Within many leadership teams, the concept of simplification is equated with the concept of “cutting”. [Cut programs. Cut classes. Cut ministries. Cut something.] With this understanding, simplification is often resisted, based on the fear that one’s activities might meet the axe. But the process of simplification does not have to begin with program cuts. And it probably shouldn’t!
The first step toward simplification is not reduction but alignment. Alignment utilizes the similarities among various activities to develop unity throughout an organization. It groups, categorizes, and combines activities to create fewer, more manageable, and more easily explained programs. With alignment, a church can maintain present activities (and prevent deadly resistance) while creating simplicity through unity, not reduction.
There are several benefits to alignment:
1. Greater clarity about your church’s purpose, values, and methods
2. The ability to center most of your programs around a strategy that makes sense to outsiders
3. Clearer next steps for individuals interested in getting involved
4. More effective promotions as many smaller programs are promoted together with greater emphasis
Consider the following methods for creating organizational alignment throughout your church:
1. Shared Calendar Cycles
Every ministry program follows an annual calendar cycle. The main attributes of each cycle are start date, end date, day of week, frequency (how often?), and duration (how long?). Programs with similar purposes can be set to the same cycle, allowing you to create momentum throughout the entire organization during the key points of that cycle. For example, some of your programs may have the same purpose but different start dates. Aligning their start dates allows you to pool their promotions and give greater emphasis to all of them.
2. Shared Branding
Churches have an odd habit of creating a new, flashy name for every ministry they begin. Replacing many varying program brands with universal branding that covers similar activities creates simplicity within the organization. It allows you to combine their promotional time, space, and funds, leveraging them together for the benefit of each individual program.
3. Universal Language
Too often individuals within the same organization say the same things in different ways. Identifying a few terms that everyone can use to describe the same things prevents confusion and creates simplicity.
4. Best Practices
Some programs may pursue the same objective but use very different methods to do so. And while there can be benefit to varying methods when developed strategically, often times there are one or two methods yielding noticeably better results. Identifying best practices can allow several programs to align around shared methods and similar formats.
5. Universal Connection System
Having multiple programs does not require multiple connection systems. If each of your programs utilizes a different email address, phone number, sign-up sheet, or meeting for connecting people, simplify these with a shared connection system. Develop a single pipeline through which anyone can get involved. For starters, identify one Sunday morning location and one webpage through which anyone can connect to anything.
Alignment allows an organization to create simplicity without eliminating current activities. Granted, very rarely does it eliminate the need for program cuts. And those must come in time. But it can help resistant individuals recognize some of the benefits of simplicity, reducing their future resistance to cuts that must be made.
Simplicity begins with alignment, not reduction.