Agility is the ability to improve speed and grace. It is the way an athlete moves on the field that gives him or her a competitive advantage. It is the way a lawyer exudes confidence with clarity and timing before the judge and jury. It is the way a software company innovates quickly, efficiently and beautifully to serve their clients. Agility is also the way some churches are able to constantly improve how they attract, equip and release people.
In the software development world, the opposite of agility is waterfall. Waterfall is a method of software development built on a series of sequential steps. When one step is completed then the process flows like a waterfall down to the next step in the process until a project is completed. So a project goes from visioning to planning to analysis to design to building to testing to release to support. When a phase in the waterfall method is finished, it is considered completed and a new phase begins building on the completed work of the previous phase. Finally the program is completed and released. It's the same way of thinking behind assembly lines in factories. Agility allows the development team to move back and forth between development phases as needed. If, in the building of software, the programmer comes up with an idea to improve the design or maybe even the purpose of the project, access to those parts of the process is not only allowed but encouraged. This creates a culture of constant improvement. The mindset here, in contrast to waterfall, is that the program is never considered done, but always a work in progress. This is why we can take a suggestion from a client on how to improve a feature and, if we feel like it is a meaningful and easy adjustment, make the change immediately. It is also the way we come up with new features and development priorities.
The development process in ministry moves from vision to strategy to structure to feedback. Feedback, then, informs the vision and strategy to make adjustments as needed. So, what would a waterfall versus agile approach to ministry look like? A waterfall approach to ministry would be one in which a church decided 10, 20 or 100 years ago to employ a certain strategy and structure in how they do ministry. So, the only real work to be done is recruiting for and resourcing that structure. The vision might be refreshed once in awhile with new language, but the strategy and structure are essentially set and predetermined often by resources like buildings or curricula. Feedback is built around optimizing the structure as it exists with the goal of more involvement. An agile approach to ministry starts by re-examining the vision and questioning the strategic, structural and feedback systems to make sure that the vision is still the driver.
Our church is an agile church. The vision for community is "connecting people in authentic relationships for spiritual transformation." To help measure the pursuit and achievement of spiritual transformation, the church developed and uses an annual spiritual assessment form. Membership is good for one year only and re-upping for membership each year requires taking this assessment. A few months ago I was in a meeting with our campus pastor. He has been on staff since the beginning of Watermark, 16 years ago. At one point he was in charge of community. One year, under his watch, the assessment showed that 88% of the membership was connected in community. It also showed that only 15% had seen significant spiritual transformation over the past year. His exact words were, "I thought I was going to lose my job." So, they buckled down and did some more work on adjusting expectations of connecting in community. This feedback challenged the strategy and structure of the ministry and changes were made.
Churchteams software is built to reflect strategy. You can customize internal language to fit your leadership structure, member attributes, and even a spiritual Growthfinder assessment.
We help you define the structure. You have to create: 1) the groups/teams/classes/events/projects that you need, 2) who is going to lead them and 3) under whose ministry they fit.
We provide the feedback. You can evaluate anything you need about the strategy and structure of your church through numerous reports and built-in feedback systems.
We inform the vision. Through the feedback that we provide, we can help your church see how well you are doing. BTW, the key to this is not in the output reporting side of things, it's in our innovative input system. But, that's another blog.