Back From Sabbatical … Think Outcomes!

While on a sabbatical this summer it was a privilege to attend a seminar on church leadership in Minneapolis with aspects relating to multiple staff situations.  Yes, I went with Jason Johnson … but that is a longer story.  The course was taught by a former Alban Institute presenter.  While I listened I was intrigued by one concept in particular:  INPUTS vs OUTPUTS vs OUTCOMES.

All of us have lines of accountability.  It could be to our spouse if we are married or an employer if we are working a typical job.  Church ministry is significantly different.  Lines can get messy because we are within the same family, so to speak.  We become part of a covenant community, which is to be full of love and acceptance (hopefully), yet to pass down expectations and hold people accountable for responsibilities left unfulfilled are often difficult steps.

If we are ministers, we feel we are accountable to God.  True enough, but within our Baptist structures every minister is to be accountable to others as well – to be specific that is usually a church board.

Now boards and churches often set forth vision statements and work toward goals.   Too often those are considered relating to aspects of what a new ministry will cost and what will be the return in the near future.  These are often short-sighted attempts to increase giving or attendance with hopes of more immediate results within the given year.  There is nothing necessarily wrong with this work, in fact it is important, but an aspect is often missed.

INPUTS are what something costs, efforts that are put into a project, or the calculated time needed by volunteers or employees to get something off the ground.  OUTPUTS are anything that can be counted after the ‘inputs’ are made.  These results may mean more contributions financially, number of baptisms, greater attendance on Sundays or youth events, or an increased number of ministries being performed.

OUTCOMES are really what is beyond what can be counted but what is hoped for on a deeper level, in other words, ‘what is really important’.  A deeper love for Jesus, a greater sense of family within the church as a whole, an unfulfilled hunger for God’s Word, commitment to living a crucified life – giving up everything to follow Jesus … these are the incalculable treasures we desire for our people and in our pastors.

Jesus would say, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto you.”  We cannot place a numerical value on the depth of one’s soul in seeking God.  We cannot easily determine the level to which someone practices denying themselves.

The better work of the church today is by those who first understand the desired ‘outcomes’ and then work backwards to determine the ‘inputs’ and desired ‘outputs’.  To sit in a church business meeting and in the moment thinking of someone uninvolved and suggesting them to be up for an elected position is often done by thinking only of an ‘output’.  It is getting someone on a list of candidates to filling a position, as if the goal was to complete the list rather than thinking of the big picture ‘outcome’.

Your co-worker,  Dennis