Clarify the win – and win

In his book Seven Practices of Effective Ministry, Andy Stanley wrote about the importance of helping leaders “clarify the win.”   At one point in the book he wrote, “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 be only 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.” Like Stanley said, if we don’t clarify the win for group leaders (and members of our groups), they’ll decide what a “win” looks like themselves – and it may or may not be what we desire. And it may or may not be in line with the church’s mission-values-and strategies.

Here are three practical ways to “clarify the win” so you bring focus to your Bible study ministry:

  1. Decide what “winning” looks like. I led one church I served to transition from the name “Sunday School” to LIFE groups in order to clarify the win. I used each letter of the word “LIFE” in an acrostic that communicated the four things we wanted every group to accomplish. And it was successful. But we had to communicate what the “win” was, or groups would decide for themselves.
  2. Regularly communicate what “winning” looks like.  If you’re a staff leader, never meet with your group leaders without reinforcing the things that are the “wins” for your Bible teaching ministry.  As you send out emails or tweets, mention it there.  If you are a group leader like I am these days, insert those “wins” into conversations with members of your Bible study group. Keep repeating them until everyone knows them by heart.
  3. “Clarify the win” through a teacher covenant. A teacher covenant doesn’t have to be long in order to be effective.  A simple list of 4-7 items can bring clarity and unity to a church’s teaching ministry.  As new group leaders are recruited and existing ones are re-enlisted, ask them to agree to a leader covenant that clarifies the win.  Ask them to sign it, commit to it, and help them by reviewing the expectations several times a year to make sure they are staying on track.

In conclusion, Andy Stanley said, “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.”  I hope you’ll take the time to ask yourself if you’ve “clarified the win” for your group leaders, or the members of your Bible study group.  Do they know the essential, non-negotiable things they must accomplish?  Are you regularly reminding them of what a “win” looks like?  If not, now’s the time to get started!

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