Astronauts use checklists to ensure they’re doing tasks in order and they don’t miss anything. It’s been statistically proven that hospitals that require surgeons to use checklists have fewer accidents, lower death rates and better outcomes. The use of checklists by airline pilots has made that form of travel the safest by a long shot.
If these high-stakes industries use checklists to ensure positive outcomes, why don’t church leaders use more checklists? Our stakes are high … our outcomes are important.
Atul Gawande asks a similar question in his bestselling book The Checklist Manifesto, which is about convincing leaders to adopt widespread use of checklists. Here are some applications for church leadership and why we all need to be using them more:
• Clarity Is Paramount. Weekends at most churches are high-pressure times. There are programming demands and people to care for, with a limited amount of time to get everything completed. Having absolute clarity with your leaders is important in these situations. Airline pilots use checklists at the start of each shift because the stakes are high and they don’t want to forget anything … we can take a cue from them!
• Concise Communication Tool. Breaking down crucial tasks at your church into a list forces you to communicate the most essential steps. Sometimes the process of making the list helps you reduce the number of steps and simplify. In the end, you are left with a concise communication tool for your teams.
• Making the Intangible More Concrete. Caring for people is often about taking practical steps to ensure they know how much we love them. When people have a newborn baby, someone in their small group needs to rally the other members to make meals, some people should head over and cut the grass, while the kids ministry needs to be notified about the new little one of the way. Stopping to think about the tangible steps to take at any moment of transition ensures people can swing into action when the time comes.
• Forcing You to Think Through the Correct Steps. By thinking through the best way to get a certain task done at your church, you’re forced to assess the process. Have you ever gotten to the end of a project and realized that if you did a few things earlier in the process, things would have gone better? Preparing a checklist gives you the opportunity to step back and think through what order various items need to be done in.
• Ensuring You Haven’t Missed Anything. The smallest steps often have the biggest impact. When a family checks in to your kids ministry for the first time, a handwritten note from a small group leader probably carries more weight than a glossy brochure. Taking time to build a checklist gives you the opportunity to identify easily overlooked small items that can make a huge impact!
• It’s New-Team-Member Friendly. Growing churches are constantly moving new people into new volunteer positions. Breaking down essential functions into checklists helps “on-board” volunteers quickly. It also shows them that you were thinking about them, because you’ve provided a tool that supports them in their new roles. New volunteers feel anxious about serving … checklists help reduce that anxiety!
Six Done-for-You Checklists for Your Church
Download and put these checklists into action right away at your church. We’ve provided editable documents so you can change, expand and improve them for your church.