Friday, June 4, 2010

Margin For We

Yesterday I wrote about margin for me. As a leader, though, I think much about margin in a corporate setting. The dynamics are far more complex.

When our church constructed the first stage of our new campus a few years ago, we thought we had the square footage configured appropriately. We failed to foresee how rapidly we would add young families and how quickly we would run out of space for children.

The obvious long-term solution was to start planning the next phase of the campus and include ample room to reach kids. We discovered, however, that we couldn't wait to raise the funds and build before we made some changes. We needed the ability to grow our children's ministry in order for the church to keep growing. We needed some "margin for we."

The need drove our staff to take a two-day "time out" and travel to an off-site destination where we could thoroughly explore possible options without the interruptions that are a natural part of busy church life. We initially considered six or seven possible solutions. We weighed the benefits and likely time/energy/money (the three available resources to accomplish work) cost of each. After many hours of conversation and prayer, we came up with a plan.

To say that any solution that changes life for a whole group of people is easy and painless would be laughable. One person might face every challenge by throwing money at it (isn't this what governments tend to do?). Another would avoid spending a dime and work themselves silly to get the job done. In the end, the best alternatives include some combination of all three resources, but that still doesn't make implementation a piece of cake.

In our case, the best short-term solution was a schedule change. Before we changed, we had three adult worship services, but only two of them included Children's Ministry. Our 8 a.m. service was too early for most young families to attend and the style of the service was more attractive to older attenders than those younger. We combined that service stylistically with a slightly more contemporary music sound and changed it to an hour later. We then launched an even more contemporary service on Saturday evenings.

To say that this change has been easy for everyone is far from the truth. People had to change their schedules, some choosing a completely different time-frame for worship attendance. Worship leaders have added practice hours so that they can lead two services Sunday morning and each service style is unique. We have been adding musicians and technical people to adult worship services and new teachers and aides to children's services.

We have the discomfort that the service that was largest in attendance is not always the largest anymore. The new schedule just changes how everything "feels."

But we effectively increased our children's square footage by 50%.

And all our services have room to grow.

It's "margin for we."

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Barely Enough

Our family was young and we lived a great distance from the childhood homes where Cathy and I grew up. It was exciting every time we got to make the trip, especially after our kids were born. There is something beyond special about seeing grandparents.

One part our kids won't remember about those early trips is how stressful they were for me. Money was more than tight in those days and we had just enough money to make the journey, even with careful budgeting. I can remember the concern I felt, driving cars that weren't always mechanically reliable along many miles of barren highway.

Today, that part of life is but a memory. The cars we drive are more prepared and, in case we do have trouble, we have more resources to take care of the need.

Life is significantly more peaceful with some margin. Margin is that space between what you have and what you need. If you have some margin, you approach challenges with far more confidence. If you don't have it, you live in constant concern for the problem that will take you down.

Think about it for a minute. If you are a runner, you want to have something left for the end of the race. If you are working on a project, you want plenty of time. If you are traveling, you want to start on time and not chance a speeding ticket because you were late. If you eat at a restaurant, you want to be sure you have enough for the bill when it comes.

I thought of this recently in a meeting with a colleague. I mistook his recent lack of optimism as simply a bout of negative thinking. It turned out to be a lack of margin. He starts every week knowing that he will barely get things done -- including many tasks he is capable of doing at a much higher level. If he had some margin.

How about you? What parts of your life are comfortable because you are prepared for the challenges that will surely arise? What gives you stress because you have barely enough?