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Consistency in fundamentals keeps creativity on the rails

When you “go multichannel” — expanding beyond Sunday worship — a critical element of both strategy and execution will be consistency.

I don’t mean the “foolish consistency” that Emerson scorned as the “hobgoblin of little minds,” by which every new thing must be exactly like every old thing, with no room for creativity, fresh ideas and risk-taking. Without the creative, fresh and risky, nothing significant can happen.

What I mean as necessary consistency is this:

Consistency in branding and thus in identity

Commercial enterprises and not-for-profits work hard to establish their brand and then to extend it across the full range of their activities. Everything Facebook does, for example, uses the same color blue, the familiar Facebook logo and the same confident and upbeat tone.

Consistent branding says we know who we are, whereas inconsistent branding communicates confusion, lurching, as if the new were bolted onto the old but didn’t arise organically from it.

When your church adds elements, each should carry forward the basic brand, such as the primary logo, but not get too fussy or constrained.

Consistency in quality control

Whatever standard of excellence you have set for your primary activities should carry forward into all activities. Standards vary, of course, from one church to another. There is no single perfect standard.

But if you have established certain standards — for example, leaders are prepared, events start and end on time, follow-up is prompt — every activity should follow suit.

Consistency in customer service

Phone calls get returned, e-mails get answered, questions are honored, group problems are addressed, conflicts are dealt with — in every activity. You want to level out the value structure, so that the “least of these my ministries” carries the same worth as any other.

Consistency in core values

Values differ from church to church, but let’s say your core values include accessibility or openness, transparency, and shared leadership. You don’t want to allow elitism in one group while promoting openness in another. You don’t want one group to suffer a tyrant as leader, when the overall value is sharing and being considerate. You don’t want one group to gossip while another honors transparency. The word will go around that nothing can be trusted.

For consistency in these four areas to occur, leaders must be strategic in planning for it and watchful in implementing it. As your ministries grow more diverse, your leadership cadre needs to expand, to be attentive — not stifling — and to collaborate, well, consistently in monitoring the body and sharing insights about its functioning.

You can’t just set something in motion and assume it will proceed smoothly without further attention.