5 questions to frame your future
The best congregations don’t create members. They create disciples who are passionate about creating more disciples. In Peter Drucker’s book, The Five Most Important Questions, the author helps leaders focus on doing what matters most. These questions provide a foundation for assessing what you are doing, why you are doing it, and what you must do to improve an organization’s performance. It leads to clarity about what to say “yes” to and when to say “no.”
Here’s a summary of the questions which I slightly modified to fit a congregational setting:
- What is Our Mission? What is the reason for our existence? What is the current mission? Can our leaders and ministry partners recite it? What are the challenges or vexing problems we’re seeking to address? What are our opportunities? For many congregations, your mission may need to be revisited. The starting and ending point of all faith communities is changing lives. Effective mission statements are short and focused and often can be summed up in a tag line. They state why you do what you do, providing the emotional energy or motivation for people to contribute in meaningful ways. The core mission remains fixed while operating practices, processes, procedures, strategies and structures continually adapt in response to changing realities.
- Who are we seeking to serve? Is it just who comes to the congregation and participates in its ministries? Does it include the local community, and if so, how far away? Have you considered how the people you’re seeking to serve have changed in the last few decades? How well do you know the people you’re seeking to serve?
- What do the people we are seeking to serve value? What do we believe about what they value and how do we find out if what we believe is accurate? Think through what knowledge you need to gain and develop a process for deep and continuous listening. Make sure that the voice of the people you’re seeking to serve is part of your discussions and decisions, and guides what programs, ministries and services are provided.
- What are our results? How do we define results? What does the transformation we’re offering look like? What must we strengthen or abandon to get a better result? A congregation’s results are always measured in changed lives and changed conditions – in people’s behavior, circumstances, health, hopes, and capacities. Leaders should frequently ask, “Do we produce results that are sufficiently transformative for us to justify putting our resources in this area?” Need alone does not justify continuing. Nor does tradition. The results we’re seeking must support the fulfillment of the mission.
- What is our plan? What are our goals? To further the mission, there must be action today and specific aims for tomorrow. Planning is less about masterminding the future and more about defining the particular place the organization wants to be and how they intend to get there. Your congregation’s mission will change infrequently. Be married to your mission but not to the models and strategies that fulfill the mission. View ministry plans as working documents that should be updated on a regular basis. Planning is not a single event but rather a continuous process of strengthening what works and abandoning what does not, of making risk-taking decisions with the greatest knowledge of their potential effect, of setting objectives, appraising performance and results through systematic feedback, and making ongoing adjustments just as a sailboat makes constant course corrections.
Which of these five questions might your congregation need to focus on more intentionally? Which question do YOU need to pay attention to related your particular role in ministry?