Project management can be a point of weakness for churches.
It’s very easy to get passionate about ministry or a new opportunity to the point that logistics are overshadowed.
This is why the operational side of churches can easily crumble into a thousand incoherent pieces if someone sneezes the wrong way.
Here’s the good news:
This kind of organizational fragility can be easily prevented, healed, and mitigated when you implement the right principles for team leadership—specifically, project management principles that enable productivity and cultivate a healthy team culture.
More than that, your project management philosophy will become the de facto protocol around which your church organizes itself.
The protocol that your team and teams habitually use to create meetings, share information, and organize social networks within your organization directly correlate with the project management plan you implement to successfully resolve everything from incomplete tasks to major projects.
In this article, we’re going to breakdown those principles so that your church staff can easily apply them and begin reaping their benefits as soon as possible.
1. Designate a team leader to oversee the plan
Each project needs a team leader to take responsibility for everything in the project.
This doesn’t mean that the team leader does everything in the project.
But it does mean that every detail in the project has a fall person who knows that they are ultimately on the line for the success of the project—and if the metrics for measuring project success are unclear, then the team leader is responsible for clarifying them with church leadership.
All questions, delegations, clarifications, and operational details come back to the team leader.
By making this a consistent practice in your church management strategy, no detail will be left undelegated.
2. Pick a team of people who are best-suited to execute the core tasks of the project
The biggest error that senior leadership teams make is hiring the wrong people and assigning them the wrong tasks.
Most leaders don’t work with teams they’ve hired.
Employees are inherited.
Leadership culture is passed down.
Executives most often step into roles that have a heritage of expectations, practices, and boundaries.
Nevertheless, former culture should not impede the assignment of the right people for the right jobs.
This could result in assigning one person too many tasks.
This is actually an opportunity, not a problem.
If one person becomes the clear point-person for everything, because they are the only team member who can competently handle the tasks, then this indicates that it has come time for the organization to invest in professional development training.
Some people need to be trained on time management, productivity, task organization, psychological focus, emotional intelligence, and even their own strengths and weaknesses (with a program like StrengthFinder 2.0, for example).
The more information you have about your core employees, the better you are able to delegate—and where you cannot delegate, then to promote, demote, fire, hire, or train.
3. Codify the core purpose of the project in a mission statement
Each project should have a qualitative purpose for which it is established.
Think of each project in your church as ship setting sail from late-medieval Europe.
There is a christening, a breaking of a champagne bottle, and a speech given about the divine purpose of the expedition.
You don’t have to break a champagne bottle (especially if you’re a Baptist), but you can set aside 5 minutes during a church business meeting to officially codify the purpose of your project in the form of a mission statement.
Make this mission statement one sentence.
4. Clarify what are essential and non-essential project tasks to the accomplishment of the project’s core purpose
Clarifying what are the core tasks is essential, not only to completing the project, but for creating a clear chain of progress from start to finish.
More than that, it’s easy for employees and supervised team members to get distracted by tasks that don’t essentially advance the success or completion of the project unless they are shown by the team leader what are the core, essential tasks, and what are necessary but not mission critical.
5. Use a simple task management tool that is shareable, sends notifications, and is easy to navigate
Your team should all use the same task management tool to track the progress of the project.
In other words, your project should not be split across multiple task management tools.
Your team should regularly consult the single task management tool on which you are managing the project, and allow notifications from that task management software to send them emails, push notifications, and shareable task links.
The only alternative to this is organizational chaos in which the team doesn’t communicate about the progress of the project unless in a meeting, and couldn’t do so in an efficient way even if they wanted to.
6. Hold regular, predictable meetings to follow up on essential tasks
Follow-up meetings are essential to keeping momentum on a project.
Meetings get a bad reputation for being unnecessary.
The truth is that they are very necessary.
From the worker’s perspective, it’s easy to see a meeting as a distraction from the work that was assigned to them—and in that sense an impediment to the work they’re meeting about.
And yet, from the team leader’s perspective, the purpose of the meeting is to provide an accountability point at which the team member will be asked about his progress, and should that progress be insufficient, what are the reasons for the lag.
Without follow-up meetings, the team will all operate under an “I’ll be done when I’m done” protocol, which is simply unacceptable and unworkable, especially for larger projects with dozens—or hundreds—of interrelated and interdependent tasks.
Follow-up meetings ensure that the project as a whole is moving along synchronously at an acceptable pace.
7. Regularly follow up personally with each team member to ensure they are equipped with everything they need
You should communicate regularly with each team member so that they have a reference point for project communication.
An MIA team leader will ultimately allow the project to lapse into incompleteness.
Each project deserves a team leader who will be vigilant in creating and maintaining project momentum so that, task by task, completion is achieved through the careful and informed practice of delegation, accountability, and strategic problem solving.
One of the best ways to keep your ear to the ground about insurmountable obstacles, tasks stalled or stuck, and even overburdened or underperforming team members, is to personally check in.
8. Encourage your team by showing them the real impact their work has on the church
Keep a running list of all the ways your team’s work is making a real difference in your church.
People are motivated to work harder when they know that their work is producing a real good in the world, helping the church in serious way, or fulfilling a mission that they deeply believe in.
Make it easy for your team to make these connections so that they are motivated to complete tasks, and more than that, to proactively help other team members, work ahead, and take ownership or the completion of the project along with you.
9. Set all due dates before they really need to be done so that nothing is really late (even if it is late)
This is an important practice for your team.
Your team members should understand that the early due date is not artificially early, but right on time for being ahead.
Therefore, your philosophy should not be “We work ahead just in case.”
Your philosophy should be: “We are finished early so that we are never late.”
Therefore, missing an early deadline is still late to the goal of being early.
Your team should understand that this is your philosophy so that they don’t treat the practice of finishing early casually.
Finishing early is an organizational virtue that translates into a reputation for reliability and success across your entire institution.
10. As much as possible, streamline your project management protocol across teams to minimize unnecessary project-to-project retraining
Your organization should evaluate which protocols have worked best for each team, and implement this protocol for all future team projects.
Ideally, this will already be done. Your senior leadership team should have streamlined a uniform project management protocol that each team adapts.
Yet, many organizations have never done this and must therefore transition from a multi-system protocol to a single-system protocol.
Some teams won’t be happy with this, but the transition cost of moving to a single-protocol system will pay organizational dividends, even if certain teams must go through a stalling process during which they retrain and reformulate their team structure.
Over to you
Project management protocol is like the circulatory system of your church.
If you have a healthy circulatory system, all the parts of your church will get what they need.
The resources, information, and labor will reach the people and projects they are supposed to reach.
By attending to the health of your project management protocol, both at the team and organizational level, you attend to the vitality of your church as a whole, and enable it to function at an exponentially superior level than if you had not attended to it.
The payoff is simple:
More efficient use of resources, easier team collaboration, and higher team member motivation and ability to own and complete mission critical tasks.
Implement these 10 principles, and you will see this yield dividends both financially and culturally within your church staff.