4 Questions that Guide Our Church's Strategic Plan

Posted by Aaron Buer on January 25, 2018

Do you remember back in the day when people kept road maps in their vehicles?

I’m talking about the days before Google Maps and the internet.

If you ever needed help figuring out how to get where you were going, you had to unfold this paper map, which started as the size of your pocket but when fully unfolded became the size of your entire car.

And, once you unfolded it, you were better off just buying a new one because refolding the map would require 14 hours and a master’s degree in origami.

Back in the day, these maps were all we had available to help us get where we needed to go.

Here’s why I bring this up: When it comes to ministry, most of us know where we need to go. We have the Great Commission and we have our mission statements.

For example, our church’s mission statement is:

To lead people into a relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church.

The student ministry I lead has a mission statement too:

To ground students’ identities in Jesus Christ.

I’m guessing that most of the people on your staff are pretty clear on the mission. They know where you’re supposed to end up. What is confusing is the map. How exactly do we get there?

It takes a certain level of leadership to define the mission. But it takes another level of leadership entirely to create a map to get there.

So, let’s talk about what it looks like to create a map to your mission. I believe it all starts with four questions.

1. What does "there" look like?

The first question to ask when creating a map to your mission is to ask “What does “there” look like?".

If, in a perfect world, where people are fully engaged with your mission, what would they look like? For our church, this means asking:

“What does a person who is fully engaged in a relationship with Jesus and His Church look like?”

For our student ministry, it means asking

“What does a student whose identity is grounded in Jesus look like?”

It might help to ask questions like:

  • “How would they act?”
  • “How would they think?”
  • “How would they spend their time?”
  • “How would they relate to others?”
  • “How would they use their resources?”

Creating a long list of characteristics and practices will help you better understand what will be needed in your map to get there. I would encourage you to do this.

Gather your team and create a long list of what “there” looks like.

2. What's are the Most Important 3?

The second question to ask is “What’s most important?”

Here’s tip from my own successes and, well, not-so-much-successes in ministry.

Grab your long list of what “there” looks like and choose the three that matter the most.

Ask yourself:

“I we could only ever develop three characteristics, what would they be?”

Here’s why this is important: Trying to focus on 20 characteristics means you will focus on 0 characteristics. It’s just too much.

Pick 3.

Three is such a great number. People can grab onto 3. You can make progress with 3 right now.

This doesn’t mean that the other 17 characteristics aren’t important and it doesn’t mean that you won’t focus on the other 17 later. So, go ahead and decide on the 3 most important right now.

3. What's the Process?

The next question to ask is how to people engage?

In other words, what’s the process for getting your people to start following the map?

This question will take some serious time and energy. But it’s incredibly valuable.

Here’s how we have landed. For our church as a whole, here is our process:

The Row
The Circle
The Chair

We’ve decided that people who are fully engaged in a relationship with Jesus and His church are committed to attending church services (row) and they are committed to a small group with other followers of Jesus (circle) and they are pursuing Jesus in their personal time (chair).

I know what you’re thinking: “There is a lot more to a fully engaged relationship with Jesus and His church than that!”

You’re probably right. But that’s the 3 we chose from our long list of what “there” looks like.

We have another 17 but when you focus on 20 you really focus on 0. However, when you focus on 3 you can really make progress and you can really create clarity.

Let me give you another example from the student ministry I lead. Again, our mission is to ground students’ identity in Jesus. Here’s our process:

Life-Changing Truth
Life-Changing Relationships
Life-Changing Experiences

We believe that a student who is grounding their identity in Jesus needs to engage with Scripture, which is why we constantly teach the Bible (Truth).

We believe students need adult mentors to guide them and community to journey with (relationships).

And we believe that students need certain experiences to shake them up and alter their worldview. These experiences would include serving, missions and retreats (experiences).

I’m fully aware that there is a bunch of stuff that’s missing but you can only focus on 3. You can’t focus on 20.

So, if you’re interested in creating a map to your mission, it will require focus and process. You’ll have to narrow things down to what you believe really matters right now.

4. What Doesn't Fit?

The last question is very challenging. The question is:

“What doesn’t fit?”

In other words, once you bring clarity to your map, what current ministries and practices do not align?

Are there roads on your map that don’t lead to your mission destination?

If there are, I would highly suggest that these ministries and practices be redirected or removed.

A word of caution here:

Creating a map to your mission is difficult but fun.

Implementing a map to your mission is difficult and not fun.

Why? Because, the former is theoretical and the latter is practical. It will require change.

It will require hard conversations. It will require redirecting people who have “always done it that way.”

But, let’s end by talking about “there.”

God has called you and your specific church to a mission.

Your community needs that mission!

And imagine what your community would look like if most of the people in your church looked like “there?”

When I’m faced with a difficult redirection conversation or the challenge of ending a program that doesn’t align, I find it helpful to think about what would happen to my city if hundreds of students graduated from our ministry with their sense of identity firmly rooted in Jesus.

They would transform my city! This vision motivates me to keep plugging away.

Wrap Up

Well, there you go. Four questions to get you to your mission.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this. If you have questions, ideas or comments, please leave us a comment below.

Topics: Advice

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