December 26, 2014

6 Reasons Why Most Church Strategic Planning Is a Waste of Time

Church Strategic Planning

Most church strategic planning is a waste of time no matter what you call it or why the church started the planning to begin with. Have you ever personally experienced a time-waster planning retreat?

The planning may be called lots of things like:

  • long range planning
  • vision planning
  • visioning weekend
  • goal-setting
  • strategic operations

In addition to the variety of names, the planning may be spawned for numerous reasons like facility planning, attendance decline, website design, or capital campaign initiatives to name a few. But whatever you call it and and whatever got the process started, Many pastors confess that the outcome of strategic planning  is left wanting. The usefulness of the deliverable itself—the plan, the report, the vision—is so limited, it will soon be stored in a church closet otherwise known as the strategic planning notebook graveyard.

Sound like a doomsday message? I hope not! Because a well designed vision process is one of the most exciting things to lead and experience. It’s why Auxano has eight full-time consultants (we call ourselves navigators) with dozens of Church Unique Certified and Network Navigators who practice our Vision Framing Process part-time. Literally hundreds of churches go through the process every year with amazing success!

So what are the reasons why most church strategic planning is a waste of time? 

Reason #1: Most planning deliverables have too much information.

Two weeks ago, I looked at a current strategic planning document for a church. In addition to a statement of mission and values, the plan contained 5 overarching objectives and 22 goals. It’s not unusual to see this much information. The problem with “too much: is that the only person who benefits is the executive pastor type or board member with a high need for control. It helps them feel good to have all of the objectives and goals listed in one place. The real problem is that no one else in the organization cares that much about the goals.

Does that sound harsh? It shouldn’t. It’s not a negative commentary on the people and their motives, its a negative commentary on the model of planning. In a nutshell, a plan with too much information misses the human element. It doesn’t connect on an emotional level and doesn’t help the average person, really know what to do.

How much information should your plan have? At the summary level it should have five things: mission, values, strategy, measures and “vision proper.” Vision proper means that everyone knows the one, most important goal at any time. For certain people in the organization, there are tools for more complexity, but not much more.

Reason #2: Most mission and values statements are too generic.

We have been so saturated with generic in church leadership we don’t even realize what it is any more. Here is the key principle to understand: Mission and values should be broad but not generic. They are broad because many types of activities are required to accomplish the mission and many different kinds of tasks can flow out of a deeply held value. Therefore your mission and values should be broad yet specific, rather than broad and generic. Consider these definitions to help you think about this idea:

Broad: to a great extent, ample, vast, extensive, large

Generic: applicable to all members of a group; a name not protected by trademark.

Specific: precise or particular; peculiar to somebody or something.

Applying these definitions we would say that your church’s mission should be extensive and vast, but peculiar to your church. 

 

Perhaps the best way to describe idea of broad yet specific is to think of oceans. There are five oceans in the world, Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, Arctic and Southern. These are broad bodies of water with complex ecosystems and each is a world of its own. But they are also specific and unique. To make the bridge to church, the better analogy might be a lake. There are over 112 millions lakes in the world larger than half an acre. Each one is peculiar, despite the fact that to a frog, each of the lakes provides for a “broad” environment.

A broad and generic mission is: love God, love people and serve our community. A broad and specific mission is: inviting people into the unexpected joy of desperate dependence on Jesus. To get to broad and specific read this post on why churches operate at less than 50% effectiveness. It will help you get past generic.

The last four reasons are below and will be unpacked in follow-up posts:

Reason #3: Most strategic plans don’t clarify how the mission is accomplished.

Reason #4: Most strategic plans for churches don’t clarify  when the mission is accomplished. 

Reason #5: Most planning processes involve too many people.

Reason #6: Most planning processes neglect training on vision competencies.  

So how many strategic planning experiences have you had that you considered a waste of time? I would love to hear the total!!!

December 15, 2014

Take the Nice IS Naughty Quiz for Pastors this Christmas

naughty or nice pastors - will mancini

You’ve heard of the naughty or nice quiz before. We put people on one side of the behavior equation this time of the year. And if that doesn’t cross your mind, then someone at North Pole Central is finalizing the tally before Santa’s globe-trotting, Christmas Eve sleigh ride.

This year, however,  I want to put these terms on the same side of the equation. I think pastors need to consider “niceness” from an entirely different point of view.

That’s right, I have a growing fear that we, as ministry leaders,  too often do the wrong thing in the name of “nice.” So allow me to suggest that there are times when nice IS naughty. What if being nice is not always a ministry hallmark? Is it possible that being nice can be stumbling block that excuses poor leadership habits and personal flaws?

Before we get to the quiz, let’s consider Jesus as our leadership model. The more I read the gospel’s the more I see the love of Jesus working hand-in-hand with a certain intensity and not a certain “niceness.” As we go through the quiz, I’ll make some references to Jesus.

 

THE QUIZ

 

Question #1:  I can give time to people in way that causes me to neglect the primary people that God is calling me to serve. (Y/N)

Jesus walked away from people all of the time. Giving time to the wrong people is a naughty kind of nice.

Question #2: I allow my enjoyment of approval to lead me to flatter others. (Y/N)

Jesus didn’t puff people up. Giving false edification to make people—and you— feel better, is a naughty kind of nice.

Question #3: I have created a new ministry, disregarding the vision of the church, because of an influential church leader. (Y/N)

Jesus passed on most ministry “opportunities.” Starting new programs to please others is a naughty kind of nice.

Question #4: I am tempted to NOT make timely decisions because some people won’t like the decision. (Y/N)

Jesus didn’t delay. Waiting another day to live in false peace another day is a naughty kind of nice.

Question #5: I can keep someone on the team despite a mediocre ministry performance. (Y/N)

Jesus chose people carefully and let people walk away. Avoiding a tough call is a naughty kind of nice.

Question #6: I overcommit myself because I can’t say “no.” (Y/N)

Jesus gave himself but didn’t overcommit himself. Taking yourself too seriously and never saying “no” is a naughty kind of nice.

Question #7: I have never exhibited righteous anger out of a preference for “harmony.” (Y/N)

Jesus turned over tables. Never displaying anger at the things that anger God is naughty kind of nice.

Question #8: I have refused to face some facts head on, because of the difficulty of the truth behind it. (Y/N)

Jesus faced the truth, head on. Living in temporary harmony with intentional ignorance is a naughty kind of nice.

Questions #9: I have never rebuked or corrected someone on my team. (Y/N)

Jesus rebuked his team regularly. Unwillingness to correct or confront is not a sign of love and is a naughty kind of nice.

 

THE CONFESSION

 

The origination of this quiz comes from my personal experience as a leader. I have to confess that in 2014, I must answer yes to 7 of these 9 questions. Somehow, by God’s grace, I don’t think I will get coal in my stocking this Christmas.

A Prayer to Stop Being Nice

Lord, I want to live full of love with the same intensity you exhibited. I know there are times, where I fail to love in the name of being “nice.” Father, help me to know my identity in Christ. Lord Jesus, help me to lead others the same way you did. Precious Spirit, guide my thoughts and reveal my sin when I seek false harmony or long for the approval of men. Shape me and make me a leader who will serve you well. Amen.

December 13, 2014

Last Day Founding Subscriber Offer to My Blog Readers for SUMS Book Summary Tool

SUMS Book Summaries by Will Mancini

A few weeks ago, I shared that you would have the first opportunity to become a founding subscriber to SUMS reMix. This book summary tool is the most innovative content resource I know of in the church space.

Many of you have already received an e-mail reminding you of the benefits for founding subscribers and the instructions to sign-up. But I wanted to remind you with another post if you haven’t acted yet.

In a nutshell you will receive:

  • 50% off regular subscription price, lock-in for life
  • 3 additional Christmas gift subscriptions, totally free (give you boss or buddies in ministry the gift of insight for one year)
  • The complete library of two years of SUMS in one PDF (52 books)
  • Exclusive future offers and free content

Remember the SUMS reMix will come every other week to your inbox:

  • Designed around a practical challenge all church leaders face
  • Providing 3 solutions to that challenge from 3 books
  • Giving you immediate action steps for you and your staff
  • Resulting in more insight, progress and credibility in your ministry leadership

Imagine reading and acting on 78 books in one year, without having to read each book from cover to cover. Each book is handpicked, some ministry books and some business books, just for ministry leaders. Of course you can just click and purchase the books you want to go deeper with.

The 50% price is only $24.00 per year, or $2.00 per month.

You have today only before this offer extends to our entire SUMS subscriber list. Founding Subscribers are limited to the first 1,000 who sign up.

To get your discount use the code: founder2014

Become a Founding Subscriber Now!

 

December 11, 2014

10 Ways We Get in the Way of God Building His Church

God Builds the Church Will Mancini

Scriptures clearly remind us that God is building his church. But the reality of church can seem so contradictory to this truth. Reggie McNeal once wrote, “We have the best churches men can build, but we are still waiting for the church that only God can get the credit for.”  When things don’t go well at church, is it possible that we are getting in God’s way?

The quote from Reggie  has been retweeted quite a bit this last week. It got me thinking about theses question:

  • How am I unintentionally trying to build a church without God?
  • How I do become an obstacle to the Spirit’s work, without realizing it?
  • I am making ministry harder than it should be?

As I reflected on the possible answers I become all too aware of my own failures and mistakes along the way. While tempted to do a short paragraph on each point,  I believe the single statements alone say enough!

10 Ways We Get in Way of God Building His Church:

Way #1: We rely on human wisdom, not God’s, by copying what we see in other churches. 

Way #2: We misdirect our energies by confusing the ends and means of ministry.

Way #3: We use our ministry platform to display our gifts more than to develop the gifts of others.

Way #4: We avoid transparency thus making ourselves more than we really are. 

Way #5: We decide to stop growing thereby limiting  the growth of others around us. 

Way #6: We settle for ministry assignments that are disconnected from the entire rescue mission of redemptive history. 

Way #7: We choose denial instead of facing the answers to difficult questions.

Way #8: We use our influence to stay in a ministry position longer than we should.

Way #9:  We loose our love for people but pretend we don’t.

Way #10: We take ourselves too seriously by not resting in weekly sabbath. 

Dear Father,

Please rescue us from ourselves. Forgive us when we unintentionally get in the way. We acknowledge that we can operate out of pride and self-strength as easily as we can be tempted by comfort and inaction. Thank your for the privilege of participation in your church-building, kingdom-expanding work on earth. We want to see you get all of the credit and work more than we could possibly dream!

December 6, 2014

The Top 10 Reasons to Advance Church Goals One Big Goal at a Time

Church Goals by Will Mancini

Most church leaders never experience what it feels like to have one big goal for their entire church. (Unless of course they are raising funds in a traditional capital campaign.) Yet, to be a part of a church culture that sets and achieves big goals time and time again is as God honoring as much as it is exhilarating!

What do most churches do instead of having one big goal? Its pretty simple. They either have no clear and stated aspirations at all or they have too many goals in an overwhelming strategic plan or cumbersome dashboard. The sweet spot is a rare yet priceless in-between: one highly visible, broadly supported goal. At Auxano we call this a “missional milestone” and it usually is based on a time horizon of 6 to 12 months out.

One key to understanding the value of having one goal, is that you have one goal at a time. That is, you keep resetting the next big goal to advance the longer-term vision of your congregation. (Learn more about the different horizons of planning.)

 So what are the top ten reasons to set church goals one at a time?

#1  One goal at a time focuses the attention of staff and leaders.

No goal = little focus. Too many goals = playing for different teams.

#2  One goal at a time creates greater energy among the congregation.

No goal = unactivated potential. Too many goals = depleted energy.

#3  One goal at a time directs everyone’s prayers as a concert of dependence on God.

No goal = random prayers. Too many goals = low likelihood of any goal-directed prayers at all.

#4  One goal at a time helps leaders think bigger about what God might be doing.

No goal = smaller thinking. Too many goals = fragmented thinking.

#5  One goal at time means we will set goals for disciple-making outcomes not just for raising money.

No goal = you only set goals when raising funds. Too many goals = people never see the importance of  disciple-making goals.

#6  One goal at a time generates a sense of momentum.

No goal = people define success any way they want. Too many goals = splintered momentum.

#7  One goal at a time helps us build toward bigger and bigger goals.

No goals = no “ramp” to bigger goals. Too many goals = each goal stays smaller.

#8  One goal at a time fosters healthy risk-taking.

No goal = no reason to risk. Too many goals = much lower risk threshold.

#9  One goal at a time connects people to the larger story of God’s redemptive history.

No goal = live in a smaller story.  Too many goals = disconnect people.

 #10  One goal at a time demonstrates God-honoring unity.

No goal = missed opportunity to show people our “togetherness.” Too many goals = shows people our different agendas.