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7 Key Principles for Every Project

7 Key Principles for Every Project

As a pastor, you need to be able to put together projects efficiently and effectively. Whether you are starting a new church, planning a new ministry, opening a new building, or just preparing for next weekend’s services, you need to mobilize people around a common task. That’s leadership in a nutshell.

When Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem to help rebuild the city’s wall, he had a monster project on his hands. How he tackled that project provides us with seven key principles for getting things done.

1. The Principle of Simplification

Nehemiah kept his plan simple. He didn’t randomly assign jobs, he didn’t create a whole new organization, and he didn’t force any complex charts.

He organized around groups already associating together, such as the priests, the men of Jericho, and the sons of Hassenaah. The point is: Don’t create an organization if you don’t need it. If an organization already naturally exists, try to work through it and with it.

Sometimes a new leader comes into a situation, and the first thing he does is start changing the whole organization. Think this way: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Strong organizations are often the simplest ones.

2. The Principle of Participation

It’s a pretty simple rule: Work with those who want to work. Amazingly, a lot of leaders never learn this principle. They spend all their time trying to corral the lazy and the apathetic, instead of working with those who want to work. I call that corralling goats.

Nehemiah got almost everybody involved in the building of the wall. He had the clerics, the goldsmiths, the perfume makers—men and women, city and country folk. Everybody was moving bricks and making mortar.

But there was one exception. “Next were the people from Tekoa, though their leaders refused to help” (Nehemiah 3:5 NLT). Nehemiah’s response was to ignore the shirkers.

In every situation you’re going to have workers and shirkers. Nehemiah just ignored the latter and focused on those who were willing to work. He didn’t lose sleep, get bitter, or waste time trying to corral them. If you’re a leader, don’t worry about people who don’t want to get involved. Focus on those people who do want to get involved.

3. The Principle of Delegation

When you’re organizing, you should make specific assignments. Think about what would have happened if, once Nehemiah got everyone excited, he said, “Just go start working wherever you want to work.”

Instead, Nehemiah divided the wall into sections when he did his midnight ride. He kept it simple, and then he delegated specific assignments.

When you delegate:

  • Break down major goals into smaller tasks. When we started Saddleback, I made everybody a committee of one. Each of us had assignments. One person managed the printing of the bulletins while another set up the nursery.
  • Develop clear job descriptions. Your workers deserve to know what is expected.
  • Match the right person with the right task. The wrong person in the wrong task creates chaos. It causes all kinds of motivational problems. Delegating is more than just passing off work. You need to understand what the task is all about and what the person is good at, and that will help you get the right person with the right task.
  • Everybody’s responsibility is nobody’s responsibility. Every task needs a specific person assigned to it; otherwise, things will fall through the cracks because everyone will think someone else is doing certain tasks.

4. The Principle of Motivation

When you organize any project, help people “own” it. In Nehemiah, you see again and again men making repairs near their houses. If you lived in Jerusalem, where would you be most interested in building the wall? Probably by your house!

Allowing for ownership in a project helps increase motivation. I think Nehemiah is also saying, “Make the work as convenient as possible.” Nehemiah allowed people to work in their area of interest. That’s a key principle of organization: Good organizations allow workers to develop their own areas.

5. The Principle of Cooperation

Cooperation is a key principle to good organization. When we cooperate together, when there is teamwork, there is great growth. Cooperation is a greater motivator than competition, and it lasts because you feel like you’re together on a winning team.

Good organizations provide a supportive climate of trust and teamwork. In the Bible, when referring to Christians in the church, the phrase “one another” is used 58 times. It’s as if God is saying, “Get the message! Help each other!” We are together in this. We’re a team. There is tremendous power in cooperation.

6. The Principle of Administration

Even after you delegate, you must supervise the work. Nehemiah walked the line, inspecting the work. Tom Peters, in his book Passion for Excellence, calls it MBWA: Management By Walking Around.

Nehemiah knew which part each man built because he went out, checking up on people. This also allowed him to find out what was going on. Good organizations establish clear lines of authority. People do what you inspect, not what you expect.

7. The Principle of Appreciation

Good leaders give recognition. For instance, Nehemiah knew the names of those working on the wall, and I think that’s a mark of a good leader. He even listed them in his book, so here we are thousands of years later, and pastors around the world are mispronouncing the names of Nehemiah’s helpers. He cared enough to recognize these men and women for their work.

Do you know who’s doing a good job among your staff? How about among your small group leaders and volunteers?

Find out who they are and start telling them they’re doing a good job.

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