“What you focus on expands”
I just read those words in a leadership book by Dr. TimElmore. He goes on to say, “If I tell you to focus on finding Toyota Camrys on the road, you will notice these cars everywhere. Why? Because what you focus on expands.”
How true is this statement for leaders! If we focus on people-pleasing or doing a multitude of tasks that pull our focus away from the vision of the organization we will ultimately find ourselves doing everything yet doing nothing at the same time. I must confess I struggle with this a lot. My personality is very people/event driven. I tend to want to sample the “flavor of the month” on a daily basis. I like change. I don’t want to be locked into something for too long. Now that kind of temperament has its strengths. For example, I tend to be very forward thinking and don’t get bogged down in routines too often. It has its weaknesses too. I find myself struggling to stick with tasks that I no longer find interesting. I have gauged that the average “shelf life” of a good idea in my mind is about 2-3 months. After that I’m ready to move on. My focus shifts and because I am the main leader of ForwardChurch.me inevitably the focus of our ministry shifts also. I have to discipline myself to “keep the main thing the main thing.”
Our main thing is bringing people to Jesus. In every event we want to constantly be bringing people to Jesus. Every worship service. Every small group. Every outreach. Everything we do has to revolve around bringing people to Jesus. We have to answer the question: How will this help us bring people to Jesus? If we can’t give a clearly defined, trackable answer to that question chances are the event in question will cloud our focus and pull us off the course of our vision as a church.
Here are a few things to help you keep your focus:
1) Keep the main thing the main thing. This is the heartbeat of your organization. The “Why” behind everything you do. Remember why you exist as an organization and steer every activity to that end. Fill in the remainder of this sentence: Our organization/ministry/family/group exists to _____________. When you answer that honestly then you have a healthy grid to funnel everything through. You may have to do some research if your organization has been around a long time, but it’s worth the work. Maybe your group has lost their reason for existence or God is reshaping you into a new thing – that’s fine just find the main thing and make it the main thing!
2) Clearly define what a “win” is. I can’t overstate how huge this is. I first heard this concept from Andy Stanley several years ago and it has helped me countless times. When you and your team clearly understand what success looks like for your organization you can tell if you are “winning” or not. Everyone knows that in baseball you score by rounding all the bases and coming home. It’s not ambiguous. The managers and umpires don’t “pray and hope that they get it.” It’s clearly defined. As a matter of fact, it’s so clearly defined that if you are reading this blog and have never even seen a baseball game I’m completely certain that you understand that to score you have to round the bases and come home! Many organizations, churches in particular, don’t have a clearly defined win so that people know if they are succeeding in the mission. At ForwardChurch.me our main thing is bringing people to Jesus. We clearly define a win by how many hands go up during the message when I ask people to give their hearts to Jesus. If hands go up, we have a win – if hands don’t go up we don’t have a win. That gives us time to celebrate and also time to stop and evaluate. We celebrate the win and we evaluate what stops us from having a win.
This is huge. Let me explain a little deeper what our process looks like. The win is the hands raised for salvation. In order to have a hand raised means that we have to have non-churched people in our building on Sunday mornings. In order to have non-churched people in our building on Sunday mornings we have to have an effective marketing system in place to introduce them to our church. In order to have an effective marketing system in place we have to know what works in our area. We also place a huge emphasis on inviting non-churched friends to ForwardChurch.me so if no one is inviting people (bringing people to Jesus) we must evaluate why. So you can see that since we have clearly defined a “win” as a hand raised to ask Jesus into their heart we now have a framework to see if we are focused or not. It’s so much more than just “having church.” We can now trace the results and see what is working and what is not so that we can stay focused on our mission.
3) Be prepared to say “no.” This is a tough one for many people. Chances are there are a handful of people in your organization that always have a “good idea” or “something we should get involved with.” They are well-meaning people and genuinely want to see the organization or church bearing fruit on many different trees. Unfortunately what many people don’t see is that everything you do as an organization will cost you precious momentum. As a leader you only have so much organizational momentum at your fingertips so use it wisely. Simply put, you can’t do everything and you will have to say “no” more often than you say “yes.”
I recently had dinner with a ministry leader friend of mine who serves as a campus pastor for a large multi-site church. He was sharing with me how in one of their campuses he has to constantly tell people “no.” People constantly bring ideas to the table that are outside of the parameters of the vision of the church so he has to be the bearer of bad news and constantly say “no.” He jokingly said that he can’t wait to be able to say “yes” to an idea that lines up with the vision of the church!
That’s how leading a ministry is. 24/7. People will always have ideas and you must be prepared to say “no.” Take the time to emotionally prepare yourself for that. It’s not easy having to look at people and say “no.” It’s not easy to have to constantly guard the vision of the church while at the same time empowering people to be creative and lead. And quite frankly, some people will accuse you of not loving them or of being controlling when you tell them “no.” You must be prepared to whether the emotional storms that come with keeping the vision focused. I remind myself all the time that the pain of saying “no” to the wrong things is far better than the pain of being ineffective at accomplishing our vision. I love how Craig Groeschel puts it, “We need to have tough skin and a soft heart.” In regards to saying “no” to people – amen!!
Those are just a handful of things that will help keep you and your organization focused on your mission. There are plenty more tips and principles out there to help. What would you add to the list???