My church has recently started moving towards being more mission focused in their approach, which essentially is being more people-centric rather than being program-centric. Many churches have been adopting this mindset because it aligns closely with the Great Commission and deals with meeting people where they are, showing them the path to God. This is a significant change from the way the Christian church tried to get people into the church rather than having the followers of Christ meet the lost in the community.

The missional approach focuses not on an activity or a ministry in the church, but on our church body living a life focused and engaged with the mission of God. This shift primarily deals with moving away from the internal focus of the church to being more externally, community focused.

The Great Commission

What is the Great Commission? Matthew 28: 16-20

The Great Commission instructs, no, commands us to "go and make disciples" (v.19) So, for the church, we must not only be spreading the Gospel, but also instructing and engaging new believers with the Word and life of Christ. We may be saved when we come to know Christ, but it is only through action in a transformed life that we can show a true change to those around us. Making our faith actionable is the commission that we have been given.

In my church, the missional change is in direct response to this lethargic mindset that has creeped into the church. We are losing the battle because we are not meeting the lost, broken and hurting individuals in our community, but passing them by on our way through life. The life we lead as Christians is not to be casual observers. Christ wants us to use our faith, and that action takes us from being lukewarm Christians to on-fire Christians. Though we have been transformed by God, we’ve failed to actively display our faith. But how can we take a more outwardly orientated approach? Using our God-given gifts, we can put into action not only our faith, but also the commission we were commanded to follow.

Faith and Planning

Planning is sometimes a bad word to many people. Faith and planning seem to be incongruent concepts. When it comes to planning a ministry we should not be fearful of writing things down or drawing a battle plan. God makes plans and so should we. Granted, God's plans are on a much grander scale than anything we can imagine. This doesn't mean that the minds and skills that He gave us should go to waste. When I start working on a new ministry, I begin by sitting down to plan what and who will be needed, where the space for the ministry will be, and then how it will all function. Even when you are not in charge you should start looking to see if some sort of procedure is being followed. The lack of planning can be disastrous for a ministry that is just starting out, and looking at things critically doesn't mean you are complaining, but being mindful of what He has planned.

When I started looking at the ministries that were either planned in my own church or in churches in the area, I started noticing a pattern in the list that I was keeping.

  1. No clear or defined direction
  2. Growth potential not tracked
  3. Not enough resources
  4. Low attendance
  5. Daily or weekly needs are last minute concerns

The list kept growing as I observed different ministries and asked questions of leaders, volunteers and attendees. Most of the general problems listed above happen in both business and in the church. This got my gears rolling in devising a plan to help make ministry more effective for both the church and those who the ministry is meant to serve. Most ideas break down from the five main issues above, occurring at the communication level.

At my church, communication happens among staff members at a weekly meeting where prayers, concerns, ministries and the weekly breakdown occurs. This is the best place to surface issues that are occurring in the church; but that is not enough. Communication about a church may be great for the staff, but where does that information lead when transmitted to the leaders or even the body? Do you have weekly meetings or phone conversations with ministry leaders? Or is it monthly? Or yearly? The more often communication lines are opened and kept open, the clearer the message is. For the body, how is information disseminated? Is it through flyers, bulletins, video announcements, web site messages, podcasts, or e-mails? In the end, nothing seems to work, right? Where and how do you start to communicate your vision for a ministry, for the church, or for community outreach?

Ministry planning is essential, and one of the things that I have been passionate about since I started being a ministry leader almost 8 years ago. The process is always repeatable. I mean repeatable in the sense that the procedure for collecting and organizing information is the same for each ministry, but the results, goals, direction, and vision may be different.

Ministry Planning

Begin by sitting down with your pastor, deacons and church staff and ask what their vision for the church is. This can be a mission statement that best describes the purpose for your church. Here is my church's mission statement: "We believe in pursuing authentic relationships that lead people from where they are into a transformed life in Jesus Christ". Your church may have a different direction or goal for its body of believers, but the best way to make sure you are on track is to ask.

Planning

  • What are the needs your ministry will meet? This tends to turn into a ministry mission statement.
  • Who are the stakeholders? Who will be making the ultimate decisions about this ministry? ** Project sponsor (vision caster) ** Ministry leaders ** Pastor ** Deacons
  • Talk to people that this ministry will directly impact. Conduct interviews or brief surveys to collect real needs that your ministry can meet. Try to interview or survey more than one person to get a good sampling of what needs your ministry can meet.
  • Risk Management ** What are the risks of the ministry? (ex. Too much time, not enough people, unexpected budget issues, budget cuts, etc.) ** Add risks as they are noticed throughout the planning process ** Write your ministry plan
  • Mission statement ** The needs that your ministry will meet. ** How the needs will be met.
  • Risks ** Internal church function and focus ** External church function and focus

Deliverables

  1. Using your ministry plan, create a list of things that you ministry needs to deliver, start or get before it starts
  2. Set a date to start your ministry
  3. How long will your ministry last
  4. Resources, manpower, ministry space, etc.
  5. Communication. What will the communication be between team members, volunteers, and other leaders? And how often will that communication be?
  6. Create a communications plan for regular communications, emergencies and so forth.
  7. What will the primary form of communication between team members, volunteers, and leaders be? Face-to-face meetings are a plus if you can have them often, such as bi-monthly or monthly.
  8. How often will communications be?

Schedule

  1. Identify tasks for each deliverable item you identified, and include time to complete, effort involved, and the person who will complete it. For the time you can leave assignment of individuals to tasks until you have volunteers if you have not already gotten people involved.

Support

  1. Once the ministry has reached this point, start looking at the amount of personnel or volunteers needed to maintain the ministry. This step is to identify actual numbers of people who are needed.
  2. In this step you should consult your pastor and deacon board to see if your ministry is looking good or if there are concerns that they may see that you might have overlooked.

In the beginning, this process may seem daunting and unnecessary. But in the end, doing this work will ensure that your ministry will not fall apart in the beginning stages and will allow for greater communication between everyone involved. All of this will result in less communication breakdown, a clear direction, and much more insight into the plan that God has for your ministry. From past experience I've seen that when God is in a ministry, this process flows like a river. He helped me to see His hand at work in the planning process. There is so much to gain in allowing God to show you what expectations He has for you, your ministry and your church when you take the time to plan before acting.

Though I made this process more ministry focused, the same general rules can apply to a church planning process. With all processes, the only thing that makes them work is diligence and perseverance. Taking a one off solution and only using it once will not supernaturally grow a new ministry overnight. With time and application this direction for ministry planning can help your church start to see things strategically.