Play Ball: Pitching your Best Ideas

Pitch Like a Closer

With the start of baseball season I was reminded of a youth worker who was preparing to pitch her most impassioned ministry idea to her pastor. She asked for help organizing her thoughts and anticipating the pastor’s questions and concerns. We framed the presentation as a story, and like every good storyteller, answered six essential questions.

1. What?

(a) What is your vision? This is the single most important question to answer. Be prepared to give a two sentence soundbite answer or a thirty minute presentation depending on how much time the pastor gives you. Phrase the short answer to provoke the listener to want to know more. Remember KISS: “Keep it simple, stupid.” No need to over-complicate this, but make it compelling. For example, God’s vision, through millennia of history, could be summed up in one sentence: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whoever would believe in him would not perish but have everlasting life.”

(b) What is the need you’re serving? How does your vision respond to a felt need within the community?

2. Why?

Why does your vision matter? Personalize the why. Be prepared with stats and data and demographics and whatever other reasons you might have, but what’s going to win pastor over is the people your vision is going to reach, not numbers and data. Tell a story or two or three about the difference your services/passion can make in someone’s life. “We overcome the enemy by the blood of the lamb, and the word of our TESTIMONY!”

3. Who?

(a) Who are you called to serve? Who benefits?

(b) Who else (organizations, individuals, congregations) needs to be part of the team: staff, volunteers, advisers, etc? Generally, the more the merrier, but be realistic in your assessment of this. It’s probably best to build with a small group initially and expand from there. Remember, Jesus picked twelve, and they took his message and changed the world.

(c) Who are competitors and/or partners in the cause? Paint a picture of the current landscape.

4. How?

How do you propose to get the job done? This is where you should be prepared with as much detail as possible about your plans (keeping in mind he may not even ask), such as budgets, strategy, programs, services, hours, operations, staff, volunteers, and organizational structure (e.g. separate nonprofit, ministry of the church, initiative of a collaboration or network, extension of some other ministry, etc.).

5. Where?

Where do you see the vision being implemented: neighborhood, city, region, state, nationally, or internationally? Is it contained in a storefront, a church office, rented space, or an entire facility of its own?

6. When?

When do you see the plan being executed and the vision coming to life? Do you have a timeline and what milestones do you expect to achieve along the way?

Additional Considerations

When pitching your vision to a boss or accountability group (elder board, ministry council, whatever), be prepared, if asked, to describe more personally why this vision matters to you, not just in general, and whether you have explored other options to possibly see the vision materialize. I.e., does it have to be a church initiative or a new organization? Are there other options, like pursuing existing jobs in the field?

Also, don’t be intimidated by questions or feel like you have to have an answer for everything. Do your homework and get prepared as much as possible at this stage of the process, but your pastor is not going to be surprised that you’re still doing research and planning. In fact, to some degree it’s best not to have all the answers because it gives him and/or the congregation reason to get plugged in. If you could handle it on your own, why should they bother?

Lastly, be conversational, but professional. The last thing pastor wants is to feel like someone’s selling him something and he’s going to get stuck with a huge bill. To the extent you communicate your passion conversationally, rather than some forced, rehearsed script, the better off you’ll be. But remain professional. You are the visionary here — i.e. the one to whom God entrusted this dream — and as such you’re responsible to lead and show others the way.

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