Discipleship Adventure Planning Guide
A guide to planning for the Adventure
Be Adventurous: Plan how you will achieve God’s vision
By Bishop John R. Schol
"Bad planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part."
Have you ever wanted to hang this proverb on your desk or put it on the refrigerator? Has anyone ever said this to you in reference to your lack of planning?
Or how about this proverb: "Anyone who fails to plan, plans to fail."
The Bible also gives good advise about planning: "Plan carefully what you do, and whatever you do will turn out right (Proverbs 4:26 [GNT]). And, "We plan the way we want to live, but only God makes us able to live it. It pays to take life seriously" (Proverbs 16:9 [The Message]).
Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it (another proverb). But, if planning is so important, why do some congregations not plan how they will pursue God’s preferred future (vision) for the congregation and comm-unity? The following are some of the reasons I have heard from congregations for not wanting to plan.
- All talk, no action.
- We went on a weekend retreat to develop a plan. We took the ideas, wrote them up but never saw anything about the plan again.
- We have a great plan, but nobody wants to work on it.
- Congregations see planning as an exercise that they are supposed to do rather than an organizing strategy to engage the congregation in action.
Planning is essential.
I once had a colleague who said to me, "I never plan, I just take things as they come." His ministry was reactive rather than proactive, problem solving (or worse, problem creating) rather than solution setting, ineffective rather than effective.
The following are some principles and guidelines to assist congregations in developing plans that organize and motivate people to action.
Principle 1 – The goal of a plan is to organize people and resources for the day after the plan is written. Most people see the goal of a planning process as completing a written plan. This often produces a plan that sits on the shelf or is filed in a drawer. Good leaders understand that the planning process itself is soliciting people’s support, commiting to action and aligning the necessary resources to carry out the plan. In a good planning process, people are organized, motivated and carrying out the plan before the last word is typed. This is achieved by insuring that the following principles are incorporated.
Principle 2 – Engaging as many people in the process as possible. I have worked with planning processes that have engaged a minimum of 50 people up to 1,200 people. This requires a small team planning the process for the participants so that when the participants come they may self-select into groups with interests they want to address. For instance, there may be five or more areas that people will plan for based on their interest and passion. In a congregation this may include children, youth, community ministry, worship, attracting new believers, study, small group ministry, etc.
Principle 3 – Keep the planning process compact. Some groups spend months and even up to a year to create a strategic plan. By the time the plan is developed, people are worn out from the planning and lose passion and focus to carry out the plan. A well planned process can take as little as a day and certainly no longer than a month.
Principle 4 – Plans that are accomplished are those people are willing to work on. A question embedded in the planning process is: What are you willing to work on? Nothing goes into the plan unless at least two people have said they are willing to work on the particular objective or strategy.
We have all sat in a meeting in which everyone has agreed on a good idea and in their mind they have said that the pastor should carry it out.
If people are not willing to work on it, it will not get done. This will not lead to a perfect plan but a plan that will be carried out. Things can be perfected along the way as people learn through experience. Never kill an idea if someone is willing to work on it.
Principle 5 – Assets are grace. Too often I listen to people in the planning process talk about their deficits or needs. This is a downward spiral. Assets provide people with hope and possibility. Overwhelm your needs with your assets.
Principle 6 – Never plan how someone else should carry out goals and objective. Those who work on a goal or objective should develop their own methodologies based on their experience, time and gifts. Telling people what they should do de-motivates rather than empowers people to think and act.
Principle 7 – Those who show up to work on the plan are the expert planners. People from the church and community often know what will work and what will not work. We need to trust them.
Principle 8 – Talk about aspects of the plan in sermons, in the newsletter and at meetings, and invite people who are working on the plan to share their progress monthly. Most importantly, celebrate in a big way every time you accomplish something in the plan.
Elements of the plan:
- Vision – the picture of a preferable future
- Mission – the action to reach the vision; who will do what with whom.
- Goals – targets that when completed actually carry out the mission. Good goals have elements of time, quantity and quality. For example: we will grow a new worship service that attracts 50 new worshippers by January 15 so that we are reaching new believers that we can disciple.
- Methods – the action steps, which should be developed by those that are actually working on the goals. To plan for others what they will do to reach a goal is demotivating.
- Resource Plan – identify the people, money and other resources that will carry out the plan.
- Timeline – the dates when you anticipate particular goals and activities will be completed.
- Evaluation – when and how will you evaluate how well you have done on the plan. Should be done three or four times during the year to see if people are meeting your timeline and problem solving around issues that arise. A more comprehensive end-of-the-year evaluation, in which the congregation identifies the accomplishments and modifications to be made on the plan, should also be done.
A good plan is set for a two-to-five year period of time.
The following are questions that can assist a congregation in building a plan. Several planning teams gather on the same day to work through the questions listed below. Planning teams are organized for ministry areas that are important for the church with four to 10 people in each group. People self select the group based in their interests and passions. In the blanks, are inserted one of the areas that the group wants plan for (e.g. children, youth, small groups, community ministry, worship, Sunday school, attracting new worshipers, finances, etc.).
- What at the __________ (children or youth or small groups, etc.) assets/strengths within our congregation and community?
- What are the ____________ (children or youth or small groups, etc.) needs within our congregation and community?
- What are the _____________ (children or youth or small groups, etc.) opportunities in our congregation and community? (An opportunity is where an asset and need intersect. For example, a new school teacher joined the church [asset] and we need to start a fourth grade Sunday school class [need].)
- What strategy or activity would you be willing to work on to build on our assets and opportunities?
- Once you have made an exhaustive list, ask the group, which five are most critical to begin with?
- What would the congregation, ministry and community look like if we accomplished these strategies? (This is the foundation for your vision or should match your vision.)
- What resources are needed to accomplish the strategies?
Those working on the strategies are to develop specific goals and action steps to carry out the strategies.
- Be prayerful and open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit;
- Create a movement recognizing it will not be a perfect plan;
- Involve as many people and ideas as possible;
- Think multiculturally and inclusively and through the perspective of those that are not disciples yet;
- Work with the agenda and one subject at a time;
- One conversation at a time and respect each others views;
- Discipleship issues, not personal issues;
- Work will be done within a compressed time period to create energy and interest;
- Don’t complain, come up with things that can be done;
- Silence = agreement, so actively participate and build consensus;
- Be clear and keep the conversation moving;
- We are all peers with equal voice.
Words to use vs. Words to Avoid
Action ---- Talk
Results/solutions ---- Reports studies
Concrete ---- Theoretical
We're responsible ---- They will do it
Organize ---- Share with
Can do ---- Consider doing
Faithful response ---- Thelogical position
Now and what is to come --- I remember when
Opportunities ---- Obstacles