I’ve been unable to shake two things about my trip with World Vision from an organizational perspective.
- Locals lead everything. I’m sure there are Americans working for World Vision Zimbabwe, but we didn’t meet many. This completely surprised me. I expected the lowest level volunteers, those overseeing food distribution and looking after child sponsors, to be locals. But every role in the organization seemed to be filled by someone local.
- Clarity in program purpose. I can’t tell you how many times I heard people rattle off the 5 program purposes… we even heard forms of it from families who were benefiting from the program. I expected to heard that articulated in the offices, but I didn’t expect it on the field. But, everyone knew what the World Vision program did and didn’t do.
Perhaps You Need to Get More Programmatic?
There’s a lot of angst about the word “program” in ministry circles.
It’s become a bit of a hot potato as no one wants to call what they do running a program. A church doesn’t have programs, it has ministries. A church plant is anti-programmatic in its approach. Go to leadership conferences and people say the word program as if its a cuss word. I could go on but you get the point.
The assumption is that a program can’t possibly be good enough. And so we’ve made the word program the enemy of “good” ministry.
No, seriously. We need to stop playing semantic games, call stuff what it is, and run our programs to the benefit of those we are called to serve.
When I think about the anti-programmatic-semantical-olympics so many do I think it boils down to pride. We don’t want to be known as program managers… we want to be known as something sexier. (As if running a program that changes lives is something to be ashamed of.)
Imagine the upside of fitting your role into a programmatic mindset.
- It’d have boundaries. You could tell someone, “I’m sorry, our program isn’t built to meet that need.” Gasp, boundaries.
- It’d have measurable outcomes. You could produce an annual report donors could understand. “16 individuals completed the program, 45 are in the program, and 25 volunteers have been trained to lead the program.” You might even get a raise.
- You could articulate what you do to your mom. “I run a program which develops 4 areas of a teenagers life.” You laugh but this is a big problem… people in your life need to be able to explain what it is that you do!
- You could recruit and train volunteers to specific roles. We’re getting really crazy now. But you could narrow down volunteer training to human-sized portions.
- Everyone in the program could know what the goal is. One of my favorite questions to ask in youth group is, “Why do you come here?” Imagine if the answer were so obvious anyone could rattle that off.
- You could make the program better over time. One of the frustrations we face in ministry is that we can’t see our impact. But when you narrow your role down to managing a program, that helps you frame what you are doing and how you are impacting the program.
Actually, I’m not seeing any downside. Instead, I think we’d find our ministries better funded, better staffed, and have more measurable outcome.
Speak up! Why do you think those in youth ministry are so afraid of the word “program?“