In my last post I wrote about my mental shift from just measuring outcomes to focusing more on inputs. You can read that post here. But this time I want to share some practical ideas for making that shift in focus a reality.
How To Focus More On Input Numbers In Ministry
1) Celebrate inputs as much as outcomes. Make a big deal about staff members who have healthy devotional lives and take appropriate time off. Praise individuals for inviting their neighbors to church. Raise the roof when volunteers show up early. A good leadership maxim says, “What gets rewarded gets repeated.” So maybe it would be healthy for your church to stop celebrating outcomes for a season and only celebrate incomes. This would certainly go a long way in shaping the way we think as leaders.
2) Ask the right questions. In order for inputs to become an emphasis in our churches, we must shift our thinking from outcome-oriented questions to input-oriented ones. All-too-often we get stuck in a rut asking the same old kinds of questions. Let’s begin breaking that habit now by comparing the outcome-oriented questions on the left to the input-oriented questions on the right below.
How many people attend your church?
How many small groups does your church want to start this fall?
How many students came to the youth group Sunday?
How many children came to VBS?
How many volunteers showed up last weekend?
How many of your church members invite guests to your church?
How many of your church’s groups currently have an apprentice leader?
How many adult volunteers contacted teenagers last week?
How many VBS signs did our parishioners put in their yards?
How many times did we adequately cast vision reminding our volunteers why they serve?
One of the most important tasks we undertake as leaders is asking the right questions. Why? Because asking the right questions leads us to the right answers. Finding answers is not enough. We must find the right answers. If we find answers, but they are the wrong answers, we will not be able to lead effectively. Success, therefore does not automatically follow from outcome-oriented questions. Rather, success follows input-oriented questions.
Practical Examples In Small Group Ministry
A good exercise for us now is to consider what this might look like in a specific area of ministry. Let’s use a church’s small group ministry as an example. What are some inputs you would consider important for small group ministry? In reality, your answer depends greatly on your own church’s philosophy and model of small group ministry. But here are a few ideas to get you going:
1) Grooming Future Leaders. The outcome of future numerical growth in your small group ministry is dependent on the behavior of your current preparedness for that growth. Developing future leaders now is the best way to insure more groups later. Do your groups have apprentice leaders? Do you have a leadership development plan or a small group coaching strategy?
2) Appropriate Self/Soul Care. Leader burnout is one of the worst outcomes, but it is preventable. You do this by promoting spiritual, mental and physical health among your small group leaders. Are you active in your own daily devotional time with Christ? Do you take appropriate time off and vacations? Do you maintain a healthy lifestyle? If your answer to these questions is “no” you need to get your own self/soul care in line first! You can’t lead others where you have never been.
3) Vision From The Pastor. One of the most valuable inputs that produces great results is 100% buy-in from your church’s pastor. How often are you asking your pastor to incorporate small group stories in his/her weekly messages? Are you encouraging your pastor to share the church’s vision for small groups and discipleship from the stage? What are you doing to help your pastor present a compelling group vision to the church? If you’re a senior pastor reading this article, what are you doing regularly to prop up the vision for small groups and promote participation in small groups? As a senior pastor myself, I believe there is no other better input for small group ministry than the senior pastor’s total support.
What would you add? What practical examples can you give from other ministry areas?
Although I’ve promoted the importance of inputs, outcomes are still vital, so my next post will shift back to outcome measurements in ministry.