Here are more personal thoughts about some of the lessons I've learned in the past ten years. Get clarity on your vision, and stick to it. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. When we first started out, we began by meeting the needs we saw around us. Of course there were many, and we quickly found ourselves doing a whole lot. Actually, what we were doing was very little in a whole lot of areas. While this was borne out of compassion, we realized that by spreading ourselves to thinly, we were being neither strategic nor effective. Andy Stanley's book, Visioneering, helped us clearly define exactly what God was calling us to do as a ministry. That meant stopping programs we were running because they were not in line with that vision. It was a difficult but rewarding time of refinement in our ministry. At times, it's still not easy to say "no" to things that seem like they'd be great to be involved in. But knowing we are focusing our time, energy, and resources to accomplish what God's called us to certainly makes it easier.
Everyone should know the vision. Momentum in ministry only occurs when everyone’s clear where you’re headed. This is one we are still actively working on. We try to reinforce our vision and core values as often as we possibly can---as we lead staff meetings, as we talk strategy, as we bring correction. We share it with every team that comes through our ministry; we want them to see how their short-term trip ties in with the overarching vision to train Godly leaders. We also try to consistently convey the vision to our supporters and partners around the world. We've never wanted people to give to us because of an emotional pull; we want them to give because they know, believe in, and support the vision God's given us for reaching Southern Africa.
The right people make all the difference. A strong team multiplies ministry effectiveness. Like most of our lessons, we learned this one the hard way. On the mission field, and probably in any ministry, the needs are so great and there are never enough hands. That urgency and desperation led us to take on anybody and everybody who wanted to come and "do something" in Africa. We've gotten a lot more focused in our process of bringing on staff members; some people think we actually make it "too hard" for people to join our team. While our aim isn't to make it difficult, we want the process to be slow and thorough enough so both sides know clearly that it's truly a God-thing before someone makes a long-term move.
I'd love to hear your thoughts and input on all these. And if any questions pop into your mind, feel free to ask... Also---What lessons are you learning lately?