Hope and planning


The worship committee met yesterday to discuss the objectives and strategies. Okay, I know. Some of you might cringe at the language…. The Head of Staff has an MBA, and this is one of the evaluation tools that he uses. I’ve always done the same thing in my previous congregations, I just used different words. I used Hope (instead of objective) and Planning (instead of strategy). And then I talked in terms of What and How. But it’s basically the same process.

Not everyone’s a planner. I am. So I had this process that I went through with every congregation. In the small churches, I met with the entire congregation during the course of the summer. I invited people with last names beginning with A through F the first week, then G through L the second week, etc.

When we gathered, I’d try to set out a nice tea, because people just get in much better moods after theyâ’ve been fed. Then I got out a big pad of paper, taped it to the wall, scrawled “Hope and Planning” on the top, and made three columns: (1) Area, (2) What, and (3) How.

We read Ephesians, and prayed about the hope to which God was calling us, as a community. Then we went through all the areas of the church (worship, mission, education, stewardship, evangelism, buildings and grounds), and asked, “What’s your hope for worship in five years?” And we would brainstorm.

Of course, in a small church, when we’re in governing board meetings, dreaming about what we could do, we’re so quick to point out all the things that we do not have (we don’t have enough money for that, we don’t have enough people for that….), but at this time, we were asked to set aside all the obstacles, and just look at what we hoped for, what we wanted.

It’s always an interesting process. The part I always find the most fascinating is people say, “We need this church to grow.” It’s the drumbeat of the small church. It becomes everybody’s mantra.

And so I ask them, “How many people do you want?”

And they often look totally confused, and say something like, “Enough to meet budget.” But, you know, usually they’ve never thought about it. Of course, we all want more people, that’s the nature of being a part of a good community. They want to spread the good news.

But there’s a tension in churches, a lot of people choose to go to a small church because it’s small. We all love talking about how much we need to grow, but if the community has no expectation of what that means, then we always feel like we’re not measuring up. I was surprised that the final answer was usually something small. Like 30 people in five years.

The “How” column is fun too. Because all of these ideas come out that I didn’t even know were out there. Some people will want to tear the entire church building down. Others will want to build an education wing. And then I learn about all these opportunities to get the word out in the community.

After gathering all of the ideas, I would type them up, take them to the church board. We would wrestle with them a little bit. I would type up the final results and end up with some sort of idea of where we were going in the years to come. I would put it in the newsletter and revisit it during each annual meeting.

So are you a planner? Do you have a similar process? What do you do with your church to get them to dream? How do you generate ideas and excitement about where you’re going? How do you discern where God is calling your congregation?

The photo’s from Jim Bonewald, the Church Geek.

4 thoughts on “Hope and planning

  1. “objectives and strategies”

    I think what I have learned is that not going into the ministry right out of seminary and having now ample experience as an administrator in higher education has taught me how to manage people and how to meet outcomes.

    Now it’s not only that we need to have a strategy for something (I like the hope language by the way), but we need to determine how it is we will know that we have achieved a goal, and then how we can do it better next time.

    What I have also learned is that if you want things done to see through to a vision’s realization, you, as the leader, have to be the initial source of energy. When people volunteer you have to stay on top of them and continue to feed them the vision.

    Had I walked into the ministry 9 years ago, I would not know how to do that. So I am not only a planner now, but an outcomes junkie. I have a rather fuzzy vision of what a teaching church looks like – how can the church educate the community about love of neighbor and love of God? Without planning, that may as well always be vapor ware!

  2. the church i serve has become paralyzed by the five-year long-range plan, feeling like they don’t know where to start or in the midst of a pastoral transition, those dreams (hopes) get lost along the way as focus shifts toward survival. instead, we are setting smaller, more manageable goals with a short-term focus. as soon as we meet those goals we celebrate it like we won the world series, then we go through a process of setting new goals. during that process we do a lot of praying, discerning, listening, and people are involved in cottage meetings to have a place to share their hopes and fears and to be heard.

    by setting more short-term goals, we feel that a long-term focus or vision (mission?) will emerge more naturally, and it will be something that all are committed to, even through the times of pastoral transition.

  3. jg,

    That’s so important. So many times small churches have to change the way that they perceive themselves before they can begin seeing any future. It sounds like your congregation’s very lucky to have you.

  4. I like your idea. If I ever get to be the solo pastor of a smaller church, I’ll have to try it. We try to do something like this in an “inreach”, where we have intentional conversations with people. But it’s not so directed just at church. More like what do you hope for in yourself, your family, your church, your community? Also, we try to get to know people’s unique story, or a bit of it, to try to tap into their passions, and the why of them.

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