Get Things Done: How to Design an Action Plan That Works

The Church Revitalization Podcast – Episode 177

AAAAAAAND ACTION!  If I had to choose one word that defines a church that thrives over a church that dies, it would be “action.” Dying churches are stagnant, and thriving churches are full of life. The difference is action, animation, movement, and even the dreaded word….change.

A previous church I attended for many years always had new life happening. Things seldom felt static. After getting into this ministry of church health I came to refer to that church as having a “culture of change.” It was never major changes, just small incremental things. What that resulted in was a congregation that was never taken by surprise by small differences to routine or a sense that we were not going anywhere. It takes time to develop that culture, but it’s worth it.

This week on the Church Revitalization Podcast we talked about the basics of working through an action plan. The steps outlined below should, at some point, become part of the leadership culture of the church, not a system that has to be brought out and dusted off every few years when we need to do something big.

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Keen-eyed observers will recognize that what we go through in this episode is not far removed from any good business strategy execution process. That’s because it works. Not everything has to be reinvented for the church. Read on and think about a project that needs to get done in your church and how you may be able to plan it out this way.

1. Chart the Milestones or Phases of the Project

Don’t get overwhelmed by the enormity of something to be done. Most projects can be divided up into the four general phases shown below. Just this simple application can make something big feel smaller and more attainable. 

  • Evaluation – The first phase has the team work through what needs to be done, and gather all the data points that are needed for good planning and decision making.
  • Communication – What committees or teams need to be consulted with or partnered with to move this forward? What does the congregation need to know and at what point? Do we need buy-in from particular stakeholders?
  • Execution – Actual progress. This may be a beta test or just a particular phase of something larger, but the keyword here is “action.”
  • Re-Evaluation – How did that go? What did we learn that needs to be incorporated as we continue?

2. Set Action Items

The proverbial elephant that needs to be eaten one bite at a time is happening here. If we’re reworking our first impressions ministry for Sunday morning, action items may include training for our greeters, installing a new guest connections booth, or designing new signs.

3. Determine Deliverables

The question being asked here is “What is the proof that the action item has been completed?” It may be a report written to explain some research or it may be that guest connections booth mentioned above. We’re often asked what the deliverables are for our Strategic Envisioning process. At the completion of our work sessions with churches they have a Great Commission-based mission statement, a set of actionable core values, a simple process of discipleship, a vision of the future and a handful of strategies that are ready to begin implementation. That brings them to what we’re talking about here now – planning out that implementation.

4. Assign Owners

Action items don’t get “actioned” unless there is someone to do the action. It may be tempting to just leave things for the team in general to get done, but that usually results in nothing getting done. Put a name on it.

5. Commit to Due Dates

Like leaving action items with no assigned owners, not setting due dates results in things not getting done on time. It’s ok if a date needs to get pushed back, but if it does, it should be because a particular person or persons ran into something while making progress. Accountability is a necessary component of achieving success.

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A.J. Mathieu is the President of the Malphurs Group. He is passionate about helping churches thrive and travels internationally to teach and train pastors to lead healthy disciple-making churches. A.J. lives in the Ft. Worth, Texas area, enjoys the outdoors, and loves spending time with his wife and two sons. Click here to email A.J.

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