As you look ahead to the new year avoid these missteps and mistakes I see all of the time:
Worst Practice #1: Mantra Madness
Some pastors have a mission statement they are passionate about and that is it as far as vision and planning is concerned. So we'll call that mission a "mantra". Everyone knows it and there are always enough banners and written references for people to get it. But trying having a strategic conversation and it sounds something like this:
What's your mission? A. Radical love of God, total love people and relentless pursuit of the world. Okay, great, well what is your strategy? A. Radical love of God, total love of people and relentless pursuit of the world. Nice, okay, well how do you measure success? A. Radical love of God, total love of people, relentless pursuit of the world. Great, What's your vision? A. Radical love of God, total love of people, relentless the world.
You now get the idea. A great mantra is important, but if that's all you got, it isn't much. What drives things in the end in a ministry like this? Either the whims of the people or the ADD of the pastor, all justified and under the broad and un-defined mantra.
Worst Practice #2: "Yessiness"
Many churches thrive on the an unusual fuel- the approval addiction of the pastor or staff combined with the mini-visions and pet agendas of the congregation. What happens from there is pretty simple. Busyness is considered successful in and of itself. And we all feel good saying yes to one another while ignoring a real lack of progress. No one has bad motives or anything, in fact its just the opposite. Yet a random, messy, all-things-to-all-people approach shoots the mission and vision in the foot over time.
Worst Practice #3: Microwave Planning
Many folks who do move into the intentional planning space are too fond of instant results. Achieving great clarity has a likeness to the formation of a diamond- it takes heat plus time plus pressure. You simply can't get great results from a afternoon strategy meeting alone or a one-day planning retreat.
Depending on the size and culture of your ministry you need some kind of process where perspective, meaning, convictions and priorities, can be discussed and shared to be implemented with excellence. Remember most pastors spend more time in sermon prep in one month they do on vision and planning in five years!
Worst Practice #4: Cut-n-Paste Strategy
Do you have any idea how many church leaders flock to conferences year after year? Who doesn't love a great conference? Not only can you connect with friends and be challenged in your learning, you can flat out photocopy whatever ministry model you find there. Did you hear Perry Nobles sweet core values? Just use his! Wow, Did you hear about Jeff Vanderstelt's Gospel rhythms? Let's borrow that! What about Andy Stanley's strategy? Don't reinvent the wheel- just plug and play!
What's the problem with cut-n-paste in the end? Not only do you not have to reinvent the wheel, you won't reinvent the results either. Someone else's strategy solves a problem in their place at their time with their perspective, passions and gifts. Yours are unique.
Worst Practice #5: Compelling Page Dump
I just ran into this again last week. A pastor or a group of leaders in the church are waiting for one person to "get it." Usually we send the pastor away for a few days hoping he will come back with a word from God. We all hope that the "Moses-moment-on-the-mountain-top" will be repeated. And sometimes it happens! Sometimes it doesn't. What always happens is some one-time download of what the visionary is thinking next. And usually its in the form a one to two page "I have a dream speech." (the new stone tablets!)
Getting away is a great idea. Writing your ideas down is a good idea to. What messes up the compelling page dump is an over-reliance on both one person and a one time event. Vision is rarely owned, distributed or implemented after the dump trunk as reversed and unloaded.