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When I get my car detailed, I want the guy with the Q-tips in his shirt pocket and a glazed look in his eyes, not the party animal with extra dark sunglasses and a T-shirt that says: "Beer is proof that God loves mankind."

When you go into surgery, my strong hunch is that you want a physician that is not only dedicated to details but who actually cares about the quality with which he tends to those details.

Personally, I get nervous when the surgeon says, "Whoops." That actually happened to me—it was an outpatient surgery with a local anesthetic, but it wasn't minor to me! I said: "What do you mean, "whoops"? His response was "Don't worry, it's no big deal."

No big deal?!

Let's face it, when it comes to details—especially when it concerns you—they matter. From receiving all your mail every day to having your paycheck deposited to your account every time, details matter.

Something that has captured my attention for many years is the number of leaders who don't want to pay attention to details. These leaders will say something like, "All I care about is vision." Or "All I care about is my sermon." Yet, they struggle with making the vision actually happen.

Let me push it a little. Too many leaders disavow themselves from details for one of three reasons: Bravado, laziness, or lack of gifting. Only the third one counts, but that still doesn't absolve them from the responsibility of details.

Many who claim lack of gifting are more truly described by one of the first two.

I have served two visionary leaders for more than 20 years: John Maxwell and now Kevin Myers. They are both masters at detail. They miss nothing.

John could tell you the name of nearly everyone in the church and knew who was in the hospital. He could tell you the names of several new people and something about them every week.

Kevin has a mind for financial numbers that is amazing. He knows the numbers, cold—and not just what they are, but more importantly what they mean.

Kevin understands how to interpret those numbers, and how to relate them to where people are spiritually and emotionally (a.k.a. their morale), which gives him insight into how to lead them forward. The list goes on.

The key for Kevin, John and all of us who lead, is knowing which of these hundreds of details to do something about, which to simply observe and which to ignore.

It's About Vision
Leaders pay attention to details when it pertains to VISION.

Vision is the critical path by which we lead people in the direction God has asked us to go. Let's start with the obvious, there are some details that matter and some that don't.

For example, take your weekend worship attendance. This is a detail that all leaders pay attention to; however, why you are growing (or not), the number of visitors, how many stay, and how many "members" leave are far more important than the simple attendance number.

Candidly, the attendance number is one of the least important stats in the local church, but it gets more attention than others.

Vision is large, but must be broken down and understood in depth in order to be realized. Leaders take that which is large and make it easy to grasp and believably achievable.

We are currently in the process of designing a master plan for 84 acres and a campus that will ultimately, by God's grace, serve well beyond 10,000 people a Sunday. It's a large vision—but this vision alone won't get us there.

We are currently in an intense search for an architect to design these buildings. By the time you read this article, the decision will be made. The level of detail has been mind-numbing, but it matters.

We started with at least 20 different names. The interview process narrowed that down to nine. Presentations narrowed that list of architects to three. The next round of presentations narrowed it down to the final two.

It took you a few seconds to read these last four sentences, but they represent dozens and dozens of hours. Why such detail? It's all about the future vision of the church. It matters.

It's About People
Leaders pay attention to details when it's about PEOPLE.

People will always be the bottom-line reason for all that we do in the local church.

As a young pastor, I knew this to be true in my mind and heart, but I didn't practice it until John coached me in the now infamous "walk slowly through the crowd" lesson.

In its essence, that principle embraces the detail of leading people. It means you must slow down enough to see and sense what is happening in their lives, which will then enable you to show that you genuinely care.

I lead the staff at Crossroads Church. I don't think of the staff as my job, but to an outsider asking what I do, they are my core responsibility. From who is hired to who is fired and all that lies between, the staff is the focus of my work.

However , they don't want to be known by their work, they want to be known personally. Though flawed in my efforts, I will often connect and "check-in" with staff members, particularly those I'm directly responsible for, just to see how they are doing—things like their health, kids, hobbies, special family days.

These are little things compared to the overall vision, but not when you remember that ultimately the people are the vision. Remember, the staff is part of the congregation. One day, I'm going to write an article titled: "Church Staff: The Forgotten Congregation."

It's especially important for a larger church to learn this principle, but all churches of all sizes must pay attention to the details of people's lives.

It's About Getting Things Done
Leaders pay attention to the details of doing what they said they'll do.

Before we go any further, I want to deal with one simple fact: Detail exposes your character as a leader. When it comes to doing something you said you'd do, details matter. Let me be blunt—if you don't intend to do it, don't say you will.

Every time you make a promise and don't keep it, your leadership integrity erodes in the minds and hearts of your followers.

I'm not suggesting that leaders need to purposefully make promises only when they know in advance that they can keep them. I'm talking about laziness in follow-through. "I'm not a detail guy" doesn't cut it when you make a promise.

It is far better to skip saying you'll do something than to say you will and not come through. A common example is seeing someone on Sunday morning, having a brief conversation, and ending it by saying "I'll call you." And you forget.

There was no malice and the Kingdom of God will not come to an end. But that person will lose a little respect for you because you didn't do what you said you'd do.

To you it was one little call of dozens of calls. To them, it was their call. A simple solution is to ask them to call you.

Whether you said you'll find a book for someone or said you'd write a letter of reference, details matter. These details are not so important in themselves—they are important because they are connected to a person.

People make details matter.

It's About Decisions
Leaders pay attention to the details of KEY DECISION PATHWAYS

The top leaders in any good organization don't make all the decisions, but they know how decisions are made and who makes them.

I will deal more with leaders empowering others to make decisions in a follow-up article, but for now let me say that the more responsibility you carry, the fewer decisions you should make.

You still understand and influence the process, for that is key to your leadership, but you don't make the final call on every issue.

This lets you intuitively and literally monitor the pace of your organization. You can tell when decisions are being made too fast or too slowly. You can tell when and where bottlenecks are occurring, and preventing your church from moving forward.

Let's face it, church committees, boards and staff members can really bog things down. Whether it's because of overwork or inexperience, the issue must still be addressed.

Knowing decision pathways is like knowing the tracks of a train and its destination. As the leader, your job isn't to work on every tie and rail, but to clear the way so the train can keep moving forward.

This may involve training, coaching, clarifying vision, or any number of things. But if you don't know the decision pathways, you won't be able to keep the organization of the church operating smoothly and effectively.

It's About Hearing God's Voice
Leaders pay attention to details when God is speaking personally.

If you will allow me the privilege of a pastoral moment with you, I want to emphasize the importance of listening to and obeying God even in the little details of life. This is often where He tests our leadership and deems us qualified to lead in larger arenas.

It is frequently in the small promptings that we, under the pressures and demands of the day, might consider them to be details that don't matter and therefore skip them, but I can assure you that they do.

Let me close with this story....

A couple of days ago, I received an email from a friend in Chicago from whom I haven't heard in many months. In the midst of her busy life, which includes kids, ministry, and a dozen other things, God prompted her to pray for me about a certain issue.

Well, she emailed me and we discovered that God was (and still is) speaking to me on that exact topic that same day. It's a subject that will greatly impact who I am as a Christian leader in the months and years to come.

Is it a little detail? Maybe. But I think it's something big, and I don't want to imagine the consequences had she ignored that "little" prompting to pray.

Leaders pay attention to details when they want their organization to succeed. One wise leader once said, "Details determine destiny." Is that over the top? I don't think so. What do you think?

This article is used by permission from
Dr. Dan Reiland's free monthly e-newsletter
The Pastor's Coach available at

Author Biography

Dan Reiland
Web site: 12 Stone Church
Dan Reiland is Executive Pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as Executive Pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as Vice President of Leadership and Church Development at INJOY.

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