Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Value of Church Planning

God and his people are planners. It is also a general truth that planning in His will is blessed (PV 14:22). Among other things, we see God planning redemption (Gen 12:1), the detail of the tabernacle (Ex 26:30) and later the temple. We see God the Son, Jesus, in His ministry planning what he will do (Mk 1:38) and celebrating with the Father the accomplishment of His plan (Jn 17:4). We also see Paul planning his way through the book of Acts (e.g. Rom15:24). Granted, the Holy Spirit superintended Paul, such that not all his plans came to fruition (such as when he was prevented from preaching in Asia in Acts 16:6). Nevertheless, planning was an important element of Paul’s modus operandi: plan and see the plan realized as God’s will or be prevented if that is God’s will.

I have participated in or led church planning annually since 1993 as a board member, staff member, and now as a church consultant. The following are the top three outcomes that I have experienced that come from the discipline of church planning:

1. Church Planning Defines our Direction

It takes effort to stay on mission and make the main thing the main thing. It also takes discipline to sort through and focus in the midst of a myriad of options. In Church Unique, (Jossey-Bass 2008) Will Mancini urges us to guard against a copycat approach to vision and direction. We have our Bibles, books, articles, conferences, podcasts, online webinars, blogs (like this one ;) and our well-meaning cousin in Michigan all telling us what the church is supposed to be and do.

Through some form of church planning, the leadership team can prayerfully arrive at a Spirit-led understanding of His will for His direction for His church.

2. Church Planning Builds Unity

I can’t read your mind and you can’t read mine. We can even spend hours in meetings talking about the values and priorities of the church. However, in the end we may think we understand each other only to discover we are not pulling in the same direction. Planning and putting that plan in writing ensures that we are literally and figuratively all on the same page. Initially it may reveal that we are not. This type of dialogue may in fact reveal what our barriers are to accomplishing our mission. That knowledge can be just enough to show us what steps we need to take to see barriers removed.

This is not merely about the task of ministry. Ps 133:1 says, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!” A corollary that didn’t make it into our Bibles says, “How bad and unpleasant it is when brothers don’t live together in unity!” A good planning process has the ability to not only get us on the same task path, it also fosters an environment where we are relationally whole.

3. Church Planning Yields Results

Planning will indeed help us discern our direction and allow us to happily march down the road together. We may not always be on the path God wants. Paul certainly found that out with his plans to go to Asia. But, which would you rather have: a lack of plans where you may only accomplish 20% of God’s will for His church, or an imperfect plan that has the potential to allow you to see 80% of what He had in mind?

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