I have spent the last 20 years of ministry as a Lead Pastor. Recently I took an Executive Pastor role helping a friend re-plant his church. This experience has given me some really great perspective on the relationship between a LP and an XP. I am learning a lot about what it takes to be a lead from the second position and while it has been a hard transition in many ways, in the long run I think it will make me a much better leader.
In my first post in this series, I looked at how an XP can help a LP decipher the difference between good and bad ideas. Once you have established that something is a good idea - it’s time to turn it into reality.
How does a good XP do that? I’ve got five steps that I want to share with you.
The first thing you have to do in order to execute the new idea is to make sure that it is crystal clear. It is not enough to say that we want to "grow our impact in the city" or "own a building" or "start a circus ministry". You have to be more specific than that. What kind of impact do you want to have? How will you measure that impact? Do you want to buy a building or have one given to you? Do you intend to pay cash or will you need to raise money? Will your circus have clowns?
In order to effectively execute the idea, you need to be crystal clear about what it is, how you'll get there and how you'll know when you have accomplished it. A good XP continually drives for clarity and specificity. You'll know you're close when the LP is about to fire you. That's a bit of an exaggeration but it's true that most LP's will want to keep things more general and open-ended. Don't let him. The clearer the vision is, the more likely it is to be accomplished.
Push for three things: 1) a clear and specific definition of what you are trying to accomplish, (2) a timeline for the expected end and (3) an objective way to know when it's done. I use a formula for goal setting that I picked up from The Four Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney. The best goals are written "From X to Y by Z.". As a simple goal this looks like "We will go from 10 to 20 small groups by December 31st." For something bigger and more nebulous it might look like this, "We will start a circus ministry that serves no less than 50 clowns and 5 lions by the end of 2022." You can expand even further but I wouldn’t go beyond 3-4 sentences.
One other thought. I'd recommend forcing your LP to tell you everything that matters to him. Do the clowns need to have funny shoes? Do you need a small car to transport them? Does a clown dog companion count as one of the 50? What are the things he’s thinking about but not saying? Often a visionary can see the vision in his head but sometimes cannot communicate it all clearly without some help.
Once a clear goal has been set and expectations have been communicated, you need to understand what resources it is going to take to get it done. Resources don’t just mean money, it means everything that it will take to get the vision accomplished. It means people, time, skills, commitment and, of course, money.
This step accomplishes two primary purposes. First, it allows you to honestly assess what you will need to get the vision done. Often we have a great idea but don’t actually have what it takes to pull it off. Figure this out on the front end. Second, if you don’t have all the resources, you will need to get them, and that will take time. Knowing what you need and some idea of how long it will take to get what you need will help you be prepared for the next step.
A good timeline won’t just tell you when your vision will be accomplished, it will tell you when every step along the way will be completed too. Work backwards from your goal date for the whole project and backwards map each month. Even if there isn’t a major milestone that you expect to happen in a given month, still put something down. A good timeline will keep you on track and give you shorter feedback loops if there are delays.
Once you have clarified the vision, have a clear understanding of what resources you’ll need to accomplish it and have backwards mapped a monthly timeline, get started. Sometimes getting started is the hardest part for a visionary. There are always more ideas to add or details to perfect, but a good XP will get the process started and moving forward, even if the plan evolves throughout the process.
Whatever you have slated for Month 1, do it. The task for the first month should be something simple and easy to accomplish, just to get the ball rolling. It could be as simple as “meet with all the small group leaders” or “find one bearded lady”. Just get going and you will find that the momentum will carry you along.
The last thing I want to recommend is that you circle back to your LP with updates on a regular basis. It’s likely that he won’t be involved in much of the execution phase but if you don’t give him regular updates, the whole project could easily slip out of his mind and out of favor. Visionaries can be a flighty bunch and there are always new ideas vying for resources and priority. By keeping the vision and the progress in front of him, you also ensure that the project continues to be a priority all the way to the end.
An Executive Pastor is such a critical part of a church leadership team and a great one can be the reason why a church goes from good to great. Using a process like this one to take an idea from vision to reality is the kind of value that an XP can bring and really transform a ministry.