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7 Project Management Mistakes You Can Easily Avoid


Have you ever debriefed an event or program launch and realized that you and your team committed some project management mistakes? We’ve all been there.

Building remodels, special events, community outreaches, and new program launches are examples of projects that churches manage in addition to weekly services. It’s critical that projects are managed effectively in order to come in on budget and on time. Let’s check out some project management errors that you can easily avoid in the future, and in the meantime, help your staff accomplish more with less stress.

Equip your team to accomplish goals with less stress when you avoid these 7 project management mistakes.

#1 – Start Planning Too Late

If your church wants to host a marriage seminar with a guest speaker who’s in high demand, you’ll need to start planning 6-12 months in advance. Why so early? Depending on who you want as a guest speaker, that person might be booked out for several months, and to get on that person’s calendar, you’ll need to plan ahead.

Also, hosting a marriage seminar implies you’ll provide childcare. Coordinating childcare workers, and getting people to register early so you know how many children to expect, and more takes time. 

For outdoor events, you might have to apply for permits from local governments to block off roads. A job fair outreach would require coordination with multiple companies. Even something most churches do annually, like VBS, turns out best when you have sufficient time to plan and communicate.

Pro Tip: Most church management systems have project management tools built into the software. Discover what yours has to offer.

Make these events more fun and less stressful by starting early. You can avoid this project management error by giving your team adequate time to plan and make the project a success without practically living at the church office.

#2 – Poorly Defined Project Scope

The project scope is a description of what’s included in that project. For example, during a remodeling effort, you might note the sanctuary is the only room included in the project. And yet the entrance and hallways leading to the sanctuary are not included.

It’s easy for people to sit in the same meetings week after week and still have different understandings of what the project entails. Define, document, and repeatedly communicate what’s in scope vs. what’s out of scope to prevent misunderstandings. 

A defined scope:

  • Keeps the team focused on the project at hand.
  • Reduces the likelihood of someone trying to add work to the project.
  • Helps leadership tie the project budget specifically to the scope.
Defining the scope will help you easily avoid project management mistakes and also produce benefits for everyone involved.

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#3 – Overly Ambitious Scope

As important as it is to define the project scope, it also might be necessary to rein it in from the start. Visionary leaders may ask for a huge event that requires involvement from multiple organizations, finding a large venue, and requesting donated goods or services. A project of that magnitude is certainly possible. However, if the leader asks for this event to happen within a month…or wants to use a team of three people and a minuscule budget…that’s asking for project failure.

As you manage your project, ask whether each item under consideration is key to the project’s success. If it’s not, avoid mistakes by leaving it out and moving on.

#4 – Neglecting The Process

Coordinating all of the tasks necessary to successfully complete a building remodel, community outreach, new program launch, or software implementation takes discipline and attention to detail. If you don’t follow the same process for coordinating each project, you’ll have inconsistent approaches (and results).

On the other hand, using the same process for every project brings clarity and consistency. Each staff member and volunteer will know what you expect and how to handle their tasks. You’ll receive better and more accurate updates on the status of each project.

A standard, repeatable, scalable process brings better results and is less stress for everyone involved.

#5 – Neglecting To Involve All Impacted Departments

While they aren’t the front-and-center aspects of the church, there are a few departments that you can’t afford to leave off the project team. Almost every project will require the involvement of your facilities, finance, IT, and communications staff.

Consider this:

  • What would happen if you decided to host VBS without telling the facilities team when you planned on doing this? They might have scheduled a company to replace the carpet in several children’s classrooms that week.
  • What if the communications team didn’t know the dates for the upcoming launch of small groups? You won’t have anything on the church website for people to sign up, no social media announcements, or slides for the Sunday service announcement.
Bring all supporting departments into the planning process so they can communicate what they’ll need to make this project successful. This is a mistake that’s easy to avoid.

#6 – Accepting Last-Minute Changes

This mistake often coincides with a short project timeline. If you don’t start planning early enough, you won’t have much time for brainstorming or for the creative process. This often leads to “oh, what if we did…!” discussions from senior leaders. These last-minute changes will involve extra work, rework, budget overruns, and frustrated team members. 

If leadership requests a last-minute change, provide them with the potential impacts of that decision. “We can make that happen. However, it will cost $X more than we budgeted for and will require X number of people to work into the late evening every night this week. Do you still want to proceed?”

Instead, brainstorm options that could achieve the desired impact they want without as much chaos for the project team.

Managing worship? Check out 4 of the latest worship planning software options.

#7 – Ignoring Lessons Learned

As you wrap up a big project, there will be aspects that went extremely well and others that could have been better. If you don’t gather the team to discuss lessons learned soon after a project is complete, you’ll lose that valuable information. Don’t repeat the same mistakes or fail to capitalize on the stuff that worked.

Capture lessons learned within a week after a project is finished. Then, when you prepare to start a new project, review those lessons learned to avoid those mistakes when you manage similar projects in the future. The process will enable you to organize tasks, keep everyone informed, and pull off an event or project on-time, within budget, and without unnecessary stress.

Committing to a process based on lessons learned will help you avoid project management mistakes. 

It may seem like project management is a practice reserved for the business world. Actually, it’s a powerful tool your team can use to achieve ministry goals.

Will you share some of the mistakes you’ve learned to avoid? Leave a comment below!

Deborah Ike
Deborah Ike
Deborah Ike is the Founder of The Church Operations Toolkit, a resource for those who serve behind-the-scenes in their churches. In addition to serving in ministry, Deborah worked for an international consulting firm and a Fortune 500 company as a consultant, project manager, and risk management analyst. Deborah is certified as a Project Management Professional (PMP)® through the Project Management Institute.


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