As fall is settling in and the holidays and colder weather are on the horizon, many church leaders are turning their attention to preparing for 2019 and planning out what their ministry strategy will be.
In order to be successful as a church leader in 2019, it is important to develop a strategic plan how you are going to lead your faith community towards fulfilling the vision God has given you to reach your community. This is going to involve thinking through your preaching calendar, your budget, and your team development. Let’s take a look at each of these and some vital points to consider as you get ready for 2019.
Your Preaching Calendar
Every week you have a captive audience sitting in your sanctuary looking to you for wisdom for their lives, guidance on how to reach their community, and insight into the word of God. This should be your primary focus and what you spend put your best energy towards.
Easier said than done, right? After 20 years of ministry, I realize our schedules easily get overrun by emergencies, last minute interruptions, and more demanding tasks that can’t wait. So, when we sit down to work on the sermon, usually late in the week, we have to somehow quiet our minds, focus our attention, and open our spiritual ears to hear from God what he would like us to convey to his people.
Despite our best intentions, we aren’t always able to do that. When we sit down to work on our sermon for the week, we feel our bodies decompress and exhaustion settles in, we enter into God’s presence and slip quietly into a nap on our desk, or we look at the paper or computer screen blank on what we should say.
We find ourselves struggling to craft a coherent sermon let alone a strategically impactful one that carries a message from the mouth of God to his people. We want to be his mouthpiece, but we feel like there is not enough time to do it effectively.
This is why I believe it is vital for every ministry leader that speaks on a weekly basis to build a preaching calendar.
A preaching calendar is a strategic plan outlining the general topics that will be preached in a given period of time Whether it is a semester or a year, it acts as a guide to help you know where you are going in the weeks and months to come and provides a structure you can fit into.
One of the primary benefits of the preaching calendar is that the week of your sermon, you aren’t beginning fresh and new from scratch, you have spent weeks and even months already in prayer for that particular sermon. It allows you to compile information for it far in advance. You may hear a testimony, a news story, or come across a quality ‘pastor joke’ you just have to fit in somewhere and since you have a strategic plan with the sermons, you will have somewhere to fit it all in.
Most importantly, you can see how this week’s sermon ties into last week’s, and begin to lay the groundwork for the coming weeks. By doing this, you can ensure you are covering important topics as well as providing a healthy diet of the entire Bible.
The church is not a business. It is important to understand this. The church is the body of Christ throughout the world who are in a relationship with Jesus Christ and entrusted with His saving gospel. The 501c3 organizations with buildings, operations, legal documents, and governing bodies are businesses. They may not be businesses focused on profit margins and product sales, but they are concerned with the bottom line and keeping the lights on.
For this reason, it is important as a ministry leader, that you have a budget that is thoroughly understood and strategically tasked. Regardless of how small or large your budget is, if it isn’t managed with purpose and detail, then the money given to us to steward will never go as far as it needs to. Which means, the church is not as effective as it can be, and the eternity of individuals in your community may pay the price.
As ministry leaders, we are entrusted as stewards of the money God’s people have offered to him with the understanding we will use it wisely and for the best interests of the community and the advancement of the Kingdom of God.
Even in the timely payment of the water bill and the repair bill and whatever other bills there are, we are building a reputation within the community and that reputation is a reflection of Christ and his kingdom to those who are nonbelievers. If we don’t have a budget that properly projects spending throughout the year, then we risk the possibility of not paying bills on time (which is a stench to the community) or cutting a ministry element to make the bills (which is a stench to your faith community).
Now, I realize you may not be an accountant, or even classify yourself as a numbers person. That is okay. Building a basic budget simply requires some basic math skills. As long as you can add and subtract, you can build a budget that provides you with a picture of your finances over the course of 2019.
I solid basic budget begins with accounting for all the immovable expenses: utilities, building costs, denominational tithes. Once those are in place, then you move to salaries and wages. Take care of your people right from the beginning after you make sure the building is taken care of.
My rule of thumb…take care of your staff before you live in extravagance. I realize this may seem like an odd thing to say, but there are ministry leaders out there who will make salary cuts to their staff members before taking a cut themselves, or their staff members are paid significantly lower than the lead pastor who is living a very comfortable lifestyle. If you are blessed to have full-time staff, be sure you are paying them a salary that is comparable to yours, and if the finances simply do not allow for that, consider giving them their time back and allowing them to go part-time.
After buildings and personnel, invest in your kids and students areas. The truth is, parents will tolerate a church they don’t love as long as their kids are getting what they need…but they seldom stay at a church they love at the expense of their kids well being.
At the same time, investing in kids and students is an investment in the longevity of your faith community. Their spiritual growth and experience in the church will increase the likelihood they will remain active members of your church even after they are adults and make their own choices. They will return to what they are familiar with, and if it is also an impactful part of their development, they are likely to call it their church home throughout their lives.
Your Team Development
Jesus changed the world, not because he did signs and wonders among the masses and taught them great things, but because he invested into the small group of individuals who were closest to him. If you have a staff or a leadership team, then they are the closest people you have to understand what you are facing and what is ahead for the church. It is vital you invest your time into them and put together a plan to develop them over the course of 2019. The last thing you want is to get to 2020 and your team is the same as they were when the calendar flipped to 2019.
A mistake I see many ministry leaders make is they focus on the crowd of people rather than those who work shoulder-to-shoulder with them. The people who are in the trenches with you should be the ones who get the best of you.
So, as you plan for 2019, how do you intend to invest in your team’s growth and development to become better leaders, more powerful spiritually, and artisans at their craft of ministry?
One of the greatest needs among pastoral staff members is to have a mentor. To have someone who is actively invested in their growth and future success. Particularly if you have staff members under 35. They want someone to mentor them, to guide their path, and to empower them to do great things.
I realize, though, you may not have the time to spend with each of those under you, but that shouldn’t keep you from putting together a strategic plan for their growth in 2019.
Are there conferences you would like them to attend that you will cover for them?
Are there books you would like for them to go through that you can facilitate a discussion about?
Do you have an expertise you could capture on a video series that you could then give to them?
Is there someone in your network that you could connect them with and allow that person to pout some wisdom and knowledge into them?
How does that look over the course of 2019? I don’t know many ministry leaders who would walk away from the chance to be grown and developed.
Maybe there are issues or struggles your staff members have and you seem unable to help them change. Providing them with a course, or a curriculum series or ministry coach could be the boost they need to go over the edge and blow things up.
By putting together a strategic plan of development for your staff you are communicating to them that you care for them, for their growth, and for their future even if it is somewhere else in God’s Kingdom. Most likely, this investment will be appreciated and instill a deep level of loyalty from them to you.
In addition to their loyalty, you will have a team getting better at their skills and abilities in their given areas of responsibilities. When you invest in your team members and they get better at what they do, they are able to reach more people and teach more people. The leadership quotient of your faith community goes up, your volunteer engagement goes up, and you should see increases in attendance and giving over time.
Part of the health and growth of your faith community is based on the success of your leadership pipeline. Your leadership pipeline is successful when strong, equipped leaders are keeping it moving forward. When your staff is growing in their leadership and abilities, they are encouraging others to engage in the pipeline process your faith community has established.
In the end, when you have a strategic plan for your sermons, finances, and team, then you are on the right track to having a healthy faith community focused on reaching their community.
2019 may feel like it is right around the corner, but you still have plenty of time to put together a plan for each one of these. Honestly, in a matter of a couple of days you could have all three of these put together and implemented ready to execute on Jan 1. Your focus will be on carrying out your plans rather than coming up with new ones each week.
My prayer for you is that you will be able to carve out time to put together a plan for at least one of these areas so you won’t be so busy, so overwhelmed, and so reactive in 2019.
If you enjoyed these three practices, I want to invite you to check out my free overview of how to Maximize Your Ministry and be Revolutionary in 2019. In this overview, we move beyond basic things like budget and preaching calendar, and we look at five more in-depth ways you can take your ministry to the next level in 2019.
You can receive your free overview here.
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