Peter Drucker and Jim Collins point out that, in business, a customer is someone you must satisfy; in church health life, this includes members as well as guests. Leaders must study what these folks value and not assume they already know what will keep them satisfied. Guessing what they need can lead to frustration and failure and, possibly, loss of their support. I recall surprising a gathering of parents who had met to discuss the needs of our youth group; I went in with a defensive agenda and did not listen to what they were trying to tell me. My mistake cost the church a few good families.
It is smarter to find a systematic way to discover what people need in their church life by asking questions and listening to their complaints as well as their compliments. It is also important to ask the right questions as you listen to the answers. Drucker lists The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask about Your Organization:
What is our mission?
This word is becoming weary from overuse, but Drucker and Collins emphasize the importance of matching your mission with your opportunities, competence and commitment. Just having a mission statement does not mean you are on mission! The challenge is preserving the core mission while stimulating progress in everything that supports that mission: operating practices, strategies, tactics, processes, structures and methods all change. It takes determination to stay on course when so much pressure to stray is place on the leadership; it takes discipline to stop doing what does not fit within the parameters of the simple mission.
For example, having a men’s softball team might be a great entertainment for the men in the church, but how will it function within the boundaries of the mission?
Who is our customer?
The authors point out that nonprofit organizations have primary customers (the persons whose lives have been changed through your work) and supporting customers (volunteers, members, partners, employees and others who must be satisfied). Customer bases (memberships) are never static; they are always changing, so the effective leader must know his membership and adapt and change as they do.
“The best organizations don’t create members; they create fans.” Our business is not to casually p