Don't Ignore the Ops
Why did you get into ministry leadership?
Was it to process 501 (c) (3) paperwork? Maybe create budgets? Build organizational charts? Fix broken computers?
Yeah, probably not.
In fact, when you considered getting into ministry leadership, these things probably didn’t enter your mind. You didn’t study accounting, HR or IT. But while operational issues aren’t the most compelling reason to be a leader, paying attention to operations is essential for any great leader.
Operations are like the oil to the ministry engine. Without effective operations, the ministry engine is not going to run well and eventually poor operations will burn a ministry engine up.
That’s why it’s critical for us as leaders to value the operational needs of our organization.
Operational issues don’t get me up in the morning but they will keep me up at night.
While you’ll probably never be an expert on operations, here are some things that you can do to make sure operations are properly supported.
- Invest in qualified staff. It’s tempting to put off hiring operational roles when there are pressing ministry needs, however good operations staff will save you a lot of time, money and headaches in the long run.
- Reinforce operational systems. Most of your staff are not going to be excited about filling out the proper paperwork for a check request or creating their annual budget, but as the leader you must reinforce the value of these processes. The easiest way to reinforce it, is to model it. Meet deadlines and turn in the proper paperwork. Don’t expect to be given exceptions because you’re the leader. What you value, others will value too.
- Keep your nose in it. Even though you hire qualified people who understand it better than you, don’t allow yourself to become too disconnected. I personally sign every check that our accounting team processes. This takes a couple of hours of my week but it helps me see in real time how we’re spending our ministry dollars.
- Meet regularly with your operations staff. Create a regular meeting time to check in with this team to hear their needs, frustrations or concerns. By creating time for them, you convey the value of operations to the overall ministry needs. It will also create an opportunity for you to hear of concerns before they become crisis.
- Don’t underestimate the value of your Board. Enlist a Board of Directors with proven competency in operational issues and fiduciary responsibility. Be accountable to this team and heed their advice.
Ministry leadership is a great honor and privilege. While operational issues will rarely be the motivator to get you up in the morning, poor operations will be the thing that keep you up at night. Too many ministries have floundered because a leader took their eye off of this important element of leadership.