Business owners who have seen profit will tell you that planning is one of their top keys to success. By creating a strategy, outlining problems, and understanding resource flow, they can produce products and utilize employee talent to the best of their abilities. Unfortunately, this idea has been lost in many congregations.
Becoming an effective planner takes time; it's not a skill that can be learned overnight but should be consistently practiced. Many church leaders and pastors assume they understand how to plan for their ministry when in reality they do not. And many leaders face severe opposition in their planning from members. Not all churches utilize sound planning practices when it comes to fiscal management, facility planning and other areas that necessitate preparedness. But for those who do, their ministry is far more likely to succeed.
Pastors may have the passion and know-how for planning, but their members may not be on board. Rarely is this resistance because they are mean-spirited or trying to disrupt the church's ministry. Rather, there are usually uncomplicated reasons that can be constructively addressed when the issue is recognized. If you're a leader who has found resistance within the congregation or member who is frustrated with the lack of planning on a leader's part, perhaps it's time to figure out why—and address the issues before it's too late.
Lacking an Understanding of the Value of Planning
Church members come from varied backgrounds with a wide range of life and professional experiences. On the flip side, many church leaders have been in their professional positions for possibly their entire careers, in which case they have little secular life experiences in business. Although this is not inherently bad, it may mean they have not been exposed to good planning practices. In these cases, a little knowledge will go a long way. Providing the right information of practices and explaining the reasoning behind them can help you navigate this tricky situation.
Lacking the Needed Skills
Understanding the importance of formalized planning does not automatically turn into knowing how to do it. Taking the time to assess and educate each church leader on the needed planning skills can help smooth things over in the long run. Creating teams where each person's weaknesses are covered by another's strengths is an excellent solution here. This will create a strong team of people who understand where you're going and how to get there.
Overwhelmed With Work or Life
Many times, regardless of how knowledgeable, skillful or well-intentioned your church members or leaders are, they might just be overwhelmed with life. Work may be busy, or they're going through a family crisis that is causing their resistance to planning. These people are overwhelmed, and allowing them the space to breathe may be a better solution than roping them into the process.
Planning Was Never a Factor Before
If you're a new pastor or member at a church that has been doing things the same way for a while, switching up the style can be met with disagreements. If people haven't utilized a formal planning process before, they may be reluctant to change from their ways. These types of individuals, although hesitant at first, may turn out to be great, active planning participants when shown the benefits of the process. Educate them while also giving them a say, and you won't be sorry.
Regardless of the reason, failing to plan can be a detriment to the church and something that can change with the right attitude and knowledge. By using a formalized planning strategy and techniques, churches can understand the barriers that might inhibit efforts while improving the likelihood of successful outcomes. Investing in learning how to plan as a pastor or church leader can be an effective way to create an even stronger ministry.
Dr. Tom McElheny serves as the director of Christian education for several Sarasota, Florida churches, holds advanced degrees in business and education and is CEO of his company ChurchPlaza.
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