Every church has projects:

  • Planning a new program launch
  • Reconfiguring the sanctuary
  • Updating the A/V system
  • Coordinating an outreach event

... and much more.

These efforts have a specific deadline, budget and goals. To make sure everyone involved stays on task and within the budget, you need someone to keep the team organized.

Think of a project manager as an orchestra conductor. He doesn't play the music, but he keeps the musicians in sync.

If your church hasn't really focused on assigning a leader or project manager over each effort, you may not have a staff member on board who's specifically trained in that discipline. Thankfully, project management is a skill you can learn with on-the-job training. However, it does require a certain set of innate skills that are harder to teach.

If you're not in a position to hire someone new, try looking at those already on your team. Who already possesses these traits of a potential project manager?

Trait 1: Detail-oriented

Project management involves keeping track of all tasks, purchases, deadlines, vendors and individuals involved in any given project. If you have someone on staff who always goes straight to the nitty-gritty details, you may have a budding project manager.

Trait 2: Loves making lists

I'm a to-do list junkie. Writing down what I need to accomplish in a given month calms down my racing brain so I can focus. If you know someone who's constantly creating a to-do list (even going so far as to write down a task that's already completed just for the satisfaction of crossing it off), keep reading.

Trait 3: Thinks 5-10 steps ahead

A good project manager is always thinking ahead to who needs to accomplish which tasks in the upcoming weeks. She considers the potential implications if Task A isn't completed on time.

When the pastor mentions an idea for a new church event, a potential project manager is already considering the myriad details needed to accomplish that event and what else it may impact.

Trait 4: Able to lead diverse teams

If you're planning a marriage retreat, you'll need to coordinate tasks from various groups within the staff (family ministry leader, marketing department, service announcements, facilities and more).

This requires someone who is comfortable leading a team where no one reports to him directly. He needs to be able to rally a team to a common goal, respect the skills and demands on the time of each individual, and still be confident enough to hold each team member accountable to deadlines.

Trait 5: Can summarize progress for senior leaders

When you have someone who loves details, it can be challenging for them to provide a high-level summary. However, your senior pastor probably doesn't want to hear about every single task (nor does he have the time to listen). A strong project manager is able to go from the 30,000-foot view to ground level and back again as needed.

Trait 6: Is willing to raise concerns while always offering solutions

When your mind is full of details, it’s easy to think, "This is going to be really hard if not near impossible to accomplish." However, that's not an attitude a successful project manager can take.

You need someone who can see all the details and still be confident the team can pull it off. This individual also needs to be confident enough to raise potential issues early on. She should always provide a few options to solve each issue and be ready to implement whichever solution leadership approves.

Trait 7: Looks out for staff and volunteers

Ultimately, a project manager is a leader. This person must look out for his team, making sure they have what they need to be successful and they aren't working too much. She needs to be able to inspire and motivate her team, be aware of the team’s mood, be willing to listen and be empathetic, all while keeping the big picture in mind.

Project management is much more than simply keeping track of a massive to-do list and making sure each person gets his/her tasks done on time.

It involves coordinating with people of various skillsets and different personalities. It means learning how to communicate with each individual in a way he/she best responds to. It requires emotional intelligence and discernment.

No one gets it "right" the first time leading a project. I made more than my share of mistakes my first few projects. However, I also learned from my mistakes (and from my team).

If you have a staff member with many of these characteristics — or one you think has the potential to develop them — consider putting him/her in charge of a small project. This will give him/her a chance to develop these skills on a lower-risk effort.

Trying to pull off a successful event or other short-term effort without a project manager is harder than necessary. Start cultivating this skill within your church staff and enjoy the benefits of their coordinating talents.