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The Development Evangelist by Jerry Grimes, CFRE

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Five Critical Questions For Leaders


Jesus asks great questions.  To the woman about to be stoned, he asked "Where are your accusers?"  To Simon Peter, a noted questioner in his own right, Jesus asked "Who do you say that I am?"  and to His disciples,  in a number of ways, "Do you not yet understand?"  

Good leaders also ask great questions because questions can make people think.  They can bring clarity to almost any issue. They can isolate the truth or a gap in knowledge faster than just about anything else.   That's why a good leader asks himself plenty of questions, especially before deciding what to do about anything truly important.  

By my count, there are five critical questions a leader must ask himself or herself, pretty much on an on-going basis:

#1 What Is My Vision?

Famously, scripture says "Where there is no vision, the people perish," Proverbs 29:18.  Mission, vision and values are all easily confused.  For clarity, values are who you are, a mission is what you do and a vision is why you do it.  Your organization is headed somewhere, even if you aren't sure of the destination.  As a leader, your job is to steer the ship in a particular direction, toward a certain shore, in favor of a given destination.  Without this, people lose sight of why they do what they do.  When that happens they become disillusioned, unmotivated and hopeless.  Your vision is the only thing that will attract new followers, like volunteers and donors, to your cause. For that reason you should always be trying to hone your vision, to learn how to more clearly articulate it and how to keep make it as bold and inspiring as possible.  Its been said that people give to people, but based on experience, I would say people give to people...with vision. 

#2 Is My Organization Sustainable?

Competent managers are often promoted to lead organizations.  They often fail because management and leadership are very different.  Leaders should not be focused on the day-to-day running of their organizations.  If they are, that is all they will get done.  Leaders must have an advancement agenda. They must be about promoting their vision, as well as the relationships and strategies that will advance their organization by attracting more followers, more volunteers, more friends in the community and of course, more donors.  This presupposes that the organization is stable and that the leader's daily output is not needed to keep it going.  If that is the case, the leader's first task it to replace himself in the structure of the organization so he is free to lead.  Sadly, many leaders never get out of survival mode to a place where sustainability is a given, and true leadership can take the organization to a new level.

#3 How Can I Make Others Successful?

God's economy is very different.  Jesus made it clear, to lead in a Christian organization, one must serve.  For leaders, this translates to developing those around them, helping them grow and become more and more successful at what they do.  Leaders do this by defining outcomes, setting goals, and making sure the organization has the resources it needs to grow.  Great leaders develop more great leaders. Sharing knowledge, giving opportunity, taking risks with people and allowing them to fail and learn from their mistakes.  They model servant leadership causing its pragmatic ideals to be replicated both inside the organization and all around its sphere of influence.

#4 What Must Change?

It's trite, but so true..."Change is the only thing you can ever count on."  Leaders cannot fear change, they must thrive on it. Leadership built on faith in God as provider gives us boldness and assurance to make the most radical changes confidently.  Leaders do not bend the mission and certainly not the vision of the organization around obstacles, even if they come in human form.  There is balance between compassion, patience and long suffering with individuals and taking an organization where you know it should go as a leader.  Some people believe you can never fire anyone in ministry.  Nothing could be further than the truth.  "Hire slowly and fire swiftly" is the best advice a leader can heed.  There is a time for everything (Ecclesiastes 3).  Leaders often have to winnow through their resources, separating wheat from the chaff.  It is also in the leaders calling to separate the sheep from the goats. Never be afraid to change something, as long as it contributes to your mission, is in line with your values and helps propel you toward your vision.  

#5 Am I Listening To God?

"Never let them see you sweat" is a motto best suited for antiperspirant commercials; it has no real place in leadership.  Far from it, sometimes the best thing a leader can do is let people see how totally dependent on God they really are.  This dependence must include a daily walk that is fueled by prayer and time in the scriptures.  Jesus modeled this while on earth, often withdrawing from crowds and even his own disciples to commune with the Father.  Look how many leaders in the Old Testament failed because they stopped listening to God.  Saul comes to mind.  Ground yourself in the word and let God show you the next steps to take.  You will never be disappointed, and more importantly, you will never be disappointing to those in your organization.

What do you think? Are there other critical questions a leader should ask? Email me at Jerry.Grimes@Advocace.com and let me know your thoughts. 

Jerry Grimes, CFRE's avatar

Painful Truth: You Aren't Serious About Major Gifts


Get real about your major gifts fundraising effort by developing a plan, tracking it and reporting results.  Get tips on doing those three things as you learn about major gifts fundraising best practices that set successful Christian organizations apart. 

  1. Re: 7 Ways to Retain More Donors

    Great stuff! So good to see you link donors with the work. Remember how Paul linked the supporting folks...

    -- Jamie

  2. Re: Fundraising's Duh Factor: Keep more donors, raise more money

    Great read, I can appreciate the small things that keep the donor engaged.

    -- LaTanya

  3. Re: The Lapsed, Declined & The Disengaged

    Thanks Jerry. Organizations can also engage a credit card processing provider who enables donors to make...

    -- MKordic

  4. Re: Asking Naturally: Replacing Fear With Faith

    Thanks for the great post, Jerry--full of biblical truth! We join the Lord in His work through ministry...

    -- Will Stevens

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About Jerry

I’ve been involved in the media for over 30 years with experience that spans television, radio and print. But my growing passion over the past decade has become development for non-profit organizations.

I love being a special friend and advisor to dozens of ministry leaders and radio station managers across the country. (I believe Christian radio has only just begun to reach its full potential.)Many non-profit organizations are functioning at a level far below what they could achieve if development were given its proper place in the management process.

My skill set includes development, marketing, strategic planning and leadership development as a certified Ministry Coach..

Before joining Advocace, I served as a development consultant for another firm, and as General Manager for one of the top Christian music stations in the country, and as Donor Marketing Director for WAY-FM Media Group. I also enjoyed raising funds as Director of Development for the University Of South Carolina School Of Law, as well as an active speaker, writer and facilitator.

You can find out more about how I help non-profit organizations and how to contact me here.

Thanks for leaving a comment on my blog,