I have mentioned here before that I am a part of a Toastmaster’s Club. (actually two, but that’s besides the point). We recently had change of officers and the outgoing President of the Timbertalkers Toastmaster’s Club gave a end of term speech. (Imagine: someone giving a speech at a Toastmaster’s Club!?). The speech was fine, but one line out of it was particularly memorable. Tom Cronkrite said that one of his main jobs as President of the TM club had been “to steward the momentum.” That phrase “to steward the momentum” has stuck with me ever since.
Tom is a Christian brother and so I know he is very familiar with the Christian concept of stewardship. We think of stewardship of money, gifts & talents, relationships, even being a good steward of the earth. But I had never heard of the concept being applied to momentum.
Momentum is a very tricky thing. It can help you or hurt you, depending on which way the momentum is or isn’t going. In the case of our TM Club, it is one of the fastest growing in the District and there is a lot of momentum. But simply because you currently have momentum is no guarantee that momentum will continue. While momentum is easier to keep going than to get going or to turn around, momentum can definitely be killed.
There are many things that can kill momentum. Alan Danielson at ChurchLeaders.com lists 5 of them:
- Repeating Mistakes
- The Wrong People in Influential Positions
- Lingering (or even slow) Decision Making
- Lack of Excellence
- Unfulfilled Promises
Conversely, Dustin Britt, in Matchblog, the corporate blog of Matchstic (an advertising agency in Atlanta) lists ways to keep the momentum going (or “steward the momentum”) My comments are inserted into his list.
- Quickly moving from ideation to a plan of action.
This is a huge problem in many churches that are congregationally or board run. The processes take too long and momentum can die. Especially if it is a new or controversial direction, the processes of moving an idea into a plan of action can take an excruciatingly long time.
- Building a plan that is challenging, but also realistic.
Again, it is difficult to strike a balance between setting goals and plans that are so easy that they are actually just a continuation of the status quo, and living a pipe dream because the preacher or elders went to some conference or read a book. The congregation must be excited by the plan, but believe that it is actually possible to achieve the results it promises.
Who sets the priorities for the church and what mechanisms are put in place to make sure that those priorities are lived out? In every church there are those who would seek to pull the church off of it’s established priorities and onto their personal priorities and agendas.
With this, however, it must be said that priorities can change, particularly when momentum starts to go in a different direction than one thought it would when the church formally established its “priorities”. (However that is done).
- Making sure time and budget constraints are addressed.
In the book on which I based my group coaching program last Spring, “Who Killed Change” there is a character named Bailey Budget. She is in charge of approving expenditures. In the book, she had denied almost every request that the recently deceased Mr. Change had requested. Now, there was actually some (some, not total) merit in why she did so, but the fact is that one person—the one with the purse-strings decided what the priorities should be for the organization.
- Breaking up the action items over a period of time, even if its a year+ (a realistic plan that takes some time is better than an aggressive plan that results in little execution).
This is difficult in a church because people want to see progress. When an initiative is announced, people expect to see results in what is often an unrealistically short amount of time. That is why COMMUNICATION is so critical. If they can see progress (even though the goal is not yet reached) they feel like they can continue to buy-in to what is happening.
- Celebrating milestones!
Related to this is the setting of milestones and then appropriately recognizing them! What that looks like can and should vary, but bottom line is that people need to feel the excitement of forward progress. I don’t think it is inappropriate to designate someone(s) as the designated celebration organizer!
I only watched Tom lead our TM club for about half of the year, but he definitely was a good steward of the Club. It seems we are adding new members almost every week (3 this week, including 2 nuns!) and our club is involved in influential ways throughout the District. Is everything perfect? Absolutely not. (I have an advanced degree in nitpicking). But Tom stewarded the momentum well and our club is healthier for it.
I hope that you and I are doing the same for the churches & organizations that we help to lead.