we are dedicated to serving God, then all that we do in some way should help to build God’s kingdom. If that is our goal, then the God of that kingdom would probably want to help us find our way through.

Remember to Pray.

2. Manage your Responses

An emotional response to the unexpected is not unusual, but obviously not very helpful. If we respond in a negative way to something that surprised us in a negative way, we are only compounding the problem. That is not going to help save the situation or fix what went wrong. Unfortunately, this is my natural response when a car darts in front of me in traffic. Maybe some of you can relate?

If we have enough bad unexpected things happen, when we get to that tipping point or that final straw that breaks the camel’s back, some of us give up. Whatever we were trying to do may just seem like too big of a task if too many unexpected things interfere.

Often it is our emotions that drag us down. We need to find a way to manage our emotions and push on.

3. Determine to Persevere

Some of us are resilient and continue to push ahead, looking for ways to overcome unexpected challenges. While some give up, others find a way through. Don’t immediately let the unexpected stop you from what you were planning to do. If your pursuit is of any value to you, then determine to find your way through.

These first three actions quickly lead you to the fourth one.

4. Triage the Situation

Good leaders will learn to assess the situation quickly and prioritize the needed response. When you go to the Emergency Room at the hospital, you are first taken to triage, where they assess your level of need so they can make sure that the greatest need is served first.

When the unexpected happens, you need to be able to determine the correct response by assessing if the unexpected situation needs to be dealt with first before going on with your plans.

For example, if you are planning a wedding and the hall floods on the week of your special day, you need to determine if the flooding can be dealt with or a new hall needs to be booked. This may take priority for the moment while you put aside the planning of the rehearsal to deal with the unexpected. In the same way, when something unexpected comes up at work or in your personal life, assess the situation to determine where to focus your attention for the best result.

5. Plan the Solution

Once you have triaged to identify your priorities, use that list to guide you through to a resolution. Figure out who can deal with which part of the problem and who can continue to work on the original project. Maybe part of the solution is to shut down your project or event for now and figure out how to reschedule with more planning in the future.

6. Delegate or Recruit Help

The unexpected often means that your time and resources are disappearing more quickly than you had planned. Can you hand off some of the responsibilities either in addressing the unexpected challenges or in the original project? Find someone who can step in to help. Don’t feel that you have to be limited to your abilities or that of your present team.

7. Pray and Trust God to Intervene

Continue to pray throughout the process. If you are a Christian leader, you have access to the God of Heaven. Our creative, miracle-working God can help us when we feel completely overwhelmed. I like seeing where God steps in and does the unexpected. I was just reading in 2 Kings 3 where the kings of Judah, Israel, and Edom were facing an army of Moabites. They thought they were hopelessly defeated, but then God stepped in. Water ran into the valley and onto the plains. The morning sun made it look like blood.

But when they got up the next morning, the sun was shining across the water, making it appear red to the Moabites—like blood. “It’s blood!” the Moabites exclaimed. “The three armies must have attacked and killed each other! Let’s go, men of Moab, and collect the plunder!”

But when the Moabites arrived at the Israelite camp, the army of Israel rushed out and attacked them until they turned and ran. The army of Israel chased them into the land of Moab, destroying everything as they went. (2 Kings 3: 23-24)

God can do the unexpected. Leading well when the unexpected happens depends to a large extent on how much you depend on God.

Keep looking up,

Andy

How to Set Plans that Work

“The best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry,” goes the saying. I like dreaming and planning. I like looking ahead and doing strategic planning with churches. I get excited about the possibilities of what could happen if things worked out right. The problem is, many good plans do not bear the fruit we had hoped. So how can you set plans that will not fail?

“The best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry.”

John Steinbeck

In James 4:14-15 it says, “How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, ‘If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.’” 

James reminds his readers that no one knows what tomorrow brings. We can do all kinds of planning and scheming and base it all on good research, but in the end, no one knows what will really happen. There are always many unknowns that we cannot prepare for. We can do our best, and often plans work out, but not always. The only one who knows what tomorrow will bring is the Lord God.

God is not bound by time, so He knows what will happen tomorrow and the next day, and the next year. So as events happen, He is not surprised. Maybe we need to ask Him to help us make plans that match His for us.

In Jeremiah 1: 4-5, we read:

The Lord gave me this message:

“I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb.
    Before you were born I set you apart
    and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.”

God told Jeremiah that He knew him before he was born, even before he was conceived. That is quite the theological issue to work through at another time, but the point is that God knows us and has plans for us. He had a plan for Jeremiah. He appointed him to be a “prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah didn’t need a career counselor or an aptitude test of some kind to help him discover what he wanted to do with his life. God told him exactly what he should be “when he grew up.”

This morning I was reading in Psalm 138 when I came across a line in verse 8: “The Lord will work out his plans for my life.” The psalmist believes that God has a plan for his life. He trusts that to be true. I felt comforted as I read that verse. My life and my plans are not dependent on my own abilities or lack thereof. If King David is right, and I believe other scriptures agree, then God has a plan for MY life, and a plan for YOUR life.

I don’t think God has every detail of your life planned out in such a way that you need to be constantly afraid that you are making the wrong decision. I don’t think God was disappointed that I chose the Mexican Bean soup at lunch instead of the Butternut Squash soup. And honestly, I don’t know if there is one specific girl for each guy or if God leaves that up to us. What I do know is that God is intimately aware of who you are and who I am. He has plans for us as one person of humanity and plans unique to each of us as an individual.

God’s plan for all humans is that they would come to faith in Jesus and a relationship with God the Father through Him. God wants all people to join him in living in His kingdom here on earth. God desires for all people to join him in the afterlife, in His new kingdom. But I believe he also has plans unique to us. These plans are more like the plans of a coach for each individual player. He puts the player in goal who has been playing that position all his life and is best equipped and prepared for that role. He will probably put the fastest skater and best player on the first line, maybe even at centre. God knows each of us, after all, He created us. Like Jeremiah, God knew you and me before we were even born. He has observed us all our lives. He knows how we are equipped to handle situations we will face in life. And I believe that he has certain roles He wants us to be in.

If I want to make plans that will work out, I had better talk with God about those plans. Whatever the plans, we can talk to God about them as we make them. There is generally good value in involving others on our team in plans we make for organizations we are part of. We can benefit from the input of good friends. Yet the best input is to ask God to help you in the dreaming and planning. Ask Him to guide your thinking. Ask Him to help you get the best research and information to base your planning on. Ask Him to tell you what He wants done. After all, if God has plans for me, I will be better off doing what he has planned.

There are many different steps that experts could suggest as you desire to make plans that work, but if you believe in God, your first step needs to be to check in with Him. Sometimes it takes hard work and effort to accomplish meaningful plans. Again, God is the one who can help you persevere to the end.

You want to make plans that work? Then ask God to guide you in making your plans.

Keep looking up,

Andy Wiebe