My voice came out louder than intended: "How hard can it be to plant a couple of rows of stupid flowers?" I sheepishly looked around our little church kitchen to see if anybody had slipped in unannounced, as I complained to my wife.

Standing there, I felt like Andy Taylor, small town sheriff, pouring out his problems to Helen Crump, the only competent person in town—besides Andy of course—and the only one capable of understanding the mangy menagerie Andy had to put up with.

My Miss Crump cocked her head to one side, listened carefully before responding, allowing me to blow off some small church (or perhaps small pastor) steam. When she spoke, though, schoolteacher Helen's words were filled with compassionate wisdom: "Sounds like an opportunity to grow some leaders."

Looking just like Andy, I shook my head from side to side, kicked an imaginary pebble, muttered, "I don't know." I was working hard not to admit that she was right. Again.

"But for Pete's sake," I countered, "I've got Barney Fife for a buildings and grounds director!"

"Well then," she smiled, "your mission is to help 'old Barn' do the best job he can, even if he does only have one bullet."

No more six-shooter jobs

My wife should have been a sniper for the SCHWAT team (that's Small Church Health, Welfare and Training) because she hit the target dead center.

I had read the leader training books, and I should have known better. But I failed to recognize that I was expecting single-bullet people to perform six-shooter tasks.

I started working on helping the one-bullet folks shoot as straight as possible, but at only one target. I tried to help them find one task they could do well, and worked hard to remove any guilt they experienced for not being involved in more than that one area. Working with other leaders, we developed a long-term objective: "Each member doing one ministry well."

That meant redefining existing job descriptions and creating several smaller jobs for future members. For example, our church council adopted a new roster for the building and grounds ministry that listed fourteen separate, carefully defined, one-bullet jobs. Before then, the job description was one gigantic list of responsibilities that would have been difficult even for a six-bullet leader to handle.

As we began the process, we asked, "What hasn't been getting done?" By simply walking around the building, answering that question, we found five one-bullet jobs that had simply been left undone because no single individual was responsible for that area.

So now it's the responsibility of one person, for instance, to make sure all the light bulbs in the building are burning. Since that one-bullet task has been assigned to someone who takes that job seriously, bulbs are replaced quickly. It might sound like a silly job, but every time I had seen a bulb out, sometimes for two or three weeks, I would mutter, "Looks like if you want to get something done around here, you have to do it yourself," and I'd change the bulb. Not any more.

When we finished our list of more than a dozen smaller tasks, I stood back and scratched my head. "Who woulda guessed?" I was surprised how many one-bullet jobs it takes just to operate the building and grounds of our small church.

"See it, do it, teach it"

I worked with existing leaders to develop a training day for all the leaders in each ministry department. The first department we tackled was building and grounds, since that was our weakest link.

At our training day, we used a "See it, do it, teach it," format. Each person watched his task being performed properly. Then they each were asked to duplicate that performance. After that, they were asked to teach the task to someone else in the group. We reasoned, "If you can teach it to someone else, you've got it for life."

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Summer 2003: Emerging Leaders  | Posted
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