barn building

One of my favorites of all of Tim Elmore’s Habitudes is what he calls “Barn Building.”

The idea is this: When faced with the question of building your house first or your barn first, choose the barn!

Why? Because the barn will help pay for the house!

The application? It makes sense to order your tasks, if you can accomplish things early that will fuel later success.

For anyone involved in college ministry, Barn Building is key. It urges us to prioritize activities toward the beginning of a semester (the first three weeks or so), or even when tackling bigger tasks like starting or restarting whole ministries.

In my last college ministry job, we were basically in a ministry restart. So Barn Building led me to focus FIRST on two particular things: developing potential leaders, and teaching truths meant to rally our crew around some “great in the basics” ideas. The leaders would be important for the progression of the ministry. Teaching the themes was important for developing an underlying culture of integrity and commitment. Both would hopefully fuel our ministry in the days to come.

Each of these choices were, in fact, not the most effective ways to grow in size. More attention on more students (instead of just the leaders), more interesting teaching topics, and even a mix of super teachers and topics would all have helped in that area. But I knew that laying the groundwork for future success was more important than drawing a crowd to a still-embryonic cause.

Barn Building works semester-by-semester, too. Example:

What if, for example, you sense a need to teach Christian Dating and Spiritual Disciplines this semester? Barn Building might suggest teaching Spiritual Disciplines first. Not only will students connect with God better now, but their growing spirituality will ready them to hear God’s truths about Relationships!

Have you thought about this semester’s order? Could any special events, message topics, or other elements help fuel any later activities? Should they come first?

This Barn Building idea is deeper than simply saying “first things first”; it actually gives a good reason for putting certain things first. Usually, both the house and the barn get built in the end. But the house ends up bigger and better (and more easily built) than it would have, because the barn’s positive effects carry over.

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  1. Pingback: thinking through your college ministry’s nexts « Exploring College Ministry blog (daily notes about our field)

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