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There are a variety of planning approaches available. They will vary according to one or more of the following characteristics of the planning process:
Do not be concerned about getting it right in the sense of conforming to some ideal planning concept. Trusting your own instincts about what will work in your congregation is often the best approach. However, the following rules of thumb should be carefully considered in developing the plan for planning:
Of the suggestions listed above, none is more vital to the strategic process than the establishment of an effective planning committee. It is recommended that the elders select a group of individuals with the appropriate interests and talents to fulfill such a role. Their primary responsibility will be to facilitate and support the planning process.
This role involves the following primary tasks:
The Planning Committees role is vital because organized long range planning is simply not part of most congregations ongoing activity. Moreover, congregational planning is by its very nature an interdisciplinary activity, and cannot easily be delegated to a single ministry area.
It is essential that the congregation understand that this committee is working under the direct and full oversight of the elders, it is in no way a shadow eldership that makes decisions, but a group which analyzes data and develops and presents findings and conclusions to the congregation.
Although the committees initial focus will be the creation of a strategic congregational plan, the Planning Ministry can also fill an important ongoing function through facilitating annual reviews and updates of the plan, development of congregational and ministry goals each year, coordination with budgeting and other financial processes, and progress monitoring and reporting.
Normally, it is counterproductive to have an elder or minister serve on the planning committee. It inhibits open response by members who fear offending elders or ministers by honestly expressing their viewpoints concerning areas of ministry that may need strengthening. Also, it is almost impossible to keep elders and ministers from becoming the driving force on the committee, both in evaluation of data and formulation of strategies. Objectivity is of the essence in this process. If the committee finds itself striving to defend what has always been done instead of openly considering new strategies of work, the planning process will be stifled before it begins. In our experience working in seminar settings with church leaders, it is interesting to watch them divide into small groups and participate in planning exercises. Usually, the groups that include ministers or elders generate planning ideas that are attempts to validate present processes instead of generating visions of what might be.
The individuals selected to serve on the Planning Committee need to be trustworthy servants who understand the focus and context of their work. Ideally, individuals who have some experience in planning or marketing will be chosen for this task. It will take dedicated workers who are willing to see the process through, for it will take much time and effort. However, it also will be one of the most rewarding and important projects of ones lifetime. Presented in this positive light, the planning process will uncover the dedicated individuals needed.
The number of individuals appointed to serve on this committee will vary from congregation to congregation. There should be no less than four or the workload is simply too great. Also, when there are less than four, it is too easy for one individual to dominate the process. If more than eight individuals are appointed, the committee may become unwieldy.
(More detailed information on the subject of Strategic Planning is contained in Earl Lavenders book, The Church of Gods Intent available through ALuperJr@churchplanning.com.)
HEARTLIGHT® Magazine is a ministry of loving Christians and the Westover Hills church of Christ.
Edited by Phil Ware and Paul Lee.
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Article copyright © 1998, Earl Lavender. Used by permission.
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