Pastor, which direction is your church headed?

– Greg Morris, Generis, NACDB Member

Have you ever ridden in a taxi? If you have, you know the drill. Once you’re lucky enough to flag down a cab, you climb in and the driver asks, “Where to?” 

What if you replied, “I’m not sure.” I don’t know how the driver would react, but I’m positive you wouldn’t go anywhere because you need a destination in mind when you begin a journey.

Churches are often on a journey without a clear destination. Often, I’ve handed blank sheets of paper to ten or more leaders in a church and said, “Write down your church’s vision, in three paragraphs or less”. The results are typically dismal at best. I almost always get ten very different responses.

So, what’s the problem? Church leaders may have an idea of where they want to go, but the destination has rarely been formally identified. Even when churches can reasonably articulate their vision, they can rarely couple that with an explanation of how they plan to get there.

Imagine this. You want to go to Baltimore. I tell you that is where I’m going, so you get in the car with me here in Atlanta. You’re excited. You can’t wait to get to Baltimore.

I begin to drive, but, much to your surprise, I’m headed south. You remain quiet thinking there must be some logical explanation. After several hours, we arrive in Orlando, Florida. You’re still confused, so you ask, “We are going to Baltimore, right?” I assure you we are. Reluctantly, you stay in the car.

As we leave Orlando, I head northwest. Once again, you’re confused but you stay with me. After almost a full day of driving we arrive in Dallas, Texas. This is just weird, right? What happened to Baltimore? You ask me again to confirm our destination. I assure you, yet again, we’re headed to Maryland’s largest city. So, with some hesitation, you remain in the car.

We should now be heading northeast. Surprisingly, I drive north towards Wichita, Kansas. Enough already. You ask me to stop the car and say, “I thought we were going to Baltimore.” “We are,” I reply, “but I like these other cities and thought we’d visit them on the way.” You say, “No thanks,” and ask me to drive you to the nearest bus station where you get on a direct bus to Baltimore.

This scenario is true of many churches. Even when a church has identified (or kind of) a destination, they seem to drive all over the country trying to get there. As a result, many of their passengers (church members and attenders) decide to get out of the vehicle and find a church taking a more direct route to where they thought you were going.

Pastors of such churches pay a high price for their geographic (vision) schizophrenia and lack of planning. What about you? Do you have a strategic plan? You may say yes, but if you don’t know exactly where you’re going and precisely how you’ll get there, you really don’t have a plan.

Developing a Strategic Plan

Do you want a plan and direction for your church? If so, how do you develop a strategic plan? It’s seven simple steps. Steps that can also be used for the over all vision of the church, as well as smaller target goals (like renovating or building).

1. Clearly identify your vision – Where are you going and what will it look like when you get there?

2. Be sure you’re fully aware of where you are today – You’ve got to know your starting point in order to draw an accurate map to your destination.

3. Determine the obstacles between Point-A (where you are) and Point-B (where you’re going) – You need to know the issues and challenges you’ll encounter on your journey. You want to minimize surprises and be prepared for the speed bumps.

4. Draw your map – You’ll need to develop a detailed action plan to get you from Point-A to Point-B. Your plan should allow for the roadblocks identified in #3 and include directions for avoiding those obstacles.

5. Get it all on paper – A plan is not really a plan until you write in down in detail. Writing it down will make it easy for your team and “passengers” to get onboard.

6. Get everyone in the car – All of your planning is no good if your drivers (staff and leadership) aren’t ready and your passengers (members and attenders) aren’t in the car.

7. Execute – The plan, if written down in the most intricate of detail, is worthless if you don’t get in the car and start driving; according to your map, of course.

It’s not that difficult. It is a process however, and it’s not a quick, easy, or painless one. It requires time, work and sacrifice, but in the end, the payoff is substantial.