5 Requirements for Continuous Improvement on High-Performance Teams

Innovation. Experimentation. Adaptation.

All three are connected to one thing among high-performance teams.

Continuous Improvement.

And personal development is at the center of the process.

You may or may not relate to the word performance; I can understand that because most church teams are highly relational and also highly spiritual. That’s definitely a good thing, but at some point, performance matters. Doesn’t it?

It’s interesting that in almost all other professions, quality performance is expected, sometimes even demanded.

People will quickly boo a poorly performing athlete, fire a bad mechanic or plumber, change doctors who can’t solve the problem, even send their food back when the cook doesn’t get it right.

Yet in the church, we can sometimes let excellence slide in the name of loving relationships, and I wonder if that is really loving those we serve.

Continuous improvement is the practice of high-performance teams. It’s based both on the individuals and the collective of the team as a whole.

Candidly it can be tough to make time for improvement; 2020 has been a crazy year!

It’s understandable that churches are just trying to make it work, not necessarily work better.

But here’s the bottom line, we must keep moving forward with continuous improvement to make things better in order to keep up with all that 2021 will bring.

Continuous improvement in things such as,

  • Your worship services both live and online
  • Your personal leadership skills abilities
  • Your ministry opportunities
  • Your ability to adapt and translate vision to strategy.

You get the idea, and the list is potentially very long.

Therefore, one of your tasks is first to decide what 2-3 things that will receive intentional and focused time for improvement.

I believe the one we all need is the improvement of our own leadership skills.

From there, choose a couple more and dig in!

Let’s be honest; doing everything you are required to do to make church work can be exhausting by itself. To actually make things better will require a high level of effort, sacrifice, and commitment from you and your whole team.

(And again, to accomplish that, you must become a better leader.)

Let me offer 5 things to help you make that possible.

5 elements required for continuous improvement:

Note: I’m writing these in a personal form to you, but this also applies to everyone on your team.

These five elements are all about your desire and commitment to continuous improvement.

1) A vision compelling enough that you want to.

The personal drive and commitment required for continuous improvement starts within you and is always connected to a vision large enough that it compels you.

Your purpose and vision begin with a burden, something you care deeply about. That’s what keeps you going for the long haul.

Then you connect to a vision bigger than you alone can do. The most common is the vision of your church.

The bottom line is that you are so compelled to see this vision happen that you want to pay the price of commitment, hard work, and even sacrifice.

Decades ago, God spoke to me about my purpose. It was so clear, “Build The Church.”

Of course, that means His Church – His people, and over the years, I’ve discerned more focus and depth… build (develop) the leaders in His church.

This vision has compelled me for nearly 40 years.

2) A goal big enough that you need to.

Many times over the years, as I’ve pursued my purpose and endeavored to lean into continuous improvement, I’ve found myself far over my head. 

The goals were just too big for me to handle without getting better at what I do.

I needed to improve to reach the goals inside the vision.

For example, God had gifted me to develop leaders, and John Maxwell mentored me in that art. But I was only doing that one to one and in small groups. I was adding, not multiplying.

I had to improve my leadership in order to lead through other leaders, which is an entirely different level.

Today, leading leaders is natural to me, but here’s the question that remains, “What level of leaders can I lead?” Improvement must continue to reach big goals.

This also applies to teams and ministries, just the same as your personal leadership and mine. In fact, you rarely get one without the other.

3) Talent large enough that you are able to.

God equips you to do what He’s called you to do, but I’ll admit that discerning God’s plan for you isn’t always a quick and easy process.

For example, I don’t have the talent, skill, or ability to be the senior pastor of a church of 10,000 people. You might think, “I thought you just said, If God called you, He’ll equip you.”  Yup, I did, and it’s true.

But sometimes our humanity can get in the way of God’s sovereignty, and we don’t always interpret His mind perfectly. That’s the beauty of the body of Christ and wise counsel from others.

At one point, I pursued the role of senior pastor; I thought that’s what God wanted. My mentors and coaches told me that I could do a great job as a senior pastor, but I was destined to be an executive pastor.

I’m so glad I listened.

Could God have intervened and equipped me? Yes. But I think He did intervene through the wisdom of others.

4) A coach good enough to help you get there.

If you want to get near achieving your maximum capacity as a high-performance leader, or the teams you lead, it’s not likely you will do that without a coach at some point.

You can experience leadership development in several different ways.

  • You may be on a church staff that has capable developers already part of your team and system. If that is the case, you are blessed, and take advantage of what your church offers.
  • You can become part of a “roundtable” of leaders who do what you do, and in about the same size church you are in. If you don’t know of one, start one!
  • You can find a mentor in a larger church who will coach you a few times a year or even hire a professional leadership coach.

There are many options. Find one that works for you.

5) Passion deep enough that you won’t give up.

Some church leaders want to coast and hope for the best; others are ready to give up. That’s certainly understandable but not helpful. That doesn’t solve the problem.

Let’s be honest; leadership can be exhausting, especially now, right? 

So how do you keep going?

Burden engages your heart and causes you to genuinely care. Vision compels you to pursue big goals, and passion puts the fire in your gut to keep going no matter the obstacles.

We all need that right now.

We are all literally redesigning and rebuilding church daily, which requires continuous improvement and a spirit that simply will not give up.

Burden and passion are connected. Burden is the initial connection with your heart, and passion is the fire that keeps your commitment to the vision alive and moving forward.

As you consider these thoughts, let me say that I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

And thank you for reading the Pastor’s Coach. I pray it continues to serve you well.


6 thoughts on “5 Requirements for Continuous Improvement on High-Performance Teams”

  1. Gerald Polmateer

    Before I went to my first church as a pastor I had about 20 years discipling men. While I was in seminary I worked with a professor who was discipling men to understand how to train leaders in the church which was comprised of many different levels of spiritual maturity and a variety of gifts. By the time I started pastoring I had an outline of what I thought every Christian should have and every leader should have. Every Christian should have a devotional life of reading their Bible and praying. They should know how to share their faith and know how to have fellowship with one another. I started with a small group who were very committed to one another. I worked with them to start doing ministry where they lived and worked. I developed lessons on how to interpret the Bible. Eventually I trained them how to take their Bible and study it. I am convinced a lot of time is wasted on doing “good” things with the intentionality of throwing mud at a wall and hoping it gets plastered like they want. Every building that is built starts with a concept and then the concept is developed into a set of blueprints. Then the blueprints are examined for mistakes and they are evaluated to make sure the building can be built in their minds before it is done in the field. Then the plan is executed in the field. Each tradesperson is given a job they can do. Some are trained as the job is completed so the person can gain greater skills and obtain a sense of where they fit and satisfaction. The highly skilled may have started digging ditches and learned what he needed to know at the time but may have wanted to learn more. Then as time progressed the person will be trained to do things that require a higher level of skill. Eventually some become the most skilled person on the job and then train other workers who desire a high level of skill. Often I have discussions about what a disciple is and how that can happen. The one thing I have noticed is very few will write down what I tell them and even fewer will work on a plan they can work from. Over the years I have forced myself to write out an outline of the plan and then fill in the spaces with lessons and activities that will help to develop people according to the outline. Having a plan allows me to evaluate the details and modify or delete things as change is needed. That keeps me from using a detailed plan I used 30 years ago and using the same illustrations. Some things never change but other things are changing. Meeting with men during the week keeps me involved in their lives and the struggles they have. It also allows me to listen to the interactions they have with people they are in contact with. It also allows me to train the men I meet with to reach other man and develop them. So I am reaching others through the man I meet with. At that time I train the man how to train another man. I have modelled ministry to him before and during the time he helps someone else to be a leader in the faith.

    As a result of putting the plan on paper it allows me to help people in other parts of the world that I would probably never visit. In some places it would be dangerous for me. Some of what I do cannot be done by any other way than by text because some have little access to the internet.

  2. We’ve put this kind of ministry into effect now for over forty decades with a remarkable outcome to the glory of God. It works!! I called our vision Total Quality Ministry (TQM). “Kaizen” was the goal with benchmarks to evaluate the progress. Our monthly “Pastors Roundtable” was for anyone to come and share their concerns with the pastoral staff. I pray pastors will be wise enough to listen because (my opinion), if the church isn’t growing it’s in hospice. Thanks for your gift of encouragement. You have a wonderful Thanksgiving as well.

    1. Okanyi Santino Lewa

      Thank you Dan Reiland. You are powerful inspirer! Because of your superb ideas, life is slowly but surely changing for better! God bless.

      Okanyi Santino Lewa

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