It is the first church council or board meeting of the year. The leaders certainly desire the church to head in a positive direction in the upcoming year. How will they be assured this is the case? How will the leaders monitor their progress throughout the year?
These are all great questions that we hope all church leaders are asking. However, these are questions they should be considering NOW, not in January. In order to start the first of the year off well, strategic ministry planning needs to be conducted in the fall of the year preceding. Typically this strategic ministry planning retreat is held in the early fall so that ample time to complete all the necessary steps that follow can be conducted before year end.
In Strategy Matters: Your Roadmap for an Effective Ministry Planning Retreat with co-author, Ken Willard, we outline the entire strategic ministry planning process. The book is a complete guide for how to plan, conduct, and follow up after a strategic planning retreat. Here is why intentional and strategic ministry planning really do matter to the overall missional effectiveness of your church:
Without intentionality, church council meetings become full of report presentations on events, programs, and ministries without any connections to their fruitfulness on how people on becoming more mature disciples, becoming disciple makers, or how new people are coming to know Christ. In other words, the reporting (and the activities they represent) are often disconnected from the mission of the church.
Strategic ministry planning causes the council/board members to take a deep dive into current reality and determine if the church’s vision is still driving the church or if it is time for the church to discern a new vision – God’s preferred future for how the church uniquely lives out the mission of making disciples in their mission field who transform the world.
The goals are based on what steps the church needs to take in the upcoming year so that the church intentionally lives into its discerned vision. Too often churches grab goals (if they set goals at all) out of thin air instead of seeking goals that will intentionally help them live into their discerned vision. It’s no wonder churches often report disliking the visioning process since they lack an intentional process to live into the discerned vision!
A couple of weeks following the council/board’s strategic planning retreat, the pastor will hold a staff/leadership retreat where strategies are set with ministry staff and ministry team leaders based on the goals set. The ministry budgets are set based on those strategies.
There is intentional accountability for the mission built in at all levels since each is built on the same missional foundation. Each person can see how their ministry is directly connected to the mission and vision of the church and consequently how each individually and their ministry team are impacting each. The board/council is accountable to Christ for leading the church in its mission to make disciples who transform the world. The board/council holds the pastor accountable to the vision through the accomplishment of the goals. The pastor holds the ministry team leaders accountable for the strategies. The ministry team leaders hold their ministry team members accountable for carrying out the ministries effectively and for the intended purpose and outcome.
Everyone is on the same page which allows for alignment and focus. This alignment legitimizes leadership, multiplies generosity, and increases momentum, energy, and excitement throughout the congregation.
Congregations have a clear method of identifying if they are indeed effective in their mission of making disciples through their current ministries.
Many congregations are busy doing good things. But are they busy doing the right things? Without a strategic ministry plan based on their mission and congregationally discerned vision and their church’s core values, it is difficult to really know if they are doing effective, contextual ministry. Now is the time to conduct your annual strategic ministry planning retreat to have all the pieces in place for the start of next year. If you need assistance, check out these resources: