Start With Why, by Simon Sinek, should be required reading for pastors and church leaders.

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Though the book is aimed at business leaders, the applications for pastors have long-term ramifications. He starts by addressing some of the tactics many people use: Price, Promotions, Fear, Aspirations, Peer Pressure, Novelty.

“When companies or organizations do not have a clear sense of why their customers are their customers, they tend to rely on a disproportionate number of manipulations to get what they need. And for good reason. Manipulations work.”

But these types of manipulations lead to transactions, not loyalty.

For pastors and church leaders, without a clear sense of why, we can default to outreach tactics to get people in the door and grow the church.  But these rarely lead to healthy growth in the long term.

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Sinek offers a better alternative.  He calls it the Golden Circle.

The Golden Circle

golden-circleWHAT – Every single organization on the planet knows WHAT they do.

HOW – Some companies and people know HOW they do what they do.

WHY – Very few people or companies can clearly articulate WHY they do what they do.

When you look at your church, the WHAT are your ministries and programs.  It’s easy to look at what other churches are doing here and it’s easy to copy them.  You might even have too many programs or ministries, resulting in a busy church that lacks focus.

The HOW gets to your strategy.  Fewer churches have a clear strategy that help them go where they want to go.

And the WHY is your deep sense of mission or purpose.  It’s the God-given reason your church exists worded in a memorable way that connects with your community.

Sinek writes, “If you fail to communicate a why, you force customers to make decisions only with empirical evidence.”  This is another powerful principle for pastors wrestle with, because people in your community are making decisions about church.  You don’t want them to church shop or church hop, but that’s what they will do if the ministry is built on programs and ministries alone.

To truly reach people at the heart level and build a tribe, you’ve got to build around the WHY.

Finding Your Why is Key to Building Culture

“Don’t hire for skills. Hire for attitude and you can always teach skills.” – Herb Kelleher.

Great organizations don’t hire skilled people and motivate them. They hire already motivated people and inspire them.  When you look at your team, getting unity around your WHY is absolutely key to team unity and focused mission in the church.

Misalignment over core issues are far more toxic than personality conflicts with the church staff.  Make sure everyone is on the same page, starting with the purpose of the church.

Knowing Your Why is the Key to Releasing Leaders

“Average companies give their people something to work on. Great leaders give people something to work toward,” writes Sinek.

We’ve seen this to be true in churches.  Too many pastors are micro-managers, believing they are the sole champion of the vision and employing the genius with a thousand helpers strategy.  That doesn’t work.

When you have a strong why and a unified team, you can release leaders to actually lead ministry in your church.

Knowing Your Why is the Key to Creating a Plan

Wow people need how people.  Sinek gives two examples of this in the book:

Dr. King had a dream but nothing would have been accomplished without a plan. It was the millions of people and an organization that pushed through legislation that led to lasting change.  The visionary was crucial, but the ground game was also necessary.

Walt Disney said he never knew what was in the bank, choosing to focus on the future. It was Roy who founded the distribution company, build the merchandising business and executed the plans.

The CEO of an organization must personify the WHY.  “With a WHY clearly stated in an organization, anyone within the organization can make a decision as clearly and as accurately as the founder,” he writes.  Imagine everyone in your church being able to make pastoral decisions just like you.  That can happen when your church has a strong why.

“The reason so many [organizations] fail is because passion alone can’t cut it. For passion to survive, it needs structure.”  Let that thought simmer.

If you want to take your structure, systems, and processes to the next level, check out The Systems Course.  It’s a 7-month, online, insanely practical course to help you create healthy systems in seven key areas.  You’ll get coaching, resources and accountability to help you take action.

Finding Your Why isn’t the Same as Focusing on Your Why

Gaining clarity of WHY, ironically, is not the hard part. It is the discipline to trust one’s gut, to stay true to one’s purpose, cause or beliefs.

This is where pastors have to be careful about pursuing opportunities that don’t fit with their ultimate mission.  A good opportunity isn’t a good enough reason to change the strategy.

The business world is littered with companies who tried to seize too many market opportunities that were not consistent with their why.  The result, more often than not, is failure.

If any of these ideas resonate with you, here are two action steps you can take.

First, order a copy of Start with Why.  Read and discuss it with your team.  Secondly, watch Simon Sinek’s TED talk on the same topic.