Many ministry leaders miss the single most important factor for success (apart of course from the Holy Spirit). That one factor is the key to charting the right course, staying on that course and seeing everyone go in the same direction. Very simply it is clarity of who you are, where you are going and how you will get there.
The lack of clarity is one of the key reasons that otherwise good ministries stall out, plateau, suffer from multiple silos and disconnected programs and eventually move into decline. It happens to churches and ministries frequently.
My conviction is that the first job of any leader is to provide maximum clarity to those they lead about who they are, where they are going and how they will get there. The second job is to ensure that there is alignment around that clarity and the third job is to ensure that there are results that reflect that clarity. Specifically, there must be clarity on mission (why do we exist?), guiding principles (what are our non-negotiables?), central ministry focus (what do we need to be doing all the time?), and culture (what do we want to leave behind?).
That sounds easy but it is actually takes significant work to define these correctly. Define them right and you will get traction. Define them wrong and you may be chasing after the wrong things. Don't define them at all and you are just hoping that you get to where you want to go which you probably will since the destination is undefined!
Think about this. Without clarity:
-People will go in whatever direction they think they should go.
-You cannot hold people accountable for specific and objective results.
-There is no ministry wide alignment or focus because there is no clear definition.
-People will fill in their own definition of their own clarity leading to multiple visions, directions and silos. You will never have people on the same page!
-There is no unifying vision or common mission.
-You will not attract or retain the best people because they will not be content to give their energies to an undefined goal.
-You never know whether or when you have achieved success.
-Followers become disillusioned because they sense the fogginess of purpose which eventually leads to conflict.
-Someone other than the leader will step into the gap with their clarity and eventually undermine the leadership of the leader (who is not leading).
-You end up with an accidental culture rather than an intentional ministry culture.
Put in that light, the clarity issue clearly becomes critical.
What keeps leaders from getting to clarity for their team, church or organization? For some it is conflict avoidance as defining clarity is inevitably going to create robust dialogue and conflict as to what the clarity should be. For some it is a matter of focus. They are too focused on other things that they miss the main thing. For some it may be a lack of understanding how to get to clarity. (For those in this camp, take a look at my book, Leading From the Sandbox, chapters two, three and four that are all about getting to clarity).
In my role as an organizational leader I consider job one that of providing maximum clarity to those I lead and am the chief evangelist of that clarity. Why? Because I am convinced that the clarity we have around the four key questions of mission, non-negotiables, focus and culture are the very things that are going to get us to the greatest success. There are many things I could do but neglecting this one would cause the whole organization to suffer. On the other hand, the more focused we are on our clarity the greater our success will be.
Clarity is challenging but it is job one of any leader. Miss that responsibility and everything suffers. Get it right and everything else is enhanced.