How aligned or in sync is the team you lead or the team you are a part of? Many ministry teams look like the picture above with everyone doing their own thing or going in their own direction. Or, various teams going in different directions. While it may be convenient that way - one can do their own thing - it is not a prescription for maximum ministry impact.

Many ministry leaders believe that they are aligned if people have collegial relationships. It is alignment around relationship. One ministry leader I worked with believed that if only people prayed together, their hearts would come into alignment and therefor all would be well. It was alignment around spirituality. Many church staffs believe that alignment is about communication - making sure everyone else knows what each ministry is doing. Now collegial relationships, spiritual fellowship and communication are are great for a team but they are not the true basis of alignment.

In fact, the first two alignment strategies above, an emphasis on close relationship and fellowship, actually complicate true alignment because it takes the emphasis off of missional success and puts it on everyone feeling good about each other. Frank, honest, robust dialogue around missional issues rarely happens where the highest priority is that we are "best friends."

Real alignment means that the directional, value, and missional arrows are all pointed in one direction. That is, we operate by the same values or guiding principles, we are passionate about the same mission, we understand the central ministry focus of our organization and we are committed to the same outcomes. Very few ministry organizations can claim that kind of alignment but it is the key to maximizing our ministry's potential.

In order to get that kind of alignment it is first necessary to clarify the core principles by which one is going to operate, the mission one has and the outcomes one desires. Without clarity on those issues alignment is not really possible.

It is precisely because most ministries have not defined these that they end up trying to align around relationship, fellowship or communication. But these will not get the arrows all pointed in the right direction. It may give an illusion of alignment but it is not true alignment.

Once one has clarified what we call the "sides of our ministry sandbox" one can then ask every individual and each team to align themselves around those core commitments or in our terminology, play inside the same sandbox. The larger a ministry is the more critical it is that everyone is working off the same play sheet. The phrase in the book of Judges that "everyone did what was right in their own eyes," was not a commendation but a criticism.

If you were to ask the team you lead or the team you are a part of, "What really aligns us and keeps us in sync what would they say? You might want to ask the question. At best, lack of alignment causes leaks in ministry impact. At worst, it causes misunderstanding, lack of clarity and lack of objective ways to measure success.

If you need help in getting to alignment, the book, Leading from the Sandbox can help. It is all about how to build and maintain an aligned team or organization.
  • May 17, 2009
  • Category: News
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