The Fish Model of Project Design

The following was a diagram that I had in my book, CHRISTIAN MEDICAL MISSIONS: Principles and Practices in the Church’s Role for Effective Community Outreach in the Philippines and Beyond. However, it is quite useful in Project Design for ministry, with special focus on the transitioning from a short-term event or project to a long-term program or ministry. The diagram looks a bit like a fish. Starting at the left side, moving to the right is the passage of time. The gap between the lower and upper lines involves the number of people involved.

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Point A: Initiation:  The idea for an event or prject comes from one person or a small group, and there is the decision to attempt to move forward with the idea.  (Those involves:  Perhaps 1 or 2)

Point B: Team-building:   This is the team-building phase. Buy-in is developed within the community and with outside help. Partnerships are developed and plans are worked out.(Perhaps the team involves 20 or 30).

Point C:  Seed Sowing:   Participants, the target group, are invited to participate in the event or project.  (The number targeted may vary wildly depending on the project. For a hands-on training, maybe 50 would be invited. For a medical mission, maybe 1000. For a city-wide evangelistic event, maybe tens of thousands.)

Point D: Event.  This is where the project/event is implemented. Most likely less will show up than was invited. (Perhaps 40% of those invited actually participate). During the event, there is intentional activity done to gather names, contact information, and such for those desiring to participate in activities that involve more commitment.

Points E and F.Filtering.  These are attempts to filter the initial participants to identify those who desire to be involved in a long-term program. 

Example #1.  For an evangelistic rally, one may gather names of those who walked forward to give their lives to Christ, or to dedicate themselves to Christ. Additionally, these people may be asked if they wish to join a church family or a home Bible study. After the event, follow-up will begin. Focus will be on those who expressed the most commitment (being part of a home Bible study), with secondary focus on those who desire a church family, next to those who expressed a desire to follow Christ, and last to those who simply attended without an expression of any commitment.

Exmaple #2.  A Children’s one-time event may be held. At that event, parents and children can be invited to a weeklong “Vacation Bible School.” Those who join the VBS can be invited to join a afternoon Bible club, or a church Sunday School.

Point G. Commitment Point. After the filtering proces, one reaches a small group that is ready to be committed to a long-term program. That program could be home Bible studies, a church, a community development program, or others. Although small in number, these have found value in what is being done, and are committed to be part of it over time.

Point H. Expansion. This where the committed group reaches out to others and begins to grow. Much of the growth would probably come from those who had initially expressed a lesser amount of commitment before, but now want to join with greater commitment.

Key Points

1.  There needs to be intentionality from no later than the team-building stage to do the project in a manner that allows it to support a long-term program. If that is not done, what often is left is a positive event and a prayer that “something good will come of this.” Prayer is important but when the event is designed in a manner that works against the prayer— well, there is a problem isn’t there?

2.  There needs to be follow-on activities that people are actively invited to commit to. One should not just assume “Oh, they know what they should do.” They don’t know what they should do if they are not invited.

3.  The invitations should be for things that are longer-term and involving a greater amount of commitment than the initial event.

4.  Embrace the idea that some will be lost on the way. This doesn’t mean they will be lost forever. Not everyone is prepared to commit long-term. You want to first find those who will… and then gradually expand to others.