It had been years since the church had even attempted to have a “missions convention” – an extended weekend dedicated to hosting and supporting missionaries. The idea of hosting our first under the church’s new leadership was welcomed enthusiastically, and I volunteered to put the convention together. There were to be many moving parts to such an endeavor, and I believed that I understood the process of coordinating them well enough to construct a successful weekend.
I began to coordinate the resources for the project, gaining commitments from three missionaries who would come as our guest speakers for the weekend and arranging their accommodations and meals, coordinating the advertising for the weekend, and even putting together a team of ushers so that all who came to visit during the services would be welcome and comfortable. As the date approached, I shared my progress confidently with the missions team. All was going swimmingly, until I got the phone call from a very upset chairman of the church’s ladies group.
There was a term with which I am now familiar that I had no understanding of back then: “stakeholder.” Portny et al (2008) define stakeholders as those “who support or are affected by a project.” The latter half of that definition described the chairman on the phone with me. In my enthusiasm for the convention, I had neglected to consider how the convention would impact the church’s other ministries, and in that neglect had inadvertently scheduled the convention during the weekend that had traditionally been reserved for the ladies’ annual Christmas bazaar and church tag sale. They had done the bazaar for more than two decades, always on the first weekend of December – a history I was unaware of when I set the dates for the missions event.
I was painted into a corner. By the time I received the call it was too late to cancel the missionaries – they would not be able to fill the weekend on just four weeks’ notice. The ladies were adamant about holding their bazaar on its traditional weekend, and we were sadly left with a divided congregation for the weekend. Many came to the missions convention, but it was not nearly the success it should have been, and could have been if I had communicated more effectively and in a more timely manner. The debacle caused hostility between the missions and ladies’ ministries that took months to resolve. Portny lists both poor communication and failing to involve stakeholders as pitfalls that need to be identified and corrected early in a project. Had I known and followed his advice, the winter of 1995 would have been a warmer one around our little church.
Portny, S. E., Kramer, B. E., Mantel, S., Meredith, J., Shafer, S., & Sutton, M. (2008). Project management. Hoboken, N.J: Wiley.