Archives For Deborah Wipf

BlueprintHave you ever visited a construction site before the walls are finished and the dry wall is put into place?  If so, you’ve probably noticed the myriad of wires and pipes woven into the hidden recesses of the building.  These items provide ventilation, internet connectivity, plumbing, security system monitoring, and much more.

We don’t think about those items in the buildings we work and worship in until they aren’t functioning properly.  In a similar fashion, the management side of ministry isn’t often noticed unless it’s not working well.  For example, as a congregation grows, a system that used to be effective may now be insufficient.  Just think about trying to use the same A/C unit from your home in the church building – that’s definitely not going to keep the place cool.

Are your current systems and processes effectively supporting your congregation and church leadership? If so, are they also scalable to support a growing congregation? If you couldn’t answer “yes” to both questions, consider using the following process with your team:

First, evaluate the following management areas:

  • Financial Processes & Controls
  • Volunteer management
  • HR processes including hiring and staff development
  • Policies & procedures – safety / security,…

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Schedule

I’ve been running with a very full schedule of self-imposed deadlines for the past month and it caught up with me.  I knew going into it that I was setting myself up for a busier than normal season.  I thought it was reasonable since; after all, it was only for a season.  I convinced myself that it was doable and necessary.  When work slowed down a bit over the holidays, I realized how completely exhausted I was and that something had to change.

Have you ever been there?  You overcommit yourself all the while convinced that it’s just for a season and completely necessary.  I’m a huge advocate for taking care of yourself, not working long hours (at least not often), and spending time with loved ones.  Unfortunately, it’s easy to justify to ourselves that these “seasons” are mandatory.  According to whom?!

I’m convinced that the vast majority of the time, we’re the ones who’ve decided that overbooking ourselves is mandatory.  Not our boss, not someone else’s expectations, but our own.  Fortunately, there’s hope.  You can take back control of your schedule and get to a more realistic set of commitments.

Here are 5…

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FrustratedI’ve seen the “make it happen” mindset in-action countless times in ministry.  Staff and volunteers scramble to pull off an event or launch a new program and they manage to make it happen.

What most people in the congregation don’t see, however, is the fallout.  Staff members are exhausted and frustrated with each other. Families were neglected and volunteers became disillusioned.

Do I sound a bit frustrated?

Well, that’s because I’ve been in this situation.  I’ve heard the idea, been excited about seeing it in action, and then become discouraged at the chaos that ensued.

I’m all for working hard and making sacrifices – laziness isn’t the issue here.  However, what I can’t stand is seeing unnecessary long hours, rework, and staff neglecting their health and relationships.  I don’t think that honors God or sends the right message to a congregation.

This is why I talk a lot about planning.

I’ve worked until the wee hours of the morning, slept for a few hours, and then headed back into the office.  I’ve had to take a walk and pray before talking to a colleague I was so upset (hey, lack of sleep will make anyone cranky).  Looking…

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We’re all familiar with the 10 Commandments, so I thought I’d have some fun and create a version for leading church volunteers.

I also have a set for how to be an all-star volunteer.  Stay tuned for that one later this week.

Check these out for happy and faithful volunteers:

  1. Thou shalt plan ahead and ask volunteers to sign up early for special events
  2. Thou shalt have all supplies and equipment ready for church beautification projects
  3. Thou shalt not change instructions at the last minute (at least not often!)
  4. Thou shalt train all volunteers and provide clear expectations
  5. Thou shalt run background checks on anyone applying to serve with children under 18
  6. Thou shalt not announce a significant change and expect volunteers to implement it that very moment
  7. Thou shalt be well-known for appreciating your volunteers and having fun
  8. Thou shalt cultivate leaders on your volunteer teams so you can delegate responsibility to them and not try to do everything yourself
  9. Thou shalt provide documentation including detailed descriptions of what success looks like for each volunteer role
  10. Thou shalt communicate a compelling vision for why people should volunteer and how they too will benefit from the…

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Church Is Too BusyReaching people for Christ is our main mission in ministry and most churches use a variety of methods to attract a diverse audience.  That makes sense and yet if we’re not careful, this can lead to a scattered approach that drains your people and church finances. Then once a program or event is in-place, it becomes part of the routine regardless of whether it attracts people or produces the desired results.

From a lack of defining goals, to not measuring effectiveness, or just plain not wanting to rock the boat, we can quickly fall into the trap of mistaking abundant activity for actual fruit.

Here are a few ways to tell if your church is too busy – and how to combat the problem.

Sign #1: The church event calendar is packed solid.

A full schedule of events isn’t sustainable for your staff, volunteers or congregation.  Even God took a day off to rest and He didn’t really need to (I’m inclined to think He was trying to make a point).

If your team can’t remember why you’re doing a certain event, ask some pointed questions to help you decide if that event should continue:

How Introverts Can ThriveHave you ever stood in the back of a crowded room to take a break from talking to people?  Did you have an overpowering urge to turn down that party invitation to stay home and read a book?  Does not talking for several hours at a time sound perfectly normal to you?  Me too!  As a fellow introvert, allow me to reassure you that you’re not weird or antisocial.  Solitude and quiet enable us to recharge so we can go back out into this extroverted world with some energy left in our emotional and physical tanks.

There’s been a lot of talk about introverts lately, yet it’s only fitting that most of the “conversation” has been via articles instead of actual dialog.  Susan Cain broke the ice with her TED Talk and book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.  Donald Miller wrote about having a “people hangover”.  Justin Lathrop discussed the challenges of being an introverted pastor.  These are just a few examples of excellent material about introverts that have been refreshing to see.

An introvert myself, I am reenergized by solitude.  I love being around friends…

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Wondering why your volunteers aren’t quite doing what you need them to do?  Do they arrive late or unprepared?  The issue may not be a lack of enthusiasm or commitment – it may just be that they don’t really know what you need. Better communication just might be the key to unlocking your volunteers’ potential.

Key #1: Communicate early

Don’t wait until the day before an event to ask someone to help.  Make the request at least two weeks before you need them to do anything – including attending a volunteer training session or meeting.

Key #2: Communicate often

You don’t need to bombard volunteers with emails and text messages every day.  However, you do need to keep them informed and up-to-date.

A weekly email with special announcements, changes in your organization, or details on the next volunteer opportunity would be a great place to start.

Key #3: Consider your audience

It’s easy to make assumptions, skim over details, and forget that we have a diverse audience.  Some of your volunteers have been around for years and “get” what you’re saying.  However, the newer folks may be mystified and wonder what you’re talking about.  Don’t use acronyms or…

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iStock_000018764690Small-300x268In my last post, I raised the idea that the behind-the-scenes processes can either propel or derail the vision of your organization.  In the next few posts, I’d like to expand on that by addressing certain back-office functions and how each specifically supports your vision.

In the spotlight this week is the lonely accounting / finance department.  I say lonely because no one really likes visiting these folks (sorry, but you know it’s true!).  They hold the purse strings, ask lots of questions and sometimes tell you “no.”  I used to work in a non-profit’s accounting office, so I know of which I speak!  Your accounting personnel love your organization just as much as the front-line folks.  They just show their commitment in different ways – here are a few examples:

  • Budgeting: They’ll advocate for developing a budget for the upcoming year by department.  This supports the vision by getting your team to plan ahead, prioritize expenditures, and helps them ensure that the money will be there when you need it for that big event or new program.
  • Purchasing: They may push back on a purchase request because certain financial controls weren’t followed…

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They aren’t glamorous, exciting or even all that interesting most of the time.  They can be frustrating, mundane and usually hide in the background not seen by many…until they are broken, disjointed and creating problems. These are not front-line aspects of any non-profit and can be easily dismissed for what seem like higher priorities.  However, if ignored, they can stunt the potential of even the most visionary non-profit leader, or worse, completely derail the vision.

So, what am I referring to?  I’m talking about the behind-the-scenes processes such as accounting, budgeting, hiring practices, HR policies, communication, and planning. Financial mismanagement or fraud, hiring people who aren’t qualified (or keeping on those who aren’t performing), poor communication, and a lack of planning can all have serious consequences. And the sad truth is they are usually preventable.  While these may not seem mission-critical, the following items are examples of tools used to protect and advance an organization’s vision:

  1. Documented and disciplined financial controls – These protect your team from even the appearance of wrongdoing, your organization from theft, and your reputation with donors.  This includes, but is not limited to, multiple…

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This time of year, most non-profits are in overdrive providing meals, toys, shelter and support for the holiday season.  You’re swamped and stretched pretty thin, so planning for the upcoming year may not be your top priority.  However, January will be here before you know it and you’ll want to start off the year ahead of things, right?  You could, and may need to, conduct a strategy session to really think through the direction you want to take your organization next year.  That’s a topic for another post.  However, if you’ve already had that session or already have your goals set for the year I recommend that you start things off by creating a central calendar for your team.

Here’s what needs to be on the calendar:

  • Events – Any event you’re planning to conduct such as fundraisers, celebrations, volunteer appreciation nights, etc.
  • Maintenance projects – These are the mundane items that we tend to put off until there’s an emergency.  Examples include building maintenance, hardware / software upgrades, equipment safety checks, etc.
  • Communications – If you send out newsletters (either via email or snail…

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