Maximum Impact for Minimum Input

Have you ever felt spread thin ... like too little butter and too much toast?

So much of our ministry in South Florida is, by necessity, drive-by.  I don't have time to disciple all of the student leaders I'm responsible for.  I'm spread thin.

I can only provide a minimum input on campus.

And I need to get a maximum impact.  At some schools, I'll only be able to visit them twice this month.  But that doesn't change the need.  Our leaders need vision, encouragement, training.  And the campus needs our leaders running at full steam.

Maybe you have situations like this in your own life.  You have a few minutes, an hour, a day ... much less time than you'd prefer ... and you need to see a maximum impact.  Work.  Family.  Church.  Friendship. 

What do you do when you need maximum impact from minimum input?

Here are three things that help me when I can only make a minimum input ...

1) Be direct

As a Gen-Y postmodern and a Latino, I'm most comfortable leading in an indirect, relational context.  I want to talk about family and football before we get down to business.  And this is a very effective way to lead ... if you have the time.

When I'm pressed and stretched, I'm finding that I need to set the Socratic method aside and tell people what I think. And I'm finding that this is very effective.  When students know I just have a brief time with them, they appreciate me getting down to business.

2) Layer prep

I like to customize everything.  When I was focused on one chapter and a hand-full of students, I loved crafting mentoring sessions to each student's needs and opportunities.  It was special, fun.  And I would be doing it now ... if I had time.

I'm finding, however, that I can get some of the impact of customization by layering prep.  I can prepare three different modules, designed to help in focused areas ... and roll them out as needed. 

For years I looked down on this type of ministry, dismissed it as "cookie-cutter." But there's a reason we have cookie-cutters. Cookie-cutter cookies are better than no cookies.

For August and September, it's been Salt and Light Missionality, OIA Training and Principles for Spiritual Growth (not necessarily in that order).  There are a million things to talk about ... I'm just touching on three.  These three will have a big, multiplicative, strategic impact, even if they aren't the most urgent and timely conversations.

3) Encourage the heart

I'm still learning to do this, but I see that it's important.  When you only have a short window, try doing something to let your leaders know you appreciate them, you know them, you care about them.

When I visit my Staff team (which I am able to do so much less than I'd like), I try to feed them a good meal and point out something special they've done recently, some special contour to their ministry.  It's not enough to say "good job."  You have to be specific.

And don't undervalue the impact of showing that you pay attention.  Over the last year, one member of my team mentioned the Short Circuit movies a few times.  Old school, funny, do you remember them?  Over the summer, I got him a copy of the movies (on VHS, because that's what he uses at home).  I'm trying to show him I listen.  If he knows I pay attention in this small thing, maybe he'll know I care about him and how he's doing ... even if I can't be in the field with him every week.

What minimum inputs have you seen have maximum impact?


  1. Steve,

    Interesting to hear how leading at such a large scope changes the way you lead.

    Something I've been thinking about after reading your post is, "Is it good to make our positions fit us or make us fit our positions?" You're an indirect person but you are willing to change and become direct as a result of your minimum time input. What if the person who succeeds you in the role doesn't want to be direct? Should they change and become direct or should the role change and allow them to be indirect?

    I don't have an answer, just thoughts that came up when reading. Would love to hear what you think.

  2. Eric, this is a great question.

    I'd love to lead in a way that felt more natural. I wonder sometimes if the results are worth the personal costs and identity turmoil.

    As far as a more directive leadership style goes, I don't see it as more than a short-term fix, a patch. I know you can't Five-Minute-Manage a ministry, especially not if you're committed to including Latinos and postmoderns.

    What's that look like in Destino? Do you feel some of that directive-relational tension?