The number one barrier to a successful revitalization process is implementation.
It is easy to become a slave to the urgent. Sunday comes every seven days, and so there is always a sermon to prepare. People get sick and need prayer and visitation. Marriages need counseling. Your own family deserves their fair share of your limited time.
As a result, the plans you put on paper often fall to the wayside. The big dreams you have for a revitalized church can wither on the vine.
One of the most common objections I hear from churches before starting the Strategic Envisioning process is skepticism that anything will change. When I press further, I inevitably hear about a time that the church tried “something similar,” and it made no impact. When I press even further, I learn that the church never implemented their plans.
The problem wasn’t the plan. The failure of implementation was the fundamental flaw.
Your church can succeed in implementing strategic plans and become the church God desires for you to be.
These five tactics empower you to win the implementation battle.
Choose fewer projects
Revitalization is a process, not a moment. Churches often believe they have to bridge the gap between their reality and their ideal vision in a year. This expectation is unrealistic and unhelpful.
Rather than choose twenty projects and complete none, the Strategic Envisioning process narrows your focus to three to five strategic objectives that you can accomplish. If you can stack four solid wins this year, you’ll have the momentum to take on four more projects next year, and the next. I’m a massive fan of “continuous improvement.” Meaning, strategic planning shouldn’t be an event; it should be a process.
Choose fewer projects. Win at those projects. Build momentum through the wins. Take on more challenging projects next year. In five years, your church will have experienced a radical, positive transformation.
Assign Tasks to Owners
There are tasks that no one else can do except you.
Your sermon needs your effort and attention. Your staff needs your oversight and management. Your board needs your thoughtfulness, prayer, and strategic input.
However, you cannot become the chief “doer” when it comes to revitalization implementation. The tasks aren’t beneath you. But if you’re focused on “doing,” you cannot embody your primary, biblical role, which is “overseer.”
In the Strategic Envisioning process, we disallow pastors from directly serving on an implementation team. Their role is management and oversight. This concept is not rocket science, but most churches struggle to implement because they treat the pastor like a hireling. He’s the “professional,” expected to carry the load.
Be sure that lay leaders (and some staff, depending on the church) own the implementation strategies. Know who is going to take charge of each task, so that senior leadership can provide management and oversight.
Define due dates
You would be surprised how often churches set tasks with no due dates. A task without a due date is a daydream. It will never happen.
Not only do you need to define who will own a task, but you must also determine when it is due.
Be sure to set a realistic due date. I occasionally work with churches that set an ambitious due date for a strategic objective, and because of the busyness of life and ministry, they fall behind. Once they fall behind schedule, the church feels like they have failed. Occasionally, they bail on the whole objective.
I would rather you take a slow and steady pace and finish the project than choose an ambitious timeline and never finish.
At the same time, this is a critical role for pastors. If a task has a due date, senior leaders must enforce the due date. Follow up with team members. Get a status report. Ensure those team members have the resources they need to finish projects on-time.
In the Strategic Envisioning process, we create Implementation Teams. These groups of 4-6 people work together to accomplish a specific strategic objective. The teams have task owners, due dates, and defined deliverables.
But the key to an Implementation Team’s success is found in one primary action: meeting regularly.
Before I got into church consulting, I never would have guessed that the singular differentiator between successful and unsuccessful churches in revitalization was the regularity of their meetings.
Now, meeting for the sake of meeting is useless (see: most church committee meetings). However, meetings that center around Implementation Action Plans are highly productive.
I have found that churches that stop meeting stop working. The work becomes unimportant. Urgency takes over. There is no peer pressure to get the job done. The church falls back into old routines.
If you want your church to win the implementation battle, meet at least once a month to discuss progress on your action plans.
The adage is true, “What gets measured gets done.” Of course, the statement isn’t true in isolation. Just because I measure my weight and set a weight-loss goal does not mean I’ll lose the weight. However, I’ll never know if I’m making progress towards my goals or if I need to change tactics if I never weigh myself!
Similarly, if your church claims that making and maturing disciples is of utmost importance, should you measure if you are making and maturing disciples? Do you have a dashboard that you can access right now that tells you if you’re accomplishing your mission?
Most churches measure attendance and income, but not much else. Unfortunately, these two factors alone are not likely to tell you if you’re making and maturing disciples.
A well-developed dashboard tells your church if your strategies are working or need adjustment. I frequently tell churches that I don’t care if they hit the goals in their dashboard or not. It’s true. I don’t care because the goal provides a reference point.
If we hit our goals, then we know we need to optimize our current strategies. If we don’t hit our targets, we know we need to innovate.
Don’t just measure once per year. Measure often. Let the measurement of your progress not become your obsession, but useful information to help you manage and oversee implementation.
These five tactics are an incredible starting point for successful implementation. Don’t fall victim to apathy and feel like revitalization is out of reach. Your church can change. You can maximize your effectiveness. The road to church health requires work, but I know you are more than capable!
Leverage these five tactics to win the implementation battle.
Have a question or want to learn more about the Strategic Envisioning process that helps churches get further faster? Click here to learn more.
Scott Ball is the Vice President and a Lead Guide with The Malphurs Group. He lives in East Tennessee with his wife and two children. (Email Scott).