1.) Investigation + Collaboration
In this step, a leader takes the posture of a learner. All notions of mastery are put to the side, and a humble acceptance of finitude is taken up.
In this step, leaders and their teams focus on inquiring insight to gain clarity and inform direction.
Investigation can come from a variety of sources.
It might include observing the character and responses of those being led, having honest conversations with other ministry leaders, reading books and articles, listening to podcasts, attending conferences, or taking surveys.
The more avenues leaders take during the investigation stage, the more likely they are to gain insight and notice trends.
Initially, this step was just called “investigation,” but collaboration was added because investigation done in isolation has significant limitations.
A leader can do an enormous amount of research, but research alone isn’t helpful.
For an investigation to be meaningful, it has to be interpreted.
Otherwise, it’s nothing more than a collection of random facts.
When ministry leaders do all the investigation without collaborating with their team members, their interpretive field is limited.
A leader might gain insight through personal study, but when research is done and discussed with others, it can lead to discoveries that would have otherwise been missed.
On the flip side, if a ministry has times of collaboration without investigation, it can lead to deception.
A conversation is great, but if that conversation isn’t informed by research, it will ultimately be shallow, subjective, and self-serving.
Without new insights, the collaboration taking place isn’t based in reality, making it easier to create excuses or delusions.
For a ministry to see how it’s doing and understand the context in which it is serving, it needs every leader and volunteer invested in the process of thorough investigation and honest collaboration.
Innovation is a harsh word for some.
It conjures ideas of radical change and new technology.
While innovation might include some of these shifts, it’s not always necessary.
Innovation is simply the appropriate application of investigation.
Sometimes, innovation doesn’t require adding something new but adjusting something already in existence.
After investigation, a leadership team may not see a need to add anything but merely tweak how they accomplish certain aspects of their ministry.
After a group has gone through a period of intentional research and gleaned critical insights within their church and community, they can turn that insight into innovation.
Innovation can also come by subtraction.
Instead of adding a new position, program, or practice, a team’s investigation might lead to removing certain functions, projects, or procedures deemed unnecessary or detrimental to their ministry.
The right innovation is a result of the diligent effort given in the first step of the cycle, so don’t shortchange it.
A ministry’s innovation is only as good as its investigation and collaboration.
After a team has determined what type of innovation is needed, the next step is to map out its implementation.
What does implementation look like?
It all depends on the innovation.
Its size and scope will determine how long it will take to be properly implemented.
For example, if something new is being developed, a longer runway might be needed to plan, prep, communicate and answer questions regarding the change.
A longer runway might be unnecessary if something is simply adjusted.
If something is being removed, extra time might be given to ensure everyone understands the reasons behind the removal and sees the benefits it will bring to the ministry.
The most outstanding innovation can fail if it isn’t correctly implemented.
Too much change too soon can lead to frustration, and minor modifications stretched over a long period of time can lead to impatience.
Prayer, collaboration, and testing are needed to guarantee a successful implementation.
The importance of this last step cannot be overstated.
It’s essential to growth and stability but is the most commonly skipped step in the cycle.
Leaders often avoid evaluation because they are scared of what they might find on the other side.
No one likes to have shortcomings pointed out, so ministries keep running while pain points are swept under the rug.
However, if a church is to excel and remain fruitful, it must evaluate itself honestly and consistently.
After an innovation has been implemented, leaders should set a time to evaluate it.
The type of innovation will determine how long it needs to run before an assessment can be made.
If a new position or program has been created, it might take a year or two before it can be thoroughly evaluated.
If a simple adjustment has been made, less time is needed to see it at work before judgments are formed.
Whatever the case, all forms of evaluation are made in light of a ministry’s vision.
If the changes put into place aren’t making strides toward fulfilling the vision, then it needs to be tweaked or removed altogether to make room for innovation that does.
Even if an implemented change has been evaluated and found fruitful, it doesn’t mean that evaluation is done for good.
Different aspects of a ministry should be evaluated every week, month, or year depending on the element being evaluated.
Once an evaluation is completed in a given cycle, another cycle begins.
The results of an evaluation will determine how you re-enter the cycle.
If the assessment is good, you will jump back into the investigation phase, looking for ways to improve the changes.
If the evaluation is poor, you will restart the cycle by investigating what changes need to be made to better fit the needs and gaps you are experiencing.
Good vs. Best
Ministries may grow for a time, but they often die or lose stability because they are unwilling to re-enter the cycle.
Sustainable ministries don’t just go through the cycle; they live in it.
They’re always investigating, innovating, implementing, and evaluating their work.
They aren’t content with what’s good but desire what’s best.
They seek to glorify God by being the best stewards of the knowledge and gifts they’ve been given.
May your ministry experience growth and stability as you work through the steps of this cycle in your ministry.