A member of our congregation came to me last term with an idea for a new ministry. I’m enthusiastic. I think it’s a good idea. I think it’s an imaginative and appropriate way to get people to engage with the bigger issues of life. I’m thrilled that he’s taken the initiative to give something a go. He’s owned an idea and he’s prepared to try and get it off the ground. I think it’ll work.
Often I’m the one trying to come up with these ideas and making them happen. But this time I’m not. And I’m delighted. It’s this kind of ‘self starting’ that Ministers long for. But it got me thinking; what do you need to launch a new venture?
Here are ten things that sprang to mind.
1. Encouragement; above all else you need someone to encourage you and provide the confidence necessary to give it a go. Trying to make things happen can be profoundly discouraging because usually things don’t go as you want them to. Having someone who sticks by you with positive feedback makes the world of difference.
2. Vision; you need to know what you’re trying to do and how you’re trying to do it. It doesn’t need to be thought out in every detail just yet. But there does need to be an idea that sounds plausible and captures people’s enthusiasm. You would expect that to be fairly self evident but I’m amazed how many meetings I sit through where people have failed to identify these two issues.
3. Leadership; you need to be able to take people with you. If you don’t it’ll be lonely! Leadership involves recruiting people by selling the vision and persuading them to join you.
4. Loyalty; you need a group of people that will back you to the hilt. The team will help one another turn the dream into reality. They don’t need to be undiscerning or foolish in their loyalty. They just need to back you and not undermine you.
5. Organisation; you need to be able to fill in the necessary gaps between dream and reality. It doesn’t need to be you but it needs to be someone who can ‘sweat the detail’. It’s often the case in any organisation that you have the visionaries and the pedants. The visionaries think big picture and have bold plans. The pedants think small picture and have concerns about the minutiae. The visionaries think that the pedants are nitpicking naysayers! The pedants think that the visionaries are recklessly underprepared and have lost touch with reality! They’re both right. And they’re both necessary. This creative tension, when harnessed, means that dreams become reality.
6. Dependence; you need to be prayerful. We don’t operate in God’s world as independent agents. But sometimes we think that we do. And so we therefore need to drench our new initiative in prayer. We have no right to expect any of our plans to come off even if it they are brilliant ideas. We depend on God for everything and we express that dependence on our knees.
7. Perseverance; you need to be able to keep going. You mustn’t be a quitter. When many would have simple thrown in the towel you need to dig deep and press on. Few things worth doing happen easily. Most things worth doing require sacrifice and so we need to stay the course.
8. Humility; you need to be open to the fact that you may have got things wrong. Everyone will have an opinion about how it could be done better, how it should have been done better and why it should be done better. The positive spin on this is that at least people are engaged. The negative wide is that people are needlessly critical. In that situation it’s easy to become defensive and respond badly. That kind of approach saps the energy.
9. Wisdom; you need to be able to make the judgement calls about what to do, when to do it and how to do it. Confidence in your ability as a leader will increase when you get these right! Respect in your ability as a leader will increase when you admit that you didn’t!
10. Godliness; you need to be holy in everything that you say, think and do. There’ll be countless occasions where ungodliness would be your preferred course of action. Fight those urges!
They’re not really in any order. Number 10 ought to be higher up. I’ve probably left a few things out. ‘Getting things done’ is essential; procrastination is disastrous and there’s nothing about prioritisation. But there you go.