ministry shark tankHave you ever watched the show Shark Tank? It’s about aspiring entrepreneurs making a pitch to successful start-up leaders: “Here’s my product or concept, here’s my business plan, now will you become an investor or strategic partner?”

What I particularly enjoy is listening for the strategic counsel the successful entrepreneurs have for people with start-up ideas. Often they begin with a good idea, but then start taking suggestions from customers: “You should offer different colors, you should add a buckle or a bow here, you should start this other product line as well.”

For the most part the ideas are good and well-intended, but sometimes you start so many different things and offer so many variations you’ve lost your core product and identity. The whole concept becomes fragmented and scattered because there are too many different inventory options. That’s what the more experienced entrepreneurs often have to stop to point out.

What are you seeking to accomplish?

I have found some interesting parallels to what I do in coaching and consulting. I ask, “What are you seeking to do?” Then new leaders go on to mention about fifteen different things. More often than not they’re all good things, but it’s unclear how they are aligned to accomplish the mission. It’s a shotgun approach—try enough things and hope something will hit the target. So I spend a lot of time trying to help ministry leaders focus their goals. What’s their main mission? What are the different parts of that mission? How does everything they’re considering doing contribute toward that mission? How are the different parts connected with one another?

Sometimes ministry leaders start out with a clear and focused mission, but then feel pressure to incorporate everyone else’s ideas as well. “We’re doing missional outreach and feeding the poor? How about we start a literacy center too? And we could offer job training? What about a secondhand store that could provide employment as well as revenue for the ministry?” Sure, all kinds of great initiatives are started this way. However, leaders who say yes to everything will soon lose sight of what they originally felt called to do.

Leaders who say yes to everything will soon lose sight of what they originally felt called to do. Click To Tweet

You are in good company

The problem of staying focused on the mission reminds me of a sign I saw once in The Henry Ford Museum. It described the reasons as to why the X-engine never went into production. Two of the four reasons where strategic management issues:

  • To many new ideas without time to develop them.
  • Lack of continuity and focus on the project.

I can certainly relate… as so can many of the young ministry leaders I work with. What are the few really important things which, if done with excellence, would really make a difference?


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