Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Principles for Progress in the Church, Part 5: Plans

Somehow when we consider our finances, or education, or career plans, we have no trouble being intentional and putting a strategy in place to help us make progress. But with our families, and with our churches, too often we let things go on autopilot. When we do, we almost guarantee that we will drift in the wrong direction. If you’re not progressing, you’re automatically regressing.

With this series we have been advocating a simple approach to ensuring that we continue to move forward, specifically here with reference to our local churches. Using the Scriptures as our principled guide, we begin with an understanding of our purpose as a church. From purpose we move to values. Then vision. Then goals. With each of these areas, we move from talking about universal ideas (every church’s purposes) to a more specific identity (individual church plans).


In the last post we described an approach to goal setting that requires faith in God’s promises and character. Now with faith-filled goals to set parameters, plan now and re-plan regularly to meet the goals the Lord has helped you to set. The next logical step is to ask God to help you meet your goals by planning your church’s life.

Design a progress plan that will help direct your church in meeting your God-given goals. Again, if a vision is in place and goals have been set, this task is simply placing items on our calendars and in our budgets to make sure they happen, if God grants them. There are all kinds of ways to do this effectively, and my intent here is not to promote one particular style of developing strategic plans. However, there are a few ideas from the Scriptures that are particularly helpful.

First, pastors need to be leaders, but not blindly. They need to be faithfully diligent (see Romans 12.8), and humbly seek wise advice:

Plans fail when there is no counsel,
but with many advisers they succeed.

(Proverbs 15.22, HCSB)

Also, I think that plans should be important, but held loosely. We all need to shift things around on the fly, because there is no way to predict the future. So expect the unexpected. This means having a balanced understanding of God’s sovereignty and our responsibility. In the last post we looked at Proverbs 16.9, but take a look also at 16.3 (HCSB):

Commit your activities to the LORD,
and your plans will be achieved.

In other words, be faithful to make plans, but also entrust them to God, who will act according to His pleasure and our good.

There are of course some practical and perhaps obvious (but sometimes overlooked) ideas, like weekly meetings and planning as far in advance as possible. But equally important are mid-course corrections, as circumstances change. To help do this, many wise leaders schedule one or two staff (or volunteer leadership) progress getaways per year to check the status of their goals and vision (even though most folks call this type of session a “staff retreat,” that name seems counter-intuitive; one pastor calls it a “staff advance”—I prefer “progress getaway”; regardless of what you call it, do it).

I’m no expert, but I know that these strategies need to happen regardless of church size. It may seem easier to do in large churches. But these practices can and must be used anywhere. As a small church pastor, I can seek the advice and agreement of our deacon team. And we can certainly schedule time away together to plan for our church’s progress.

Purpose, values, vision, goals, plans. A general-to-specific approach that is biblical, and that will help us keep progressing toward who God has called us to be, and what God has called us to do.

[This is part 5 of 5 in the series, Principles for Progress in the Church. Here are the previous posts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.]