Project Management for Worship Ministry Leaders

The senior pastor pulls you aside and says, “We need to develop a plan for the future of the worship center of the church.”  Cool.

Except you have absolutely no idea what to do next.  The course in college or the worship conference seminar that prepared you for this task was . . . . none.

Does that mean you go out and hire a sound design consultant?  Should you hire an architect to give you some ideas?  Should you go sit in the auditorium and pray until a vision comes to you?  Is this your opportunity to eradicate the ghastly lavender paint behind the platform?

The answer is possibly “Yes” to all of these, but how you go about the process is super critical to the success of the project, your church’s health, your personal health, and the likelihood of you keeping your job!

Don’t worry.  I have been in the same place before.  Before you go out and stake your reputation on an idea (yes, I have done that – not a good idea), here are some things to consider.

1.  Pray for guidance.  Consult the Divine Project Manager, the Ultimate Creative who designed the entire world with a thought.

2.  Project Management is simply managing a temporary project (auditorium redesign, sound system overhaul, office redesign, etc.).  While this is a specific science, the principles are straightforward.

3.  Ask for help.  When I faced a similar decision God showed me a business individual in my church who actually trained project managers in the area.  He was an immense help.  Don’t be too proud to ask a business person for help.

4.  You need a plan.  Church leaders will want to pull something together and go for it, but your job is to cool their heels and help them to consider every decision carefully.  To do this you will need a clear plan.  Don’t wing it!

5.  Create a team.  On this team you will want to have experts from each key discipline necessary for the completion and success of the task.  In my case I needed creative minds, interior designers, construction experts, technical geeks, and others.

6.  Identify the stakeholders.  There are specific people in your church who have to approve something before it happens.  Some are obvious (the senior pastor, the finance team, the elder board chair), and some are not so obvious (the kitchen lady who has been there for 40 years, the anonymous millionaire who paid for the building you want to blow up/remodel to fit a style of worship he does not like).  Write these people down and don’t guess; know!

7.  Write a contract and make all of the stakeholders and team members sign it.  This may seem like lawyer paranoia, but, trust me, you will be glad you did this later.  The team members and stakeholders will push back on every restraint you put on a project and you need to be able to point to a document that has all of the guidelines in it: a document they signed.

8.  Understand the “Triple Constraint.”  Originally just three areas (Time-Scope-Cost), the “Triple Constraint” has now evolved into six areas:

  • Schedule – how fast the project needs to be completed
  • Resources – what physical materials and people skills you have on hand
  • Budget – how much money you want to spend
  • Quality – how good a job you want to do
  • Scope – how broad the project reaches (just one room or an entire building, etc.)
  • Risk – the balance between likelihood of success and the chance of failure

Every project is defined by answers to these six areas.  For instance, if you suddenly decide to rush the Schedule for the project, the Quality of project is going to drop.  If you want to rush the Schedule AND keep Quality high, you will have to boost the Budget.  If you end up boosting the Budget you stand greater risk of rejection of the plan by stakeholders.

When I was a leader at a previous church and helping to lead a major design discussion, some leaders decided to push the implementation of a particular feature faster than the constraints allowed.  After being warned of the implications of jumping ahead, they went ahead anyways.  Because they rushed the Schedule and did not raise the Budget, Quality dropped dramatically.  The Risk of dissatisfaction among the stakeholders and among the implementors was high, and that Risk became a reality when the project failed to be high quality.

9.  Do not take anything personally!  You have heard me say this more than once, but when you are leading a project every decision will feel like it is personally directed at you.  It isn’t.  Your job is not to be personally involved or even to make any decisions, but to simply hold the leadership and team members accountable for every decision they make.

Project management includes so many more things than these, but these points will give you a running start.

Anyone can lead a project.  You can do this!

Where in your life or job do you need to step back and employ some project management principles?

Trello: One of My Favorite Productivity Tools

Trello is a collaboration tool that organizes your projects into boards.  In one glance, Trello tells you what is being worked on, who’s working on what, and where something is in a process.”

My brother, Matthew R. Overholt, recently introduced me to this tool and I have been using it ever since.  He and I are using Trello to manage a software development project. He loads updates of the software to the related card and I download it for testing.  I can upload drafts of my information and record my research for him to work through as he has time.  We find it immensely helpful.   I like Trello so much that I have started migrating some of my To Do lists there as well.

In the past I have tried many things to manage my To Do lists.  First, I did not have one.  OK, that failed miserably.  Somewhere along the way I decided to keep my list on my Palm (remember those things).  Not good.  The Palm platform did not offer enough flexibility and things would sit on there and I would end up ignoring it.  Next I tried an Excel spreadsheet.  At first I thought this would be the solution.  I could create lots of lists on different pages and notate what I was doing or had done or had to be done.  Being a bit of a perfectionist, however, I would get caught up keeping the list up to date and not actually doing anything.

After that I went to using yellow legal pads.  Why yellow?  Beats me.  I just seem to be able to read them better.  This way I could make a new one every week, cross things out as I go, and make notes at meetings.  These legal pads were my most successful method by far.  I still find that writing things down longhand is very good for me, even therapeutic (Check out my blog Ink for more of my thoughts on this.).

After quite a while I began experimenting with Evernote.  Thanks to Michael Hyatt I have really gotten into this flexible platform of keeping notes.  While I am driving on the road I can speak notes to myself, sing a new lyric idea, record a few new lines to a poem, or any number of things, and the information is immediately synced with the web and my computer.  I can do no better than Michael Hyatt in describing the use of this tool, so check out his blogs on Evernote.  For me, however, I like to be able to use bullets and other formatting tools when dealing with To Do lists, and these things do not sync well from computer to iPhone, which frustrated me immensely.

Enter  First of all, the Trello app is spectacular and perfectly mirrors what you do on your computer, which is vital for me.

Here is a brief description: A “Board” has a set of lists on it, defaulting to “To Do,” “Doing,” and “Done.”  You can add as many Lists as you want and rename them as well.  On one Board I have added a List called “Resources” where I am keeping information that I access regularly.  On each List you can place as many “Cards” as you wish.  Each Card is a task within the List.  For my church job I have a “Choose March Pianists” Card.  On that Card I have placed a checklist for the four Sundays in the month waiting to be checked off.  A handy progress bar indicates how far I am towards completing the checklist.  On the Card I can add notes on my activity as I go (02/10 – Emailed X pianist about playing on March 4), and I can upload attachments easily to the Card as needed.  I can also label Cards with colors to indicate urgency, and much more.

The only downside I have found up to now is that I cannot go in and add an update to an individual entry on the card, which is probably my perfectionism working overtime!  I imagine this is because the notes on the card are a record of progress, particularly in working with others, since this is primarily a collaboration tool.

I am just beginning to use this tool, but I highly recommend it.  I can easily move cards from list to list, manage the information, and not have 20 lists on my desk.

Do you use  If you do, what are your favorite features? If not, what do you use to manage your projects and To Do lists?