4 Obsessions That Will Move Your Church Forward

Most leaders are readers and into leadership books. Full disclosure: I’m not a book guy, but I am obsessed with leading well and growing as a leader. Don’t get me wrong I love books. I just love multitasking more and have found it really hard to read a book while driving to work, mowing the grass or grilling some ribs.

I’m short on time, seemingly every week. Unfortunately the thing that gets sacrificed in my schedule is sitting in the quiet flipping pages while absorbing the content of a good book. I also know a whole lot of you are trying to add more hours to your week. That’s why we started the EDA Move Podcast. We want to help you live well, lead well and multiply and do it at your convenience.

While I don’t read a lot of leadership books, I absorb the audio versions of leadership books on a regular basis. The most influential and transformative leadership book I have listened to is The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni. This one book is responsible for creating clarity in my own leadership style which has resulted in a highly motivated and high functioning leadership team. My team is able to overcome all kinds of obstacles as we move forward and grow in healthy ways.

In his book, Lencioni lays out four disciplines that every executive leader should obsess over, even to the exclusion of all other things. In ministry, where there is an endless supply of distraction, narrowing our focus as leaders is difficult but extremely important. Focusing on organizational health, Patrick lays out the four obsessions (disciplines) as follows:  

  1. Be cohesive.
  2. Be clear.
  3. Over communicate.
  4. Reinforce.

The content of Lencioni’s book needs no alteration and yet as I thought about translating the content from the world of CEO’s into our world of church leadership, I made some adaptations to the four obsessions that benefit lead or senior pastors.  Here are my four obsessions as a Lead Pastor that will help leaders move their church forward to reach more people with the Gospel.

4 OBSESSIONS THAT WILL MOVE YOUR CHURCH FORWARD

1. VISION AND STRATEGY We all know how important vision is to an organization and especially to a church. Part of our role is to catch the vision God has for His church in our context and then communicate it to our leadership and church. You probably have preached a sermon or two on vision. We know it is important but it isn’t something we often obsess about.

We tend to think about vision, cast vision, put it in print, start to implement it and then leave it alone. One of the keys to leading a church through change is to cast vision over and over again. When vision becomes an obsession you never sit it on a shelf and then simply leave it there.  You are constantly seeking God’s direction and casting vision for the future. When you stop, the church stops.  

Casting vision is so important and so is the strategy you will use to implement that vision. You can have great vision, awesome content, and gifted leaders but if you never think through and implement a strategy for living out your vision, you will struggle to grow. Strategy is something that needs to be developed and then tweaked constantly to stay effective at reaching your intended mark. Don’t slap “Loving God, Loving People” on a sign and think you have your strategy. Culture is constantly shifting, your audience’s attention is constantly shifting and your strategy needs to have the flexibility to constantly shift as well.

Try utilizing one hour of your work week solely for the purpose of praying through, thinking through and tweaking vision and strategy.  

2. COHESION  Maybe one of the biggest challenges in Church staffing and leadership is the development of team cohesion. Team cohesion means you have a team of people functioning as one, moving your church toward the vision you have cast. In our context, we hire a coach for our staff just to help us develop deep levels of cohesion. But you don’t need a staff to develop a leadership team with cohesion. Lead your core group with vulnerability and courage as you work on building trust, fostering healthy conflict, building commitment and holding each other accountable for results. To get cohesion you have to lead well while being humble and vulnerable, but the payoff is a highly motivated team all working toward a shared vision and invested in the success of each other.  

Do you have a team? Who are your key leaders? Spend time each week connecting with them on an individual basis and spend an hour with them as a team every week working on problem solving and strategy together.

3. CONTENT

If you are the lead person in your ministry you need to obsess about content. By content I mean more than the content you are teaching on a Sunday morning. Consider these questions:

  • What is the standard for the music?
  • How do you know when special music isn’t special anymore?
  • What type of songs do you want to play to reach the audience you are trying to reach?
  • Do you have a quality standard?
  • How do current studies fit into your discipleship strategies for your church?
  • Are your teachers teaching content that is in line with the theology of your church in addition to fitting your church culture?
  • Are you reaching your target audience where they are while calling them deeper into the truth God has for them?

Content is so important and as a leader you are a gatekeeper for the content your ministries produce, teach and distribute. Don’t give your preaching a free pass. Spend an equal amount of time reviewing your sermon series ideas, sermon content and delivery to ensure that you aren’t preaching what you want to hear but instead are preaching what your audience desperately needs to hear.

Spend some time raising the bar for the content of your ministry. What are some standards you can set to raise the bar for your preaching content and delivery or the music played in your church on a Sunday morning?

4. CLARITY 

Clarity is the one obsession that will really help you bring everything else, including the other three obsessions, into focus. Having a clear understanding of what you are doing and why you are doing it will protect you from distractions and keep you moving forward efficiently. Clarity also helps you paint an understandable picture for your team that will help them implement with confidence.

Having a clear focus frees you from trying to be everything for everyone. Having a clear understanding of your audience helps you stay on target with your programing and ministries. Having clear communication and goals will inspire your team and leaders.

You have to fight for clarity in ministry. Sometimes this means waiting to act and seeking the Lord as you try to get a clear picture of your steps forward. Fighting for clarity may mean you don’t act as quickly as you used to on the front end of making decisions but it saves you a ton of time in the long run and will help you accomplish so much more in your ministry.

Take some time to think through what might be unclear in your church. Does everything have a clear why and how? Look for clarity of vision, strategy and communication, then make small steps toward being more clear and simple.

What books on leadership have you read that have had a big impact on your ministry?

Want a free copy of 4 Obsessions Of An Extraordinary Executive? Leave a rating and review of the EDA Move Podcast on iTunes (even if that’s not where you listen) and you’ll be entered to win! Extra entries if you share the podcast on social. Don’t forget to tag us. We will draw a winner on May 29th.

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Joshua Ott
Josh Ott is lead pastor at Grace Free Church in Cressona, PA. He is also a speaker, coach and creator of the The Speaking Course for Pastors, Speakers and Church Leaders.
Joshua Ott

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