Without A Vision We Will Perish (Entire Article)

By Tim Massengale

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Pastor Mark North leaned back in the cedar Adirondack chair which sat on the balcony of the vacation lodge overlooking Lake Sumter. He took a long slow drink of his iced tea before setting it down with a contented sigh. It was early Saturday evening. Crickets and song birds filled the crisp night air, as did the smell of ribs and brats on the grill. Behind him a door opened, and he glanced back at the elderly gentleman joining him.

Elder Vernon Baker grinned. “Beautiful sunset! Mind if I sit with you?”

“Not at all, Elder! I wanted to thank you again for the words of encouragement you shared with my leaders. I feel your contribution here at our Annual Planning Retreat has been extremely valuable. They seem to be catching the vision that we can double, if not triple, over the next few years.”

“I agree. You have a great group to work with. Your second year’s attendance goal is 128, and you are almost there. You’re currently averaging – what did you say – 112?

“That was our average for September. You remember our first year’s attendance goal was 106, which we easily met. I think we should easily be averaging 128 before the end of next year.”

The old pastor nodded. “I was glad to see you talked to them about their departmental One-Year Plans. That’s an important assignment. You asked them to hand it in about two weeks from today. Have you already given them a blank form to fill out and a sample to follow?”

“They have their blank one-year form and sample in their departmental binders. Remember you suggested we do that when I called you last month and we talked about the planning retreat.”

“That’s right. Will this be the first time they are handing them in?”

“No, they did this last year as well, but I failed to give them the blank form and sample. So the one-year plans I got back were all over the place, from very detailed (my youth director handed in ten pages) to almost useless. My outreach leader’s one-year plan was three sentences like, ‘We want to really grow and win a lot of souls. Each month we’ll have some kind of outreach and knock doors and stuff’ or something like that. So I quickly saw the need to provide them with more structure. But I did have a question, Elder. On the sample one-year plan form there are three areas: Numerical Goals, Quality Improvement Goals and Annual Activities. I understand Numerical Goals – that’s like goals for attendance, finance and winning souls. But what’s the difference between Quality Improvement Goals and Annual Activities?”

Pastor Baker grinned. “My leaders asked me the same thing. But let me first touch on numerical goals. You need to work with your leaders, one-on-one, and help them choose realistic number goals for their departments. Ministry leaders tend to have the same problem pastors do – reaching for the stars and hoping they hit the moon. You need to stress that goal setting, as far as the church is concerned, is simply faith. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Faith must be: ‘know so’ and have no doubt. They need to set their numerical goals on numbers they absolutely know they can reach. This then liberates God to do ‘exceedingly abundantly above all we ask or think.’ God wants to exceed every goal we set. So in the case of your Home Bible Study (HBS) Department, your leader will set numerical goals for the number of one-lesson and 12-lesson Bible studies to be taught this year, the number of HBS teachers to have trained, and the number of adults to be saved from those Bible studies. If he has a financial budget goal, that number will be there too. Make these number goals realistic – what he knows he can do. Don’t let them set ‘pie in the sky, hope so’ goals. That kind of goal defeats faith. You will most likely have to help them if this is their first time to set these kind of goals.

“The second section on the one-year plan is Quality Improvement Goals. This is there is to force the leaders to try something new. I don’t want my leaders to get in a rut, just doing the same things year after year. That will breed boredom and apathy – nothing new, nothing exciting and fresh. I want my HBS director to try some new methods of getting Bible studies, some new techniques for training teachers, and some new ideas for promoting the HBS ministry within church. That is what I mean by ‘quality improvement.’ It’s something to make the department better and keep excitement up. I am not going to let them just coast along doing the same things year after year. If they can’t come up with some new ideas, I’ll give them some books to read or I will share some ideas of my own. But I refuse to let my departments and leaders become stagnant.”

The young man was writing in a small notebook. He looked up with a wide smile. “I’ve learned, Elder, to always have something to write on when I’m around you. I think I have it. So the middle section is for new goals to improve the quality of their ministries. Now the last section is ‘Annual Activities.’ I take it this is for stuff they must do on an annual basis?”

“Exactly. Many activities are done every year and are important for the success of the department. For example, every year your youth might have a spring youth revival, summer youth camps, a fall youth retreat and a Christmas party. These kind of annual activities are a part of every church ministry and are listed in their Job Descriptions. They are important. But that is not all they should be doing. Just maintaining the status-quo will not help the department grow – and grow they must if the church is going to grow. So ask them to go point by point through their Job Descriptions. Anything they are asked to do annually or quarterly should be listed in this section.”

The young pastor nodded. “I noticed that the samples have a column for the date of the goal or activity. I remember you saying, ‘A goal is not a goal until a date is set upon it – it’s just a dream.’ But some of the dates were simply a month. Now, I did as you suggested at this retreat. I am sure you noticed that most of our time was spent brainstorming new ideas and solving problems. We did almost no date setting. We just selected the month when we thought the activity might best occur and put it on the calendar.”

“Yes, I did notice,” Elder Baker interjected, “and that month would be what you have the leader put on their one-year plan. At your monthly planning councils you should discuss all departmental goals and activities for the next three months. Here is where you will do detailed planning for each goal or event and you will also set the exact date for each activity.”

Mark continued writing for several moments before setting his pen down with a sigh. “Wow – this is all so important. It just makes good sense. I’m just glad I have someone like you to discuss it with. A book can only take you so far.”

Elder Baker smiled. “Glad to help. Now, Mark, what about your one-year plan? Have you given your own plan any thought?”

“My one-year plan? I don’t remember a one-year plan for the pastor. Am I supposed to complete one also?”

“Well, not exactly the same form. But you should have your own goals and plans for the church as a whole. The form I use is called a Five-Year Quality Improvement Goal worksheet. It’s designed specifically for pastors and has three columns. If you look through the materials I gave you on setting your five-year number goals, you will find it.”

“How does it work?”

“Well, the first column asks you to list ‘What quality improvements you would like to see accomplished within the next five years.’ Here’s where I dream. I take a serious look at my church and what’s needed. Perhaps I need to upgrade our computer system, or recarpet the sanctuary, or hire a music director, or build a fellowship hall. I list anything that I want to try to accomplish within the next five years or so. These are not number goals. These are goals to make my church and its ministry better. Start a Christian school, begin a Bus Ministry, launch a daughter work, you name it. I let myself dream. I try to get away with Sis. Baker for a long weekend and we usually get a room up in the mountains, and we pray and talk and dream. I usually end up filling up half a dozen sheets with my dreams and goals for the next five years.

“The second column on this form says, ‘What can I do THIS year toward the fulfillment of this goal?’ Now I go down the list and write down my first step. Sometimes I can fulfill the entire goal in one year. Like last year we put a new roof on the fellowship hall. Well, that just required taking up a few special offerings, hiring a contractor and getting it done. I just wrote down the date by which I wanted to have it accomplished. Other goals require several years to accomplish. For example, one of my goals from several years ago was to start a daughter work in Bridgeton. Well, last year we started a satellite Sunday school in a trailer park community room. Now we have a dozen kids coming, and have won two of the mothers to the Lord. This year we are going to start having a weekly Bible study in one of the ladies’ trailers. By year three or four we hope to rent a facility to have regular services. But every year I ask, ‘What’s the next step?’ I do this for every quality improvement goal on my list. These are my goals. I pray about them daily, and I work on them consistently. Every improvement I have had over the last twenty years began with a simple goal written on my Five-Year Quality Improvement Goals worksheet. So, son, what are your goals? Are they written down? Remember this: people don’t have trouble reaching goals, they only have trouble setting them.”

Both pastors sat quietly for several moments. Across the lake a fishing boat headed in for the night. Somewhere an owl screeched. Mark broke the silence.

“You have given me a lot to think about, Elder. I have a lot of dreams but they have all been in my head. Someday I was going to do them. I can see now that ‘someday’ often never comes. With the Lord’s help, I’m going to take a step this year toward accomplishing every one of them. In fact, I’m going to start one of them right now.”

The older pastor arched an eyebrow. “What’s that?”

“About a pound of ribs and two brats! Elder, my nose tells me it’s time to eat.”

Chuckling, the older pastor agreed.



For a copy of the Departmental One-Year Plans (samples and blank form) and the pastor’s Five-Year Quality Improvement Goals worksheet call 1-800-800-0247. Cost is $6.00.

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