To Plan or Not to Plan? …It’s Not Really Much of a Question

By Timothy Siburg

Timothy Siburg
Timothy Siburg

If you are in leadership and ministry, you know that planning is a must. The question is how and when to go about doing it.

This is a good time to plan for the year ahead. The “new year” in the church begins at the end of November with Advent. Add in Thanksgiving and November brings a time of giving thanks and looking back. It also provides an opportunity to look ahead and plan for the year to come, especially given that many faith communities have their annual meeting sometime between now and February.

Good planning is grounded in listening. This means listening to yourself and others, to the faith community and the larger community. In order to do this listening and to plan effectively, here are some suggestions that have worked for me.

1) Gather leaders and de-brief the past year

In order to look forward and move forward, it is important to not only give space to discern and dream about the year ahead, but also to reflect on the past year’s experiences, challenges and learning. How did things go? Where did you especially sense God’s presence or the Holy Spirit’s nudging? These are good questions to ask during your congregation’s annual meeting.

2) Take some time to gather leaders to revisit your congregation’s vision and values

Time spent reflecting and thinking about “why we do what we do” and “who are we” is time well spent. It helps ground and connect ministry and programs with the larger identity and vision of the congregation, which shape the planning process.

3) Sense the dreams, hopes, plans and even changes for the year ahead

Not only is this space for imagination, this is also space to discern and listen for what God might be up to and where the Spirit might be leading. If there are dreams, hopes and new ideas it’s important to imagine where they might lead. If there are already changes that will happen it’s important to prepare for what these changes might entail.

4) Use a common calendar

Take a moment and think about how the plans for the different ministry areas (such as Faith Formation, Children Youth and Family, Worship and Music, Service, Stewardship, etc.) are related? How can they be tied together into a more cohesive whole? A common calendar enables ministries to work collaboratively, not in competition with each other. If there is a particular theme or focus for a month or some other period, having a common calendar enables that theme to be shared with all ministry teams and hopefully tie them together.

For example, if your faith community uses the lectionary, it might be beneficial to plan all areas of ministry around the lectionary appointed readings.

What's the planFurther Advice for Planning

Before I plan with other ministry leaders, I always gather the following things:

  1. Calendar of the last year’s events in your faith community to reflect on the last year and predict the year ahead
  2. Calendar for the year ahead in your faith community to fill in with other leaders
  3. Calendar of special events for the larger church (denomination, synod, etc.)
  4. Liturgical and/or Lectionary Calendar (if you use one)
  5. Vacation dates for Staff and Key Leaders (if known)
  6. Local school district calendar(s)
  7. Last year’s budget and expenses
  8. The upcoming year’s projected (or approved) budget
  9. If planning worship and music, make sure to have ensemble schedules for the year past and year ahead, as well as what songs have been chosen and shared recently

If you have these materials, you can more easily plan when special events will occur as well as intentional learning and growing opportunities such as council and staff retreats. Additionally, you can thematically plan for other growing opportunities. Perhaps you will want to encourage your leaders to do some reading. Having a central plan and calendar can provide better connection on the front end to plan appropriate books and give enough lead time for your leaders to read them together.

Time to Plan & Questions for Consideration

These ideas aren’t exhaustive, or a “how to” model. But perhaps they are helpful in encouraging you to take time this month to plan for the year ahead.

What connects all the areas of your ministry? How will you create and use a calendar for your faith community? And, in planning for the year ahead, how will you listen and then live out of and into your vision and values?

Timothy Siburg is a LEAD coach for leaders and congregations. He also actively serves in a local congregation in Minnesota, the Ecumenical Stewardship Center, and maintains his own blog. This post was adapted in part from a previous post on Timothy’s blog.

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