A few years ago, I was working with a church to implement a strategic plan. It involved a rebranding of the organization and the development of a clear discipleship path. As I began meeting one-on-one with the pastors involved, I expected them to reject the change altogether. In reality, they thought it was all much needed! However, there was still heavy resistance. The number one response went something like this:
“We’ve tried things to make changes like this before and we never see them through. Something always comes up that causes us to stop or change direction. This looks great on paper but it really isn’t worth the effort.”
I was shocked…
They believed in the plan. But they did not believe in the team’s ability to execute the plan.
Execution is the ability to connect vision to reality. It may very well be the greatest missing link within churches. In its absence, the following occur:
- Leaders spend more time talking about change than actually making it
- “Opportunities” are constantly chased, leading to distraction and burnout
- Inspiring meetings are forgotten faster than the whiteboard can be erased
- The church slowly dwindles while leaders continue talking about what they should do about it
- Team members’ belief in the future wanes as each year passes with little movement
So how can you ensure your current strategic plan lives to see the light of day? These five steps can help you find that missing link:
Designate a Champion
For your strategic plan to survive amidst everything else in your church, someone must protect it and constantly push it. A great champion is a systematic leader who can engage others and break down big projects into small steps. It is best when this person does not have heavy weekend responsibilities that get in the way of long-term planning.
In my experience, this person is never the senior pastor. The senior pastor should be constantly casting vision while someone else is connecting that vision to reality.
Clarify How the Plan Gets Changed
There is one thing you can be sure of when you develop your strategic plan: It is going to change. Your church and community are dynamic environments full of opportunities and challenges you could never see coming. In those moments, people will wonder how to respond.
On the outset, clarify which changes leaders have the authority to make on their own and which need to be brought to the leadership team. (I’d encourage you to give away as much as possible.) Also ensure the leadership team regularly dedicates time to discuss updates and issues related to the plan. Otherwise, the rest of the organization will be waiting on you.
Define Responsibilities and Authorities
Seasons of change often take place beyond the confines of an organizational chart. As you delegate responsibilities, make sure everyone in the organization understands who owns which components. Also communicate what those owners will need from others on the team. Doing so will clear the way for leaders to execute without unexpected roadblocks and political slowdowns.
Constantly Clarify Priorities
With the number of things your team could be focused on, they need constant reminders that your strategic plan takes priority. You communicate the importance of your plan in two ways: what you say and what you measure. If they haven’t heard you communicate the plan’s importance this week, it is no longer a priority. Additionally, if you aren’t evaluating your metrics in light of your strategic plan, it is sure to be lost. People will always dedicate their time to the things they feel they are being evaluated on.
Give It Time
Every strategic plan will take time to yield results. I’ve seen leaders waver the moment their plan costs them something. In every case, they were evaluating their results far too soon. You cannot expect final results from an incomplete process.
As for the church I mentioned at the beginning, that team discovered the ability to execute. They completed the rebrand and simplified ministries around a clear discipleship path. Their congregation was re-inspired by the vision and hundreds of people took next steps because of it. None of that would have happened if they had not found the missing link.
What is on the other side of your strategic plan? Better yet, who is on the other side? There are people in your community who desperately need a relationship with Jesus and the opportunity to take a step toward Him. You developed your plan because you wanted to serve them better. Now it is time to see it through.
If you don’t have a strategic plan for your church’s future, that’s something our team would love to help with. Learn how The Unstuck Group helps churches connect vision to reality.
Photo Credit: Milada Vigerova via unsplash.com