Getting The Most Out Of Your Team: Five Horizons Of Focus


I chatted with Brian Drinkwine this week about his tips on building a great church leadership team. Brian is the Student Ministries Pastor at New Life Community Church in Arizona. He’s passionate about Next Gen, leadership, and personal development.

Holly: What do you think is the most difficult tasks for church leaders in ministry?

Brian: Developing a church leadership team that moves beyond "doers" to "owners" is sometimes one of the most difficult tasks of a church leader. While it's certainly not easy and in many ways is an art, you can truly maximize your long-term impact in ministry if you're willing to develop habits of giving away responsibility.

Holly: But what does actually building the habit of giving away responsibility look like?

Brian: I have had to become relentless about constantly re-casting vision to our team and ensuring that the vision never "leaks." The concept of "horizons of focus" has become a part of our church leadership team dynamic. The concept is analogous to the horizons you would see if you were floating in the air and how far/wide your vision is able to go depending on your altitude. It's not original to any single person, but it is most notably talked about in David Allen's groundbreaking personal organization book Getting Things Done.

Holly: What do these horizons look like on a practical level in ministry? How do you incorporate them into your daily church leadership?

Brian: I highly encourage working through these horizons and determining them for your unique environment, beginning with the highest level and working your way down. I’ve broken them down into six parts and applied them to our ministry.

50,000 feet: PURPOSE & VALUES
In our environment, our purpose is clear: reach students far from God and bring them into a passionate relationship with Jesus. Our values are things like gospel, excellence, story, and grace, the things that make us "us." Questions you should ask when thinking at this horizon are:
• Why does your church/ministry exist?
• What are the things that make your church/ministry unique?
• What deep convictions do you have that act as your boundaries in ministry?

40,000 feet: 3-YEAR VISION
Even in student ministry, I find it very valuable to be casting vision for the future this far out. When people are bought into a vision that goes beyond the next year, especially in student ministry, It tells them that this ministry is different and "on the move" in a way that isn't typically expected. Questions you should ask when thinking at this horizon are:
• What can your church/ministry do better than anyone else?
• If your church/ministry closed its doors today, would anyone notice? What would you want them to say?
• In three years, what do you feel are "non-negotiable" achievements that you want to accomplish as a church/ministry?
• What is your church/ministry strategy? Does anything need a major change?

30,000 feet: 1-YEAR GOALS
Having lofty goals that stretch the team, especially when they're goals that the team themselves set, can act as an accelerant to their performance. God wired us to desire significance, and goals help the team to measure progress. Questions you should ask when thinking at this horizon are:
• What is your ministry infrastructure and are there any role changes that need to happen on your team?
• What major initiatives and/or events that you have specific hopes and aspirations for?
• What personal, spiritual, congregational, and strategic goals and habits need to take place to position your church/ministry for a successful attainment of your 3-year vision?

20,000 feet: 90-DAY PLANNING
Our ministry is typically planned at least 10-12 months out in series content and events on the calendar. For this reason, we have to be intentional about keeping their hearts focused on the what's coming a few months out. At this level, the team is fully collaborative in decision-making, with me acting as a guide. The focus at this level is helping the team prioritize what needs to be consuming their focus in the future. It helps to create anticipation and buy-in, and team members will engage more creatively because they've already been thinking about things. Questions you should ask when thinking at this horizon are:
• Are you well-planned at least 90-days out and have at least a basic plan for beyond that?
• Based on your current church/ministry model, what major projects need to enter the discussion with your team before they catch up with you?
• How are you doing in achieving your 1-year goals? What can you do in the next 90 days to make greater gains?
• How well are you communicating what's "coming up" to your team (paid and/or volunteer), families, etc.? Do any communication projects need to be initiated before it's too late?

10,000 feet: PROJECTS
This is the level where I delegate. My personal philosophy is that if the team is clear on 20,000+ feet, then projects will be done to completion with excellence. Based on the 20,000 level planning, team members are asked to return to our meetings with project concepts, then we discuss the projects as a team. At this level, however, it's important to note that the team members are not being hand-held. They are responsible. And they love it. Questions you should ask when thinking at this horizon are:
• What events, messages, and other short-term initiatives need to be accomplished to keep your vision moving? What larger initiatives are taking place that need to be broken down into smaller projects to succeed?
• What tools and resources will be needed to execute a given project?
• Are there any specific people that should be brought into the mix who have particular gifting in this area? At what level do you want them engaged?

Ground level: TASKS
Once a project has been determined and a concept meeting has taken place where the project has been clarified, the team member overseeing the project then creates task lists with due dates and returns to me for review. A final draft is finished and off to the races!
• What tasks need to be accomplished to successfully complete a project (i.e. calls, errands, emails, etc.)?
• Who is responsible for each individual task? Who is overseeing delegated tasks to ensure that they are all completed on time?
• When do tasks need to be accomplished? Do you need to create "phases" with different task lists for each one (i.e. due by the 15th, due by the 30th, due in 60 days, etc.)?

Holly: I like this approach because it allows church leadership team members to see the long term affects of short-term tasks and goals. Do you ever run into any specific challenges using this system?

Brian: Well, it may sound "systematic," but it looks a lot more organic in person. It may even seem quite messy when you begin applying it to your ministry. However, being consistent means that my teamknows what to expect and over time the team has gotten very skilled at taking on significant projects and knocking them out of the park. In fact, there are some events that, outside of a brainstorming and advisory capacity, I am almost absent from the execution. It merely reflects a high level of trust that I am able to have in our team as a result of our clarity around the higher levels of focus.

Holly: That’s great, Brian! Thank you so much for sharing what you’re learning with us.

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