Every church has them. It doesn’t matter how long your church has been around, how many people attend on an average weekend, or the number of people on full-time staff. You need to have projects to get things done.
Now, you might be thinking “what projects?”
Allow me to explain:
Does your church host any events (marriage retreats, back-to-school outreaches, special Easter activities, etc…)? These would be projects.
Do you use a church management system such as ACS, Fellowship One, Church Community Builder, or others? The process of selecting a system, setting it up, and training people to use it is a project.
Have you provided people with ways to give online? Deciding what online giving tools to use, setting it up, communicating how to use it, and establishing processes to record those transactions is a project.
Do you plan to rollout a new small groups program? Selecting small group leaders, setting up information about the groups on your church website, communicating information about the new groups to your congregation, and much more is all part of that rollout project.
A project is an effort with a definite beginning and end. Setting up new software, planning an event, and the other examples listed above are all efforts that have a specific start and finish date.
What’s unfortunate about these projects is that we don’t always run them as effectively and efficiently as we could.
- We have too many meetings – most of which don’t result in any decisions made or tasks assigned.
- There’s no one person responsible for the project, so no one really has a complete understanding of how the project is progressing or if we’re even on-track to meet our deadline.
- We may end up spending more money than necessary since we don’t have time allocated in a plan to evaluate different vendors to get the best price.
Projects aren’t unique to churches. Companies, government agencies, and non-profit organizations all have projects as well. After managing projects for companies and churches, I’ve identified seven key steps that can make your next project more successful and less stressful.
Step #1: Clarify the Vision
Before you invest time and money into a project, make sure your leadership team agrees on the reason for this particular project. Ask yourself and your team:
- Why are we hosting this event?
- Who are we trying to reach with this new ministry program?
- How does launching small groups support our church’s mission?
- What will a church management system help us do more effectively?
Also, consider why you need to do this project now. What’s the immediate need or goal that completing this project will fulfill?
A lack of clarity makes it more difficult to get decisions made. You’ll also have team members running in different directions each thinking they’re on the right path.
Clarify the vision, document it, and communicate it with the team.
Once your leadership team agrees on the vision for this project, assign a staff member to be the project manager. This role involves leading the steps below and coordinating the overall effort.
As Ryan Stigile with The Unstuck Group points out, not having someone driving execution is a major contributor to stalled church projects: “I believe that one of the most challenging aspects of ministry is the seven day turnaround. It’s difficult to execute long-term projects when worship services are the ongoing immediate priority. Every project needs someone who can hold people accountable to their action steps. It really helps when this person doesn’t have a large Sunday responsibility.”
Step #2: Develop the Plan
Every project needs a plan. This is simply a really long to-do list with tasks, due dates, dependencies (for example, you can’t setup the new church management software until after you’ve purchased one), and someone assigned to “own” each task.
To develop a plan, the project manager will meet with each staff member (and/or volunteer) who will be involved in this effort to determine what tasks are necessary. Some example questions to consider:
- What do we need to communicate to the congregation and when?
- Who will create a new page on the church website to promote small groups?
- Who will provide the content for that new page?
This is the most tedious step in leading a project because you’ll need to talk with several people and document all the tasks they mention in the plan.
However, this is also an extremely important step in the process. If you don’t take the time to document what tasks are needed and who will handle each, you’ll end up doing that work while you’re trying to complete all those tasks. It’s much easier to do the work on paper (and make adjustments to the plan) before trying to do the work in real life. After all, you wouldn’t want a contractor to start construction on your new house without detailed blue prints. The same concept applies here.
Step #3: Assemble the Team
This is where you hold a kickoff meeting with the project team. Discuss the vision and purpose behind this project so everyone knows why the effort is important. Review each person’s role on the team and go over the plan (at least at a high level).
Step #4: Execute the Plan
Here’s where all the exciting stuff happens as the team starts completing tasks to get to the finish line. If you took plenty of time to develop the plan, this step is much easier and less stressful.
Consider using a tool like Asana, Trello, or Basecamp to coordinate tasks from the plan with your team. Team members can update you on their progress and you can use these systems to remind them of their upcoming tasks.
Step #5: Monitor & Report Progress
You’ll want to receive regular updates from the team regarding their progress. Make sure your project manager creates a weekly project update for you. This should include an executive summary that shows whether the team is on-track or has run into any issues.
Here’s another benefit to having your project manager provide a weekly status report: This adds another element of accountability for the team. As Ron Edmondson states, “It is important, for some people more than others, that you ask questions along the way to make sure progress is being made.”
Step #6: Complete the Project
This is the fun part as you get to see all the planning and hard work bear fruit. This might be the day you launch a new small group program to your church, the rollout of a new church management system, or introducing online giving to the congregation. This day is the result of all the efforts you and your team have put into making this project a success.
Step #7: Lead Post-Project Activities
A project isn’t fully complete until you’ve finished this step. There are a few things you need to do to put a final stamp on any project.
- Celebrate the win – Bring in bagels and donuts, take the team out to lunch…do something to celebrate as a team! This is a time to share testimonies of lives impacted by the project and to thank the team for coming together to pull this off with excellence.
- Conduct a lessons learned meeting – Take an hour and ask the team two questions: What went well that we should do in future projects? What didn’t go well that we need to change going forward (and how)?
- Create a project notebook – Gather key materials from the project and save them in a shared network folder or somewhere you can reference in the future. Include the project plan, any vendor contracts, graphics and other marketing-type materials, etc. These are documents you can use for future projects instead of starting from a blank page every time.
Projects are part of leading and managing a church. When you take the time to clarify the vision, create a detailed plan, and have one person overseeing the effort, you’ll see a better result from each project you undertake.
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