Management: The Monthly Planning Council

By: Tim Massengale

Thus far we have explained in detail the first two aspects of the Four Part Planning System: the Plan-Development Stage (Annual Planning Retreat) and the Plan-Organization Stage (Departmental One-Year Plan). But now we come to the third, and in my opinion, one of the most important steps: The “Plan-Implementation Stage,” or where we make all these lofty dreams, plans, and goals actually come to pass. This is the Monthly Departmental Planning Council. Few things will have a more positive effect upon your growth than will this simple monthly meeting. Yet, within this meeting occurs two of the most significant management principles: Effective group planning and consistent follow-through.

Group planning has tremendous advantages, particularly for churches. It helps us to understand what has been done, what is being done now, and what should be done in the future. Group planning binds department members together as a team. It allows them to share problems and get helpful support in solving those problems from other team members. It improves communication between departments and shows how the various parts of the church organization interrelate and benefit one another. It keeps the pastor informed as to how projects are progressing and provides accountability to the directors responsibilities. It utilizes the pastors time more effectively by allowing him to take care of most administrative matters at one time rather than on a one-to-one basis. And finally, it provides the department heads with target dates, specific assignments to carry out, evaluation of progress, and finalizes the what, how, when, and where of all activities on the church calendar. In short, it’s difficult to see how that any church of any size can function effectively without time and effort being placed upon group planning.

“Two can accomplish more than twice as much as one, for the results can be much better. If one falls, the other pulls him up; but if a man falls when he is alone, he’s in trouble. And one standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer; three is even better, for a triple braided cord is not easily broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9, 12, LB)


Planning is an ongoing process. There isn’t a day that goes by that you don’t – or shouldn’t – plan. An efficient individual should not only take a few minutes each morning to plan his day, but should keep his week well organized also. But how often should a pastor meet with his delegated staff?

If a church is large enough to have several full-time individuals such as secretaries, assistants, youth director, music director, and so on, a pastor should meet with those weekly to organize the weeks activities. But few churches are of sufficient size to have this kind of assistance. The majority, probably over 90%, are fortunate if the pastor himself is full time. So, for the most part, a pastor will be planning with a volunteer staff of department heads. Some pastors have tried to meet with their volunteer department directors every week, taking an off-church night, or before service time, to do so. In only a few cases has it ever worked for long. Taking yet another week night, on top of everything else, soon becomes burdensome. Time must be allowed for the director to be with his or her family, as well as time to be a soulwinner. That extra night cuts deeply into an already busy schedule. Before service meetings are also difficult because of limited time and continual interruptions. Then, too, the pastor’s mind is on the service, not his departments and their needs. The bottom line is this: weekly planning sessions rarely, if ever, work for a volunteer staff.

Some pastors have tried to have departmental meetings only once per quarter. Several problems arise with this approach. Meetings are too long because too much is happening. And because of limited time, little or no planning is done and the meeting becomes nothing more then a calendar making session. Directors loose the “team spirit” because too little time is spent together. Quarterly sessions can also become a time of intense competition for limited dates, facilities, and manpower within the church. The reasons could go on, but suffice it to say: Quarterly departmental councils leave much to be desired.

Than what does work? The best and most successful approach has been the Monthly Planning Council. This once per month meeting is utilized for training, reporting, planning, and brainstorming on all facets of the church. It’s not held so often that it becomes a burden. It’s not held so seldom that it becomes a lengthy marathon session. The monthly meeting on an off-service night seems to be the best answer for nearly every situation.


The Monthly Council is attended by all department heads. This could be as many as twelve individuals. But remember, we strongly recommend that no church have more than fourteen departments. Working with more than this makes a pastors “span of control” (the number of directors a single person can effectively manage) too great. Also, meetings again go too long and accountability becomes difficult. Ten to twelve departments is best for the average church.

Spouses are not required to come, although if they wish to attend, they may. There is a danger, though, of getting too many people involved in the Monthly Council. The more people there are, the longer the discussion tends to be, and the greater difficulty you will have in arriving at any group agreement.

The church secretary, or another appointed individual should always come for the purpose of taking notes and minutes. Formal “reading of minutes” and “past business – future business” is not necessary unless you wish to do so. But it will be needful for the secretary to make notes of calendar changes, pastoral directives, and items to “tag-in” upon during the month.

And, of course, the pastor must be there. Departmental planning without the pastor is practically impossible. A pastor must give the Monthly Planning Council his highest priority. It will save him an abundance of time and frustration later on.


Some pastors have complained in the past that, “monthly planning councils don’t work.” When asked why, the answer is invariably, “I can’t get my directors to faithfully come.”

Faithfulness is a two-way street. It must be agreed upon by the Pastor as well as the directors. Few things will discourage directors more than a leader who repeatedly cancels the Monthly Council at the last minute because “something came up.” This gives a silent but very strong message to the directors that says, “the departments and your duties are not that important.”

Along the same lines is the Pastor who has no set date or frequency for the planning council. He calls one “when I feel it’s needed.” This approach almost never works. Directors will have something already planned for that evening. They will not have their reports ready and they are prone to forget when it is called because it never becomes a habit.

On the directors side, there must also be a commitment of faithfulness. If a director cannot be faithful to a once-per-month meeting, they most likely will not be faithful in performing their duties. There are, however, several things that a pastor can do to encourage faithfulness. If a pastor will follow these simple steps, in most cases his attendance problems will disappear.

1. Set all the dates for the coming years Monthly Councils at the Annual Planning Retreat. Go through your calendar month by month and have your directors write in the Monthly Planning Council dates. Choose the first “Tuesday” (or some other day) of each month and mark it in. This allows a director to prepare in advance to be there.

2. Stress and teach faithfulness. Train your directors in the importance of being faithful and dependable. This is a high priority in the Bible. Stress it at the end of each Council for those  who habitually come in late. Let them know how important it is to you. Most people are late because they plan to be on time – therefore any little problem makes them late. To be on time, you must plan to be early.

3. A week before your Monthly Council, have your secretary (or yourself) send or give a note to all department heads. Included with this note should be a rough-draft of the Monthly Council agenda. By seeing the topics concerning their department to be discussed, it emphasizes how important it is to be there. Time and location should be included also.

4. The day before the Monthly Council, have your secretary call each director. She should ask them if there are any additional topics they wish to add to the agenda. She should also remind the directors to have their reports ready to hand in when they arrive.

5. If a director is absolutely unable to attend the Monthly Council, a department assistant or aide should come in their place. Make this a hard and fast rule. Every department should be represented at the Monthly Council. The pastor may also wish to call the director before hand to discuss the agenda topics.

6. If a director is absent, and has not contacted you before hand, you should contact them. Let that director know how important faithfulness is to you. Don’t just “let it slide.” The only excuse for someone not showing up to represent that department is a “last minute” emergency over which the director had no control.

By following these suggestions, you should see good attendance by those involved. The effectiveness of each department will, in a large part, be determined by that directors desire to communicate his plans to the Pastor. Likewise, the success of the department rides upon the Pastors desire to motivate, encourage, and maintain a proper level of accountability with each major ministry in the church.


At the end of this chapter is a sample Monthly Council agenda. You will notice several topics under each department for discussion. Where do these topics come from? They come from three sources:

1. The Pastor. The pastor should meet briefly with the person who types the agenda and quickly review each department. Any items that need to be discussed – problems, suggestions for improvement, directives – should be noted as an agenda topic. Many pastors carry a note pad with them in their schedule book. As they see something that needs a director’s attention, they note it down and give it to their secretary. If it is not so urgent as to warrant immediate action, she will include it on the next Monthly Planning Council’s agenda.

2. The Department Director. Prior to each Monthly Council, the secretary should contact each director to see if there are any subjects that need to be discussed. This is important. If the topics
are all one sided, coming from the pastor only, the director begins to feel like a “gopher” (go-for this, go-for that). Any pastor who thinks a director should, “do as I tell them and keep their mouth shut” will have little success with delegation and will likely never develop a growing church.

As already mentioned, it is a good idea for the secretary to type a rough-draft agenda and give it to each director a week before they meet. Then a quick phone call or a before/after church tag-in by the secretary will allow the director their input.

3. The Departmental One-Year Plans. The Departmental One-Year Plans are the main source for agenda topics. The planning done at the Monthly Council should cover a three month period of time (if you are meeting in January, you will be discussing events and plans for “January, February, and March,” in February, you will be discussing activities for “February, March, and April,” etc.). You (or your secretary) should take all the plans and activities from each departments One-Year Plan, which fall within the three month period, and place them as topics upon the agenda. The benefit of such an approach is obvious: Each departmental activity or goal will be discussed three times – when it’s three months away, two months away, and then one month away. This allows long, intermediate, and short range planning. The failure of most activities can be often traced to poor planning. The “three-months-every-month” approach to church planning is extremely effective.

Also note that the suggested completion date should accompany each discussion subject on the agenda (see example).

The secretary should approve the agenda with the pastor before typing the final draft. Then, a final copy should be run off for each director and be given to them at the Monthly Planning Council. The agenda allows you to stay goal oriented and not “wander.” Any discussion item not covered should be carried over to the next Monthly Council.


Brother Iverson arrives at the church at 7:50 p.m. for the monthly council. As he pulls into the parking lot, he notices that no lights are on. The meeting begins in ten minutes. Getting out of his pick-up he tries the door – it’s locked. Glancing at his watch, he taps it to make sure it’s running. It is. As he glances around the empty parking lot he frowns.

“Maybe I missed the announcement that it’s canceled,” he thinks to himself. “It was canceled last month. . . . or perhaps they’re meeting somewhere else and forgot to tell me again where.”

He waits a few minutes and then glances at his watch again: 8:05. Looking around a final time, he gets into his old pick-up and drives off in disgust.

A minute or two later, another car swings into the church and parks. A person emerges and strides quickly to the front door. As he unlocks it and turns on the light, he glances at his watch. It is 8:07 p.m. He breathes a sigh and whispers, “Well, I guess I’m not too late. But no time to type that agenda now.” As he walks quickly down the hall several more cars pull into the parking lot. The pastor, the driver of the second car, is oblivious to the fact that Brother Iverson, his Men’s Ministries Director, had already come and left.

In the above account, a number of glaring mistakes were made that will quickly destroy any attempt to have an effective monthly council. Unfortunately, the above happens all too often. The following are several suggestions that will make your monthly planning successful more productive.

1. Where to meet. The Monthly Council is usually held at the church. A Sunday School room is fine. Some pastors have offices that are large enough. Others prefer the fellowship hall. But regardless where, it is best to sit around a single, long, “board-room style” table. This gives them a surface to write on and allows good eye contact with the pastor, who sits at the head. It also helps bring an attitude of “business” to the meeting. This is important, because otherwise your Monthly Council can end up going too long.

Occasionally it is good to have the Monthly Council at a restaurant (in a private area) or in a home. This adds a different atmosphere that will break up the “rut” that can sometimes develop. If you make the Monthly Council’s special, you will have little problem with attendance.

But where ever you decide to have it, make sure that it is stated clearly in the note you send to the directors a week before the meeting.

2. What time to meet. Most pastors schedule the Council to begin at 7:00 or 7:30, allowing the directors time to get home, eat and get to the church in time. Some pastors have found it extremely effective to first have dinner as a group before going into planning. If this be the case, 6:30 or earlier will allow time to eat. Like church services, meetings should always start on time. Begin promptly regardless who is there.

3. What length to allow. Once the meeting begins, keep an eye on the clock. The Council should never go beyond two hours in length – an hour and a half is best. If you get “hung-up” on a topic, try to handle the problem afterwards. Long, drawn out meetings are the main complaint that directors (and pastors) have. The pastor controls the discussion. Don’t be afraid to exercise your God given authority to make decisions. Remember, most leaders have worked a full day already. They also have a full day ahead of them tomorrow. Try to always end on time.

4. What atmosphere to encourage. You may wish to provide soft drinks and snacks during the meeting. This is fine. Don’t make the Council too formal. It is amazing how a cup of coffee and some positive conversation can effect the entire tone of the evening. Allow the atmosphere to be somewhat light with occasional humor. Directors can rarely meet for over an hour without the need for laughter, an occasional joke, and other expressions of jocularity. But in the midst of the fun, the pastor must not allow the discussion to stall. Discipline yourself to push the meeting to a specified time conclusion.

5. What schedule to follow. The sample agenda has a suggested time schedule. You may change this however you wish, but it is always best to begin with group prayer. Your planning must be done under the direction of the Holy Ghost, else we labor in vain. Proverbs 16:9 (RSV) says, “A man’s mind plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.”

Following prayer is an excellent time to have your leadership development training. A half hour of good leadership training will help your leaders to grow – and their personal growth is essential,
because your departments will not grow until your department leaders grow. An outline of suggested materials and curriculum is given in the chapter entitled “Leadership Development.”

After your training, the remaining time should be given to group planning. Follow the agenda. Cover the items or departments that will require the greatest amount of mental energy near the beginning of the meeting. This is when your best quality discussion will take place.

6. The report comes first. As you come to each department on the agenda, the pastor should have the director quickly read his or her monthly report (a copy of the report should have already been handed in to the pastor when the meeting first began). The director need not read the entire page, but rather the main totals or results. If the pastor has any questions about the numbers or goals, he should bring them up at this time.

7. Take care of details. Finally, as each agenda topic for that department is discussed, detailed planning should be done. You should ask the director:

a. What supplies or equipment is needed?
b. Location and needed facilities?
c. Who will be involved or attend?
d. Who will be in charge?
e. What time, how long, and what date?
f. How much will this cost?
g. Will any training be needed?
h. Will this conflict with any other department or plans?

Many other details could be covered and discussed. This is the purpose of the Monthly Council, to implement the ideas and plans of your Annual Planning Retreat.

8. Always stay flexible. Proverbs 16:1 (LB) states, “We can make our plans, but the final outcome is in God’s hands.” For this reason, all directors need to understand that plans and dates must be flexible. When the pastor feels it is best to cancel or postpone an event, that director must accept the decision as the will of God. This type of attitude will only come through prior leadership training.

9. Follow-through is important. During the planning discussion the pastor will continually be giving “directives” or requests for the director to follow through on an assignments or responsibilities. The pastor should make note in his binder (or you may assign a secretary to do this) of all directives or assignments that he gives. It will be extremely important for the pastor to check back on these directives and goals throughout the month at the Weekly Tag-in (explained more fully in the following section) and at the next Monthly Council. For example:

Tag-in Topics For July:

a) Sunday School Department – Bro. Brown
* Order literature for next quarter
* Reserve location for Sunday School picnic
* Revise and update substitute teacher list

b) Youth Department – Bro. McCleaver
* Visit Bro. White’s son in hospital
* Clear street meeting location with city hall
* Reserve motel for youth evangelist
* Youth soft ball night – push for visitors

The old maximum “responsibility without accountability is total futility” is true in the fullest extent. Most delegation fails because the pastor fails to maintain a “management check” on assignments and responsibilities. Good follow-through by the pastor will motivate the department leader to do the same. Failure by the pastor to check back on the assignments he makes implies that the assignment was not very important.

10. Have a quick review. At the end of the meeting, the pastor (or secretary) should quickly read over the notes of the meeting to emphasize “what has been accomplished.” He should then read the list of tag-in topics to make sure the directors have noted these assignments down for themselves. By doing this, it accents the importance of the Monthly Council and underscores that their time that night has been well spent. The directors will leave the meeting feeling good about the work of God and their involvement in it.

The growth and success of your departments, as well as your church, will be determined by the effectiveness of these monthly councils. Your monthly councils will also determine whether the activities, outreach events, and special programs of your church operate “decently and in order” or “chaotic and confused.” Truly, the Lord’s work deserves the our very best effort.


Excessive paperwork is the quickest way to kill an efficient organization. It must be kept to an absolute minimum. Unfortunately, some is necessary. Written reports do the following for the pastor and department:

1. It keeps the director “result oriented.” It is not how much a director “does” that is important, but how much he “gets done.” We don’t want to have so much activity that we forfeit productivity.

2. It shows the director what the pastor feels is important and of high priority.

3. It allows the pastor see at a glance how the department is doing without a lot of in-depth quizzing.

4. It allows the director to have good communication with the pastor concerning needs and problems.

5. It provides a tool for analysis of past results, which helps to set future projections and goals.

6. It helps identify weak areas that need attention and improvement

7. It forces a director to stay in-touch with his department and how it’s doing.

8. It makes the director accountable to his responsibilities and goals, continually referring him back to his One-Year Plan.

9. It helps build excitement by showing the great things that the Lord has done that past month.

10. It allows us to look back a year later and see our progress, therefore inspiring us to go on to even greater victories in Christ.

At the end of this chapter is a set a sample reports. Use these samples only as a basis to develop your own. Reports, like job descriptions, are of little use if they are “canned.” They must be
custom written for each church and each department. Every pastor has certain things he feels are the key responsibilities within each department – high priority items that are critical to the church and to its growth. These are the items that should be included on the report. Use that department’s job description as reference to help determine what you want to insure is completed each month.

The reports should be handed in when the directors first arrive at the monthly council. This is the first order of business. If you do not collect the reports at the beginning, some directors will fall into the habit of filling out their report during the meeting. This is not good. The director needs to participate in the planning and discussion, not have their nose in their records and notes. Any
director that does not have their report ready to hand in, ask them to remain after the meeting to complete it or to hand it in at the next weekly tag-in. Stress the importance of this report, both to you and to the director. Without some kind of record keeping we have no way to properly evaluate our progress or identify weak areas. The reports have four major sections. The first is numerical results. Number totals that are important should be listed on a weekly or monthly basis. The second section focuses upon the key priorities of the department. How many souls saved? How many new Bible studies were started? When is the next outreach planned? These type questions need to be asked. People do not do what you “expect” – they do what you “inspect.”

The third and forth section pertains to the director’s One-Year Plan. The first part asks them what was accomplished last month from their One-Year Plan. They then “check” if it was completed. If it was not completed, why? Then, what is the solution to the problem? The last part asks them what is coming up next month (again, from their One- Year Plan or goals) and what you, as pastor, can do to help them accomplish that goal. The pastor should take all goals and activities from this section and note them on his weekly tag-in list.

It is critical that the pastor takes these reports very seriously. If the pastor only glances at the report and takes it lightly, you are telling that director that his department and responsibilities are not important. One of the greatest of motivators is feedback on results. When your directors hand in their report, always comment on the totals as good or bad. As Will Rogers said, “the greatest compliment you can pay a person is to ask him a question and then listen to his response.” Ask for input and feedback. Upcoming assignments should also be noted and directives given.

Always, always, always – compliment them on any goal or assignment that went well. The greatest form of motivation is praise and encouragement in front of one’s peers. You are working with volunteers. The main reward they are working for is your approval and acceptance. Everyone appreciates being appreciated.

Make sure the report is filled out in full. If any part is left blank, ask why, then have them complete it, and turn it in at the next Weekly Tag-in. If you will emphasize the monthly report and encourage each director to be result oriented, you will see much more accomplished toward the main objectives of the department, as well as growth for the church.


Few management practices in the local church will benefit a pastor more than the Monthly Planning Council. Even in the very smallest of churches, if the pastor will meet with his key people and help them catch his vision for growth, the fire will begin to spread from their hearts into their hands and feet for active involvement. The power that lies in group planning cannot be over stressed.

Solomon, a man truly blessed with wisdom, wrote “Where no counsel is, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14, NIV). He again wrote, “Without counsel, purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counselors they are established” (Proverbs 20:18, NIV). It was by failing to listen to his counselors – and instead, listening to his heathen wives – that led Solomon to his own downfall.

So by bringing the key leaders together, a pastor builds a team spirit into his directors. He also improves communication, which is often described as the main problem in poor management. And by helping his directors solve their problems, the pastor motivates them to accomplish more, and thereby see more souls born into the Kingdom of God.

Monthly Planning Council Agenda
United Pentecostal Church
For the Month of October 1988

Date: Monday October 4, 1988
Leadership Development Assignment: Tape #3 – Leadership Series

7:30 – 7:4-5 Prayer
7:45 – 8:15 Leadership Training
8:15 – 9:30 Planning & Reports

Topics For Discussion
1. Sunday School Department – Bro. Powell
* Christmas Pageant & Attendance Drive 10-22
* Begin Sunday Morning Teachers Training 11-23
* Purchase New Bus 12-3

2. Youth Department – Bro. Johnson
* Youth Crusade to Vicksberg 10-16
* Youth Revival with Bro. Massengale 10-28
* Youth Trip to Sea World 11-18

3. Outreach Department – Bro. Davies
* New Tract Rack 10-22
* Spirit of Freedom Promotion Service 11-9
* Saturday Door Knocking Teams 12-27

4. Visitor Follow-up Department – Bro. Baker
* Follow-up Training Seminar 10-8
* Print Visitor Packet 11-18

5. Home Bible Study Department – Bro. Hall
* Annual H.B.S. Seminar 11-12
* Bible Study Promotion Night 11-28
* Quest Survey Teams 12-30

6. New Convert Care Department – Sis. Duncan
* Fall New Convert Potluck 10-17
* Visiting Backsliders 11-14

7. Music Department – Bro. Thomas
* New Portable Sound System 10-24
* Annual Singspiration 11-30

8. Men’s Ministries Department – Bro. Tullison
* Men’s Prayer Breakfast 11-13
* Men’s Prayer Meeting 11-28

9. Ladies Auxiliary Department – Sis. Davis
* Revised Church Cleaning List 10-1
* Ladies Day – Getting Visitors 12-2

(The above material was prepared and published by Tim Massengale from Total Church Growth. You can order the complete 2 volume set from Pentecostal Publishing House.)
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