As an avid sports fan, one aspect of coaching that I always look forward to evaluating is halftime adjustments. These adjustments can be the difference between victory and defeat, especially in closely-contested match-ups of two excellent teams. Which coaching staff is going to make the better modifications to strategy? Can the team successfully execute these changes after practicing and then executing a different game plan for the first half of the game? When should no adjustments be made? Do I need different players to execute the halftime adjustments? Will the halftime adjustments impact team morale? What is the tone of the halftime speech?
We have just crossed the “halftime” of our calendar year. Like any good coach at halftime, those of us in senior leadership positions at our churches need to be evaluating the first half of the year to determine if there are adjustments that need to be made during the second half of the year. We need to be asking ourselves similar questions and determining the what, when and how of any adjustments that should be made at mid-year. I personally refer to this process as a mid-year check-up and I block time on my calendar to perform this check-up every July.
The mid-year check-up is critical because it allows you to formally assess how well the annual plan is being executed and make course changes, if necessary. Is the church on budget? Is our outreach plan on target? How is the assimilation plan going? Has stewardship improved? Are more people engaged in small groups? These are the types of questions you should be asking and attempting to answer. Many of you will have received weekly, monthly, or quarterly reports with numbers or assessments for the various ministries/areas of your church. However, at mid-year you should take a step back and examine each ministry area and determine what the current outlook says about the potential for success of the ministry’s strategy at the end of the year.
Many churches are excellent at developing an annual strategic plan prior to the beginning of each year. However, many churches do not dust off their strategic plan until it is time for next year’s plan or time for performance appraisals near the end of the year. If this is done, it is simply an exercise of “did we achieve what we said or did we not.” Performing a mid-year check-up allows time, in most instances, to actually course correct and, therefore, impact the achievement of the plan. Depending on the organization structure at your church and your specific role, you may need to involve others in your mid-year check-up or you may be able to do it yourself. Whatever the case, here are seven steps to take in order to have a thorough mid-year check-up:
1. Review the initial plans.
The first step in having a beneficial mid-year check-up is to review your initial plans. For me, this means looking at the strategic plan for each ministry area at our church. I focus on strategy and goals and begin making notes about what each ministry said it would achieve and how it said that it would be achieved.
2. Review the actual results.
After you refresh your memory on the plans and objectives for each ministry area, the next step is determining the actual results. If one of your ministry goals was to baptize 500 new believers in the year, where are you as of June 30? If one of your ministry goals was to develop ministry leaders, what has been done? There should be some key indicators for the entire church and at least one actual result for each ministry area.
3. Assess the results.
Assessing the results for quantitative measures, such as small group/ministry membership, number of volunteers, dollars given, number of baptisms, etc., should be relatively easy. Hopefully, there are reports containing this data or these numbers can be obtained from your normal management systems. For qualitative measures, such as successful ministry launch, improve staff culture, develop systems, etc., you will have to determine some way of assessing the relative success. Personally, I use a red/yellow/green system. Red means that this objective is in danger of not being met. Yellow means that things could go either way. Green means that this objective is either on track or exceeding expectations.
4. Determine if course corrections are necessary.
Especially for objectives that you evaluate to be in a red or yellow status, you need to assess whether or not course corrections are necessary. Course corrections can include cancelling or postponing events, changing ministry leadership, re-aligning an organizational structure, providing training, or simply making minor tactical changes. Performing a quick SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) Analysis might be a helpful exercise to determine the necessity of course corrections.
5. Compile the results.
Once you have assessed the results for each area and determined whether or not course corrections are necessary, you should compile the results in a manner than is quickly and easily understood by others. Think of some type of dashboard or scorecard. However, keep it simple. Your goal is not to create a mid-year strategic plan. Your goal is to succinctly compile the “score” for the current plan.
6. Report the findings.
Determine who needs to receive the findings and provide them with the mid-year check-up. Consider yourself a doctor. Now, you need to talk to the patients and/or caregivers. The audience for your mid-year check-up will vary based on your individual church governance and culture. It might simply be the senior pastor. It might be the governing board or council. It might be the executive team. It might be the entire church staff.
The medium for delivering the mid-year check-up will vary by church as well. You may simply send the report in an email. You might deliver the check-up in a series of one-on-one meetings. You might distribute a copy of the check-up to the entire staff.
Whatever the audience or medium, it is best to have the mid-year check-up process completed no later than the end of July. I say this because in August or September, the leadership team should begin devoting its planning attention to the following year.
7. Win the second half of the year.
Performing a formal mid-year check-up will improve your chances of having a successful second half of the year and therefore, ultimately, improves your chances of having a successful year of ministry. Do not be discouraged by red or yellow areas. In the words of football legend, Paul “Bear” Bryant, “Don’t give up at half-time. Concentrate on winning the second half.”
With the right course corrections, you can turn red and yellow areas into green areas by the end of the year. These are the areas where you will be thankful that you performed a mid-year check-up instead of waiting until November to determine that you were behind and probably not going to meet the goals and objectives that you set at the beginning of the year. Think of playing a basketball game where the first time you were shown the score was the beginning of the fourth quarter. If the game is close, this might not be a problem. However, if you are down by twenty points, it is probably too late to come back and win the game. Give your church the opportunity to “win” the year by performing a mid-year check-up.