3 Things You Didn’t Know About “Clarifying the Win”

raising-free-range-chickens-5A current commercial features a free-range chicken. “If you’re a free-range chicken,” the commercial states, “You roam. It’s what you do.” I could apply the same formula to group leaders and say, “If you are a group leader, you lead. It’s what you do.” In the absence of a clearly defined plan, a leader is going to step up and lead. It’s what they do. It comes to them naturally, just like roaming comes naturally to a free-range chicken.

Andy Stanley wrote about the topic of clarifying the win in his book Seven Practices of Effective Ministry. He made the point that leaders of Bible study groups want direction from their leaders at the church. In the absence of a clearly communicated plan, Bible study group leaders will simply define what “scoring” looks like, and they’ll lead their group to accomplish the goals necessary to have a “win.” Here is an excerpt from the book to help illustrate this:

The church should be more determined than any other organization to “clarify the win” simply because the stakes are so much higher. Eternity hangs in the balance. Clarifying the win simply means communicating to your team what is really important, what really matters. The best way to leverage the collective power of your team is to make sure that everyone knows what it means to “score.”

Nothing hinders morale more than when team members with separate agendas are pulling against one another. If the win is unclear, you may force those in leadership roles to define winning in their own terms. If you don’t define winning for your ministry leaders, they will define it for themselves.

It doesn’t take very long for leaders to take over a class, start a new program, begin an innovative ministry, and rally a crowd to follow them. They may only be ten degrees off track, but given enough time they will miss the target by miles. It’s not that they are intentionally being defiant or difficult, they’re just being leaders.

But countless leaders have innocently sabotaged their church by leading people in the wrong direction. And the fault lies with an organization that has not been systematic about defining and clarifying what a win really is.

If you are a pastor or staff leader, I hope that you are beginning to see the need to “clarify the win” for your group leaders. If you are not clearly communicating the goals you have for them to achieve, you may have a few of them obtaining the desired results – accidentally. The vast majority probably just frustrate you because they’ve gone down paths you didn’t set for them. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are 3 things I bet you didn’t know about clarifying the win, and why clarifying the win is a very good idea:

  1. “Clarifying the win” helps group leaders say no. As important as saying yes to some activities, it is just as important for a group leader to know when to say no to good opportunities that are outside the goals set for his group to accomplish. A group leader should know instantly if he should say yes to an opportunity because it aligns with the “win” his church leaders have established for Bible study groups.
  2. “Clarifying the win” helps you set a budget.  If your church has determined that a “win” is for people to be discipled, then it follows that somewhere in the church’s budget, dollars must be set aside for Bible study materials. If a “win” is for groups to regularly fellowship together, then someone on church staff should budget dollars for childcare so parents of younger children can participate in an evening of relationship-building. If the church leaders decide that having a trained teaching faculty is a “win,” then they will budget enough dollars to train their group leaders.
  3. “Clarifying the win” helps you evaluate and adjust. To help the group leaders at a church I once served as education pastor, we changed the name of our Sunday morning Bible study to “LIFE Groups.” To help clarify the win (define the expectations we had for groups – the “wins” we wanted them to accomplish) we turned the name LIFE into an acrostic. Each letter represented one of 4 major things we wanted every group to accomplish:

Learn and apply God’s Word

Invite others to become Christ-followers

Form authentic relationships

Engage in service to others

Can you see our emphasis on the “win” of Bible study? Yes! How about the “win” of evangelism? Of course! Did our people know they were to build relationships between themselves (including guests?). Absolutely. Could groups find the freedom to release group members to serve in ministries both inside the church and others aimed at people outside the church? Yes. Calling our Bible study groups “LIFE” Groups gave us an opportunity to clarify the win and tell our church the 4 “wins” we wanted groups to achieve. It was simple, memorable, and easy to recall and explain.

Consider helping your Bible study groups clarify the win. You’ll be glad you did.


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