By Ken Willard

How are things in your ministry? Are you seeing fruit everywhere you want/expect?

“You didn’t choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you could go and produce fruit and so that your fruit could last.” John 15:16

Think about a specific area of your ministry where the results are not what you want them to be today. Between today’s current reality and your expectations is a gap. What is your plan to close that gap?

Let’s look at some ways to close that gap. For illustration purposes, we will use the example of serving at church. However, it is important to remember that these concepts are the same for just about any area of ministry.

The overall gap between today’s reality of people serving at church and where you want to be is made up of three gaps. The first gap is the Knowledge gap. This gap is closed with teaching, training, and talent. This gap must be closed before we move on to the other gaps. Do we offer teaching and training for people on how to serve at church? Or are people just thrown into the deep end and expected to swim? Are we teaching the spiritual discipline of serving, or are we more focused on just filling open positions? At least in theory, we could bring people into our church who are already used to serving in church. That might not be realistic, but it is possible.

Once we are comfortable that we have a process in place to close the Knowledge gap, then we can move to closing the Importance gap. This gap is closed with expectations, communication, and prioritization. Using our example, have we shared our expectation with the members of our church that they serve in the ministry? If they are a member of our church, then at some point they stood before God and entered into a covenant to “support this local church with their prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness.” Are we following up with our members to help them live into that covenant? We don’t have room to complain about only 20% of our members doing 80% of the work if we are not clear on the expectation. How have we communicated the importance of serving? Is serving in the church a priority? Too often we communicate so much, and everything comes across as a top priority—and there is so much noise that nothing is a real priority.

The final piece in the three-part gap process is called the Action gap. Have you ever encountered someone who knows how to do something, and knows it is important, and they still don’t do it? This is where closing the action gap comes into play. We close the action gap with accountability, commitment, and culture. Going back to our example of serving in the church, how are we holding our members accountable to serving? In our society, accountability is usually seen as something that happens after the fact and is punitive and negative in nature. In the church world, accountability should be front-loaded into our process and be done in love. The way we hold each other accountable in Christian community. Commitment is an interesting one, in that we cannot really make someone committed about something. However, we can celebrate commitment and encourage it in others. The most powerful element of everything we have talked about is culture. Peter Drucker once said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” A church who has a culture of serving will not have to worry as much about any of these gaps. Creating a culture of anything takes time. Changing a culture takes intentionality and leadership.

Let’s get back to your ministry. What gap were you thinking about back at the beginning of this article? Where are you not seeing the fruit you expected? What is it you really want? What are you going to do now to change those results?

  • Clearly identify where you are now, and specifically where you want to be.
  • Once you are clear on the overall gap, break it down into the three gaps listed above: Knowledge, Importance, and Action.
  • Put together a plan to close all three of the gaps.

Related article: Setting SMARTER Goals

Concepts here are based on the book, Gapology: How Winning Leaders Close Performance Gaps by Mark Thienes and Brian Brockhoff