By: Dale D. McConkey

Why Should We Plan?

Most people want to see their church succeed-succeed in terms of carrying out God’s work to the greatest possible degree. They want to do good work. They want to contribute to the church’s progress in the most meaningful and rewarding manner possible.

Yet some churches are more successful than others in carrying out their mission. Why? While there are probably several answers to this question, two are particularly significant to planning.

They involve how we use our time and how we plan and organize our efforts. These are interrelated.

Ernest Hemingway admonished us, “Never mistake motion for action.” We’ve all heard someone say, “He’s always busy, but never seems to get anything done.” Both of these quotations are pertinent.

The best way to squander our precious time and effort is to become busy trying to accomplish something without first determining what it is we want to accomplish. It’s like a mail carrier running around trying to deliver a letter which has no name and address written on it.

The people in one church may stay very busy, carrying out a great many activities and hoping that something good will happen. This is not planning.

The people in a second church first determine what they want to achieve and then align all of their efforts to make it happen. This is planning.

The reason for goal setting is to help accomplish the most meaningful and rewarding results for our church. We do this by: (1) determining the most important things (goals) we want to accomplish; (2) directing all of the  individual efforts toward accomplishing these goals; and (3) avoiding spending time and effort on activities which are not needed. Emphasis is on the results we want to achieve-not on the efforts expended.

Goal setting replaces “motion sickness” with a sense of purpose and direction. With intentional goal setting we don’t get on board a ship and go around in circles hoping it will take us someplace. Instead, we first determine where we want to go and then steer a course to reach that point. Goal achievement brings a sense of excitement and motivation to people of the church; “success breeds success.”

Benefits of Goal Setting

Goal setting requires considerable time, effort, and thought on the part of the church and its members. It is therefore proper to ask, “Do the benefits of goal setting justify the time and effort required?” What are the benefits of goal setting?

Effective goal setting should provide the following benefits to a church and its members:

1. Positive results – Goal setting will help the congregation increase its effectiveness in all areas of its work.

2. Guidance – goal setting will provide guidance to help all members work together as a coordinated team.

3. Measurement – goal setting will enable a congregation to evaluate its progress in accomplishing the work of the church.

4. Communications – goal setting will help members to become more aware of the work and progress of their church and will promote better understanding and facilitate more informed discussions of vital issues.

5. Timetable – goal setting will provide the pastor, committees, and members with a timetable for action, thereby helping reduce listless drifting and indecision.

6. Time and effort – goal setting will help all church members do better work with less time and effort.

In summary, goal setting is intended to help us better organize and carry out God’s work so that we may be better stewards of our time, talents, and efforts in achieving the most desirable results for God, our church, and ourselves.

“Ownership” – the Key to Success

Goal setting requires active involvement and participation by all members of a church. It involves the pastor, the governing body, and the congregation, all actively working together to further the church’s work.

Study after study has demonstrated that people will not be really committed to helping achieve a result unless they have had a voice is determining what the result will be. Conversely, people will be more motivated to work for the success of a project if they have had a part in developing it.

Thus, high commitment and high motivation usually go hand in hand with the degree to which people believe that it is their project-that they “own” it. “Ownership,” therefore, is a big part of the foundation of successful planning.

The late Douglas McGregor, one of the most respected of behavioral scientists, emphasized the need for blending the efforts and interest of the individual (the church member) with those of the organization (the church) when he wrote:

Man will exercise self-direction and self-control to react objectives to which he is committed. The most significant rewards, the satisfaction of ego and self-actualization leads, can be direct products of effort directed toward organizational objectives. The average human being learns, under proper conditions, not only to accept but to seek responsibility. The capacity to exercise a relatively high degree of imagination, ingenuity, and creativity in the solution of organizational problems is widely, not narrowly, distributed in the population. Under the conditions of modern
life, the intellectual potentialities of the average human being are only partially utilized.

Dr. McGregor’s findings highlight the value of participation to any organized group endeavor. A high degree of participation usually leads to an increased feeling of “ownership.”


First, decide what you want your church to accomplish or where you want your church to be in the future.

Next, develop an order of priorities. Which are the more important things to be done? Which should be done first? Which will result in greater benefit to the church?

Then express these priorities in the form of goals-the results desired and target dates or deadlines by which the results must be achieved. After goals have been established, develop plans to achieve them. The goals tell what you want to achieve; the plans tell how you plan to achieve the goals. Plans are the step-by-step explanation of the ways in which the goals will be accomplished.

Once the goals and plans have been agreed to and you have begun carrying them out, review the situation from time to time to make sure that satisfactory progress is being made. This progress review helps answer the questions, “Are we successfully carrying out our goals and plans? Is it necessary to revise them?”

The value of the team approach lies in the proven fact that the more actively people become involved and participate in the church’s work the more successful the church will become in carrying out its mission. The church team includes its pastor, governing body, and the entire congregation.

The Goal-Setting Process

Establish Goals—-Determine How the Goals Will be Achieved—-Carry Out the Goals—-Review Progress Toward Goals—-Revise Goals and Plans as Necessary.

Each of the above five components is part of an integrated total process. Overlooking any of the integrated components can cause a breakdown in the total process.

(The above material was published by Augsburg Publishing House in Minneapolis, Minnesota.)

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