It’s that time of year again when, as a church staff, we prayerfully consider how we are going to take our vision as a church to the next level—how will we divide and allocate our resources, such as our tithes and offerings, given to advance our corner of the Kingdom of God. It is one of those times that as a catalyst coach, I really enjoy helping our Management Team, division and department heads work at their “portion of the wall” to advance our corporate mission and vision for the year ahead.

What is the value of planning for the future? The most dramatic example I can give is from four years ago. I had just stepped into the role as Executive Pastor with a church whose staff had never engaged in the formal planning process. In one of my first conversations with the Senior Pastor, I asked this simple question: “Tell me what your near-term vision for this church is, and how can I help you fulfill this vision?”

I can still remember his facial expression as he beamed in response to my question, reacting like a kid who had just received an invitation to pick any toy he wanted in the toy store.

In fact, it was only a matter of days before we met again and he handed me his written list. He confessed that for over ten years, God had placed a clear vision for the church’s future on his heart—but he had no one to move his vision forward.

His frustration—there was never a lack of talk among staff and church leadership about plans. However, they never seemed to go anywhere.

His vision included several wish list items; eight in all. For example, a few of them were:

  1. Changing the name of the church.
  2. Dropping the denominational label—he felt it created a negative reaction in people’s thinking and kept people away from the church.
  3. Adding a Saturday evening service.
  4. Growing deeper spiritual roots among the congregants.
  5. Adding a pastor to minister to a segment of our congregation that we were not ministering to.

These were tall orders, but he knew exactly where he wanted to go.

The value of a disciplined planning process speaks for itself by the results we experienced our first year out of the blocks. I will never forget the day of celebration as a staff as we looked back to see all that we had accomplished. What our first formal planning experience had done became visible in our worship attendance numbers. Increasing our worship numbers was not one of our goals; however, it became the indirect fruit of our plans.

When I arrived, the Sunday worship services were running 3,200. Within a year and a half, worship attendance was over 6,000 because we leaned upon this basic function of management. We had prayerfully committed our heart plans to paper and prayerfully worked our plans (Prov. 16:9). It all began by articulating and releasing a vision for the future and then training the staff in how to plan. Then, I became their cheerleader and coach on how to translate that vision into simple action steps, helping them focus throughout the year on accomplishing their own defined steps in their individual plans.

Every single one of the Senior Pastor’s eight vision initiatives had been accomplished. In fact, we even managed to sneak in one unplanned church-wide initiative—we raised $600K over two Sundays! These funds went toward the purchase of a new facility for one of the urban initiatives located in the barrios of the city.

Of the four basic functions of management, get a good foundation of planning in place. It makes it far easier for your staff team and church leadership to get focused on the mission and vision of the church. Planning allows your staff to see the grand vision in bytes.

Planning Overview

The purpose of planning is to make good decisions about what needs to be accomplished and how it is to be done. What are the key elements of a plan? This is a fair question because the average church staff person has a hard time distinguishing between a goal, objective, and the tactical (specific tasks) called action plans. Assuming you start with a clear vision and mission statement, identifying your goals is the next step.

1. Goals are statements of good intent or desired result.

Goals reflect the vision of the church or a key area of ministry in the year ahead, such as: “Increase world missions giving.” Planning then requires figuring out how goals such as these will be realized. It includes translating goals into specific objectives.

2. Objectives are specific statements of tasks, activities or outcomes that can be measured, evaluated, and planned how to do.

An example of a good objective statement to the above goal would be: “Increase the number of contributors by 10%, and dollars contributed by 15% to $38,000, for a new total $538,000.”

3. Action plans are descriptions of how you plan to accomplish the objectives.

Action plans have three components:

  1. Action steps are activities or results that must be accomplished in order to meet the objective.
  2. Identifying resources (people, supplies, dollars, etc.) to each of the action steps described.
  3. Establishing a schedule or answering “by when?”

Here is how to plan to accomplish the world missions’ objective above:

“Have the missions committee, working with Communications, come up with a new campaign by mid-summer.”

As the catalyst coach, you will find planning can empower and encourage your staff and volunteers. Plus, it becomes a tool that can help your staff envision the future and improve their ministry. In time, you will also find your staff networking between departments and working together to break down the natural silos that often exist between ministry areas.

Not everyone on your ministry team looks forward to planning, nor does everyone have a natural propensity to engage in the planning activity. However, you will find, in time, a keen sense of fulfillment as your staff sees and realizse the results. We are so intentional about our planning that we are currently working on a ten-year master plan for evangelism; we as a church self-assessed this to be one of our greatest areas of omission.