Growing your church up Part 4: From no reports to verbal reports to written reports

Early on in the life of a ministry things can be sort of dreamt and worried into existence. Motivation, necessity and initiative are often in full supply, and administrative structure is minimal - so things just kind of happen.

Slowly the need to keep track of what's going on is felt, and reports get requested. But these are at first very relational. We invite someone to come to the leadership team to report in person, or we meet with the person over a cup of coffee and talk things through. 

This is lovely and personal and relational. There is much to commend it. But there reaches a point where it becomes destructively inefficient. Leaders meetings can drag on too long, because we feel that once we have invited someone to come and share, it would be rude not to devote a good 30 minutes to chat and pray with them. Or leaders get burdened with so many relational check-in cups of coffee.

In other words, this face to face, verbal report may be wonderfully 'pastoral' and loving to the person giving the report. But they can start to kill the leaders receiving the reports.

Another problem with them is that they make it much harder for leaders to ask hard questions and make hard decisions about the content of the reports. The report is a relational check in with the person, not a careful assessment of the progress of the ministry, with wise accountability. 

From verbal to written reports

At some point it becomes healthy to move from verbal reports to written reports. This is a jarring change:

  • People doing ministry suddenly have to 'do paperwork'.
  • Intuitive leaders and informal ministries have to start giving specific details.
  • Team leaders have to get used to communicating with the leaders above them in a more formal manner.

It is also a change for how leadership team meetings are run:

  • From long, chatty meetings full of discussion, to more formal meetings with a distinct purpose: to communicate, make decisions and build relationships among the team members themselves.
  • From reading out every report at length, to only discussing requests or concerns.
  • From just 'hearing from' other people doing ministry, to giving energy to how to better support them and better hold them to account.

It takes a bit of adjusting, but as long as it is done gently, lovingly and sensibly it is a change that is possible. And actually frees up both those doing ministry and those overseeing the whole ministry from time spent in meetings, to actually do real relational stuff!

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