by Greg Curtis: Do you ever feel that you are not being heard by your senior leadership as you work in the trenches?
Being a Sherpa who is leading people toward a summit of some kind can be exhausting, especially if you see the need for necessary changes and those above you don’t seem to hear you or see what’s happening. As someone who gets the honor of working with some of the most awesome leaders in churches of all stripes, some definite patterns are beginning to emerge. One of the most common questions I get, especially from younger leaders, is this: “How can I sell this or that to our pastor, exec team, board, or boss?” This or that is some necessary “thing” that you have been trying to get a key leader(s) to notice that would help your church go the next level in some area and provide a better experience for guests.
I recently got off the phone with a young leader at another church close by ours who was asking this same question. He was asking me how he could convince his senior pastor that announcements needed to be handled differently in their service. What he was essentially asking me was, “How can I lead up?” I jotted down 4 things I told him over the phone that day on a napkin so I could share them here with you. They are followed by 3 free resources that you may find valuable for such a time as this.
Here are the 4 things to keep in mind when you need to get the attention and support of someone in leadership at your church:
Pick your WINs strategically
W.I.N. stands for “What’s Important Now”. It’s both refreshing and critical to remember that not everything that concerns us is actually important. It is even more vital to remember that not everything that is actually important, is important NOW. Those who lead you have a finite amount of energy for what concerns you, so your WIN has to pass these 3 tests (in order) before you ask:
1st-Out of all the things I could ask for, Will this particular WIN make the biggest impact?
2nd-Will those I ask be likely to say yes if I can articulate the need and benefits of this WIN?
3rd-Will the results of this WIN be measurable in 1 to 3 months?
I would suggest asking God what the greatest kingdom WIN would be. What’s important to Him now? If you know you will only be in this ministry for a season, consider asking for one big WIN each year you are there, while asking yourself, “Will the results of this WIN outlast me when I’m gone?”
Be specific with your ask
Some people just present a need and think it’s an ask. Others share what needs to be fixed and think that is an ask. Your ask has to be something that can easily be responded to with a “yes” or a “no”. Having a clear What, Who, When, Where and How when you ask is optimal. “We need to do this or that” is not an ask. Saying, “What if we did X or tried this out” is an idea, not an ask. Think a proposal. If it doesn’t seem grand enough to form a proposal, your ask is not big enough.
Tie your ask into the vision and desires of the leader you are approaching
Your team leader has a vision and desire for your church’s ministry. The degree to which you can demonstrate that your ask will help fulfill that vision and desire will determine the likelihood of a yes that gets their full support. The more it ties in to the overall vision of the Lead Pastor and/or the language of the executive leadership of your church, the more valid it will appear.
There is a part of our brains that allow us to differentiate sounds that matter to us over the noise of construction or of a crowd. It engages every time a mother hears her own child voice against the noise and yelling of a school playground. The leadership of your church is the same. Their ears are tuned in to hear things that sound like the vision God has put on their hearts and minds for His church. If your ask doesn’t get the ball down that field, your probably not going to be playing ball anyway.
Offer your energy to get it done.
If you are a leader, you already know that people have lots of ideas for you, ideas that involve the investment of your time and energy, not theirs. You already know that if they bring an ask to you that sounds like it addresses the needs and vision you already have AND they are willing to invest their own energy in implementing this initiative, the chances of it getting traction with you are exponentially more. The same is true if you offer yourself as the solution, not just your proposal. Think through this one thoroughly so you know exactly what you are willing to offer and to do once they say yes to turn their “yes” into a new reality for your church.
To help you succeed, here are 3 FREE resources that might help you gain favor with the leaders of your church or team:
A podcast episode on whether or not it is time to add another service. Though we explore this through the lens of a multisite church, the principles in this discussion with Rich Birch, Natalie Frisk and Ben Stapley will apply to a church without other campuses and talk about the specific strategies to consider when proposing a major growth initiative.
A 6 minute video to share with your pastor, board, or exec team when you really want to convince them of the need to develop a church wide assimilation strategy. Having been a senior pastor and an elder, I know the language and triggers that have to be pulled in order to capture the ear and heart of your decision makers. I pull them all in this short video that you can watch yourself to form your ask or simply share up-line as is.
A PDF from unSeminary on 5 Questions about your church’s “Invitability”. If what you want to propose to your leadership has anything to do with the atmosphere and culture of your Sunday morning service and experience, this is your tool to either share or to sharpen your language as you form your ask.
Let me know what you find helpful and if you have any questions, ask them here.
See you on the climb,
When was the last time you brought a proposal to a leader at your church? How did it go? What did you learn from that experience about your leadership and how to be an agent of change?
What are 1 to 3 WINs that you and your team would like to propose up-line? Run them through the 3 tests to assess their viability. If you were to come up with 1 big ask per year, what might that look like?
How could you apply all 4 things mentioned above as you sharpen your ask?