Since being appointed to serve within the Topeka District of the Great Plains Annual Conference, I have had the opportunity to serve as the lead for the Topeka District Strategy Team. I have been learning as I go, seeking to get to know congregations and leaders of the area. Here are some of my current thoughts on how this team can be most effective to create a strategy for the district.
During some years in the past, the Great Plains Annual Conference (and three conferences) has operated with a structure that encouraged local churches to send both people and resources to be part of initiatives and ministry efforts that originated and were executed at the annual conference level. This lead to a measure of success. However, this model is not working as effectively as it once was.
In recent years, there has been efforts made to push the resourcing and leadership “down” from the annual conference toward the mission field of local churches. Some of this is being accomplished with the creation of Networks which connect local churches to more effectively reach their collective mission field. It also is being accomplished through the work of district strategy teams which work alongside the District Superintendent to develop a strategy to reach the mission field within the district.
What does not need to happen is for a district strategy team to come up with a layer of strategy, events and planning which local churches are encouraged to add to their existing ministries and goals. Instead, I believe that a more effective approach will be to look for common goals that exist among many congregations in the district and consider what resources or strategies that district can bring to bear which support those goals.
As part of the charge conference process, goals are developed and turned in annually from every charge in the district. This fall, we are running an experiment by offering local churches goals to consider for 2019 (Experiment_ Topeka District Local Church Goals (PDF)). If churches have an existing process for developing and iterating on goals, great – keep doing it. However, if they do not, they might consider one or more of these goals for the year ahead. The purpose here is to help local churches make progress on goal setting and create the opportunity for local churches to coalesce around similar goals. We’ll see how this goes…
Regardless of whether or not local churches choose from the experimental goals which were offered to them, our next step will be to review the goals from all the churches in the district to see what, if any, similarities there are. Then, create strategies to help support local churches in the goals that they have already set for themselves.
I am hopeful that this approach will support local churches and more effectively coordinate our efforts together as a district.
Earlier this week, I met with the Resurrection West Missions team. This is a fantastic group of people in the congregation who are committed to transforming communities. This team is responsible for one of the strategic objectives that we have as a congregation at West for this year. Here it is:
“In order to be more visible and active in our community through service, we will increase mission participation so that 75% of the worship attendance serves outside the walls of the church by 12/31/2011. As we open our doors to the new facility, we not only want to invite our neighbors in but also to send our congregation out.”
I am excited by this objective and achieving it will make a positive impact on our congregation as well as the surrounding community.
There are many things that I hope to do well as a pastor. One of those is strategic planning. The Wikipedia contributors define strategic planning in this way – “Strategic planning is an organization’s process of defining its strategy, or direction, and making decisions on allocating its resources to pursue this strategy, including its capital and people.”
This process is critical for a local church to have significant success in their purpose. At Resurrection, our purpose is that we are building a Christian community where non-religious and nominally religious people are becoming deeply committed Christians. Each year the church council defines strategic objectives to help us accomplish this purpose. As an associate pastor, I have some role in this process and when I am the lead pastor at a church I want to be great at leading the congregation through this type of planning process.
Strategic planning can undergird the purpose of the church, equipping volunteers, mobilizing for mission and faith sharing. It is a helpful skill for pastors.
This past weekend I had the opportunity to be a part of a worship design retreat. It was a varied group of campus pastors, worship venue leads, pastors and others that came and went over the course of the weekend. It was time away from normal settings at Heartland Presbyterian Center – close to Parkville, Missouri.
The senior pastor had been brainstorming an outline of sermon series through 2010. For each of the series we took a look at unifying elements:
Objective – aim of the series
Hook – The ‘so what’; The thing that draws people in
Tone – The feel, the emotional center of the series
I found it to be an overall effective exercise. We gained clarity around series’ through the end of 2009.
Does the itinerant system in the United Methodist Church work against strategic planning?
I want to be an excellent strategic planner and have been thinking more about how this works in the United Methodist Church. I suggest that it is important to look at a strategic plan for several years into the future. I recognize that a plan will include specific goals for each year, but there needs to be a long range overall mission and vision that directs these goals.
Here are my assumptions:
The average United Methodist pastor will be in an appointment five years.
The pastor will most likely initiate and lead a strategic planning process for a congregation.
When a new pastor arrives she or he may seek to reformulate the direction of the congregation.
With these assumptions longer term strategic plannign does not seem to be likely for an average United Methodist congregation.
I believe that this is not necessarily the case. The laity in the congregation could lead and own the process and live it out in a way that would be compelling and effective. This would make it easy for another pastor to step into and continue the direction. Also, I believe that there is an important place for pastors to enter a congregation with humility in response to the congregation and the former leader; to seek to listen more than direct in first interactions in a new congregation.
What do you think? Are my assumptions fair? What about conclusions? What has your experience been in this area?
These are key questions for individuals and for congregations that are essential for strategic planning. I have learned the practice of annual goals as an employee and annual strategic goals for the congregation while here at Resurrection. As Stephen Covey would suggest, begin with the end in mind. I have found that setting a measurable goal with a target date to be effective in helping me move forward in ministry and in my personal development. I hope to continue to grow in this area and utilize this skill set in the arenas to which God calls me.
I believe that this will be an important role no matter what future church setting I might find myself in.
What have you found to be helpful in this area?
Are there any resources or events that you would recommend?
Over the past three days, I have highlighted some of the characteristics that I hope to develop as a church leader. I am interested in your thoughts and passion. What are characteristics as a leader that you would like to develop?