Strategic Ministry Planning and Implementation

One of the first things I led as pastor at Heather Hills was strategic ministry planning.  Now, I know some people don’t like this sort of thing because they think we are limiting God or putting or plans before what God may have for us.  I understand that sentiment and logic; however, I believe both in God’s sovereignty as well as careful planning.  Throughout the process, we constantly went to the Lord in prayer, asking Him to direct us, give us wisdom and show us if we were on the wrong track.  Even now, in our second year of our ministry plan–the result of that initial process–we regularly ask God to show us if we are pursuing a path He does not desire for our church.  We believe in the sovereignty of God (Proverbs 19:21; 21:31; Zechariah 4:6; John 15:5).  The Church is His Church.  Jesus purchased her with His blood; it belongs to Him. We are His bride.

However, it would be ignorant to say that the principle of careful planning, whether in home or business or church, is not found or advocated by the Word of God.  In essence, it is the principle of stewardship.  Don’t get me wrong: God will build His Church.  Only He can change hearts and grow people in faith. But He has ordained that the spiritual leaders of the church be the gifted tools used to bring His people to maturity through the faithful teaching and preaching of the Bible (Eph. 4:11ff). 

Having said that, there are numerous examples of planning in the Scriptures. Here are just a few: Joshua 6:1-7; 8:3-23; 10:6-9; 1 Chronicles 12:32; Nehemiah 3-6; Proverbs 14:15, 22; 15:22; 16:3-4, 9; 19:21; 20:18; 21:30; Acts 2:23; 4:28; 19:1-10; Ephesians 5:15-16.

As a new pastor, I recognized that while I may have a vision for the future of this church, it will serve me well if all of the church leadership shares in that vision and understands its biblical foundations.  So, we began regular, long meetings devoted to the development of a plan.  We used Advanced Strategic Planning by Aubrey Malphurs as a guide/model in this pursuit.  It was a very helpful resource. Malphurs basically advocates a 4-step process: values discovery, mission development, vision development, and strategy development.  While we didn’t follow Malphurs religiously, we did go through this four-step process.

With regard to values discovery, Malphurs writes “Core values explain who you are–your identity. They are the very building blocks (DNA) of your ministry and explain why you do what you do. They form the foundation on which the mission and vision build, and along with them form the church’s core ideology…The Jerusalem church considered core values important, for Luke states that the church “devoted themselves” to its core values, which he lists in Acts 2:42-47.” (p. 96)

All churches have core values; not all of them write them down and identify them publically.  As we began to think about who we were as a church, we came up with the following eight values:

  1. We are passionate about the proclamation and defense of the Scripture, as our final authority for faith and practice.
  2. We are passionate about the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, both locally* and around the world.
  3. We are passionate about Christian fellowship, based in the Gospel and love of Jesus Christ.
  4. We are passionate about prayer, believing it to be essential for spiritual growth, spiritual warfare, spiritual direction, and spiritual blessing.
  5. We are passionate about the spiritual equipping of Christians, applying the truth of Scripture to daily living.
  6. We are passionate about serving God in the local church, with all members using their spiritual gifts in ministry.*
  7. We are passionate about the sincere, biblical worship of God.*
  8. We are passionate about Christian unity, but not at the expense of biblical truth.*

When we first wrote these down, we realized that some of them were really values that we believed we should have but didn’t really have yet as a congregation.  We put an asterisk by those values (or parts of a value statement) and presented them that way to the congregation.  We wanted them to know that we understood not only who we were but who we should become to be in accord with the scriptural teaching about the church.  I am happy to report that each of these four aspirational values are being worked on diligently in our church, so that they become part of the fabric of who we are.

Then, we tackled the development of a mission statement. We settled on a simple statement that we believed carried the main ideas of our scriptural duties as a church: “Sharing Jesus with our neighbors and following Him together.” I preached a series of messages on the mission statement shortly after our congregation affirmed it.

Then, we wrote down a set of vision statements, one for each core value, to show the dream of what we would like to see happen in those areas in the next three years–sort of a visual goal for each core value.  Here is what we came up with:

  1. It is the dream of Heather Hills to be a church where Scripture memory is regularly practiced, where teachers of the Bible are constantly being developed and placed in ministry, and where biblically-based articles are being written and published. It is a place where partnerships for the education and defense of the Scripture are formed and where public forums are created for discussion of biblical topics.
  2. It is the dream of Heather Hills to be a church where each member is engaged in personal evangelism and where men and women are regularly equipped and sent into the world as ministers and missionaries. It is a church where personal involvement in missions is encouraged through short-term missions trips and apprenticeship programs. It is a church whose reputation in the community is positively felt by every citizen through community-friendly facilities, communication through varied media, service projects, and the breaking down of language, ethnic, gender, and social barriers. It is a church who focuses its resources to make possible the dreams of church planting and church building around the world for the glory of God.
  3. It is the dream of Heather Hills to be a church where people laugh and cry together, where ordinary needs are met by extraordinary love, and where there are no unnecessary barriers to fellowship. It is a place where a close and welcomed accountability is shared and, when necessary, discipline is engaged to restore fellowship. It is a church that understands the importance of cooperation and fellowship with other local churches of like faith for the advance of the Gospel.
  4. It is the dream of Heather Hills to be a church who finds great necessity and delight in both private and corporate prayer, where God is sought in every decision taken, where answered prayer is celebrated, where hurting people know they can come to find someone who will pray for them. It is a people who deeply believe in the power of prayer, show reverence and humility in their conversations with their heavenly Father, pray for their spiritual leaders, and pray according to biblical models and instruction.
  5. It is the dream of Heather Hills to be a church where there is a purposeful and planned path to spiritual maturity, where doctrine is passed on to succeeding generations, and where the older are teaching the younger. It is a church where discipleship is active in each home and ministry, where leaders are identified and equipped to serve, and where biblical discernment and defense are valued.
  6. It is the dream of Heather Hills to be a church whose members desire to use their spiritual gifts in ministry, where service is the norm, where new ministries are created, where all members are equipped for their place of ministry, and where all Christians find fulfillment in service.
  7. It is the dream of Heather Hills to be a church where God is the center and focus of all worship. It is a church where all Christians sincerely respond to God’s truth. It is a place where worship demonstrates a biblical unity that is contagious. It is a dream where worship is a priority at home and a witness to the world through church gatherings, both within and outside our walls.
  8. It is the dream of Heather Hills to be a church whose unity is sourced in God, where division is neither allowed nor honored, where truth is both spoken and received in love, and where individual preferences are set aside for the unity of the Body.

Finally, we took several months to put together a strategy to accomplish our vision.  This is a 3-year task list of each vision statement broken down into practical projects.  We are working through these diligently. Some are larger than others and more difficult to complete, but we hope, Lord willing, to do them all.  Let me give you one example:

From our Core Value #6…

“We are passionate about serving God in the local church, with all members using their spiritual gifts in ministry.*”

…we wrote Vision Statement #6…

“It is the dream of Heather Hills to be a church whose members desire to use their spiritual gifts in ministry, where service is the norm, where new ministries are created, where all members are equipped for their place of ministry, and where all Christians find fulfillment in service. “

…then created Action Item #14 (2009)…

Create an “Every Member a Minister” initiative.  Get all members plugged into a ministry in accordance with their spiritual gifts.

How has this fleshed out?  One of the men on our Leadership Team is a project engineer at a local pharmaceutical company.  He was assigned this task.  He created a single Excel spreadsheet that allows us (ingeniously) to:

  • View all of our members/regular attendees along with their spiritual gifts (we use this online database.)
  • View all of our ministries along the spiritual gifts desired for each ministry

Because of the way the spreadsheet is set up, we can also:

  • See which members are not engaged in any ministries
  • See which members/attendees have not taken a spiritual gifts test
  • See which members are engaged in too many ministries
  • See if members are ministering in an area that best utilizes their spiritual giftedness
  • See if ministries have the people with the desired giftedness for that ministry

So then, we can take action to:

  • Engage uncommitted members in ministry according to their giftedness
  • Encourage members to move into ministry areas that best allow them to use their gifts
  • Equip all members in areas of giftedness and ministry responsibilities

In short, it is both a powerful tool for us pastors as well as a way to fulfill our vision as a church.  That is just one of the many action items we are working on in our 3-year plan.  Next year, we’ll begin to formulate a new 3-5 year plan for 2012 on.  The core values and the mission statement will remain the same, but the vision and strategy will change from plan to plan, depending on the current cultural environment, the current church environment, and the needs and resources of the church and community.

Move of our members don’t realize the totality of what is going on behind the scenes.  We’ve kept them informed with “town hall” style meetings and updates at our quarterly members meetings; however, everyone is just plugging away with their individual responsibilities.  The stewardship principle is alive and well now at our church and has resulted in a greater unity and trust of leadership, for which we thank the Lord.

Perhaps some of this is helpful to you and your church. Sometimes, we need to pause, take inventory of where we are as a church, and refocus on what is the most important.  Perhaps you can share as well what types of ministry goal-setting and planning your church does.  I look forward to the interaction!

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