I'm lucky. I live within five miles of Bass Pro Shops. Its fun to go over there at night, walk around and see all the equipment that's available for hunting, fishing, camping, and other outdoor activities. It can also be frustrating. There is so much stuff available now for most leisure activities that it's sometimes overwhelming. You just don't walk in and buy fish hooks anymore, instead you have all sorts of choices depending and what species you are after. The simplicity of just having fun and relaxing has long since past.
Sports are not the only place this has happened. The tendency to complicate has surfaced in nearly every arena--including our Sunday schools and Christian education efforts. I am thankful that we have begun to see the need to provide a greater degree of quality in our programs. However, some have mistaken complication for quality. There is a world of difference. This is not new. In Jesus' day, the Pharisees had complicated God's laws to the extent that they themselves, not to mention the common man, couldn't live up to the standards they imposed. The crowds flocked to hear Jesus because He offered real solutions to real problems in the language of the masses. As administrators we need to be keenly aware of the natural tendency for things to go from being simple to complicated. We need to monitor our programs to be prevent this natural evolution.
Here are some areas that we should watch:
Nothing is more intriguing than a good flow chart. All the little boxes, squares, lines, dotted lines all look exciting but can get you lost in a hurry. A good rule of thumb is the only thing I remember from high school geometry--a straight line is the shortest distance between two points. Work to keep the flow as simple and direct as possible. Don't add anything to the structure you do not need. When you add something new, see what you can remove. This insures structural simplicity.
Every book you read on writing stresses using the minimum number of words to communicate your message. Wordy documents are neither easily nor often read. Well written documents have short, to the point sentences. Billeted or number points that stand out from the rest of the text make important information or instructions standout. No need for fancy types or enhancements such as bold, italics, or underlining. A few of these things can go a long way.
Word choice is important, too. The right word is more effective than a big word. People have a tendency to pass over the big word, assigning a meaning that fits within the context. This often causes a misunderstanding of your intent. The right word is one that is specific, familiar, and easily understood. For example it is better to say, "Don't talk down to the student when teaching" and is better understood than saying "Don't pontificate while expounding to your enrollment."
Winston Churchill once said, "Using a big word when a small one would do is utterly reprehensible." Be a person of few but accurate words.
Staff meetings are essential to the health and success of your program. But keep them short, meaningful, and simple.
Good records are important. Forms are beneficial to help you follow-up, track guests, and evaluate your projects. However, don't get your workers caught up in a sea of paper work. They don't have time to do it, so they won't. Look for every way to implement a paperwork reduction act in you church.
These are just a few things you can streamline. You may have many others as well. Remember, you deal with volunteers who are busy in other areas as well. Make things as simple as you can for them.
We all know about the KISS principle--keep it simple sir. You will find it works.
Written by Larry Thomas
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