Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Admin Lessons - Planning

"If you fail to plan, you plan to fail", it's an old adage but a true one especially when it comes to achieving a vision, goal or even just a one-off event.

My job as the administrator at my church gives me a key part in leading the planning of our church events, ministries and strategy. We normally do this a year in advance, producing an annual plan for the church running from September to August.

I believe there are three key factors you need to focus on to be effective in planning - Aim, Process, Review

The clearer you are about where you want to get to - your vision - the easier it is to get there. Sounds such a simple common sense thing to do, but so rarely is it done.

So before you start to plan ask, "What do you want to achieve?". Whatever time frame you are planning for, do you have a vision of what success will look like if you get there. Another way of thinking about this is to imagine you are writing a summary looking back over what has happened in achieving your vision. What can you envisage writing about? If your vision is to see your small groups increase from 10 to 20 then looking back after getting to 20 groups we might see the highlights were the:
- small group training course(s) that successfully identified the leaders,
- the successful launching of new groups,
- the focus and priority of small groups in church life.

Developing activities, actions and strategies is easier if you can picture where you want to get to and start to visualise what you will need to do, consider, think about to get there.

Both the development of vision and the planning process itself will benefit from the widest possible inclusion of people.

Over the years the steps I have used to plan have changed and developed but the process I have found best is in three parts as follows:
Session 1 - very much sets the scene, paints the big picture, and generates ideas and actions
Session 2 - is the nitty gritty of details and choices
Session 3 - reviews the process and agrees the detail of output and actions

Session 1
Gather together as many as is possible of elders, ministry leaders and staff (ideally you have people covering evangelism, kids work, youth work, small groups, worship, social action, men, women, teaching, etc.)
Over the course of 2-4 hours you will:
- Review our long term goals and vision and what God has been saying to us?
- Decide on your priorities for this year?
- Agree the principles of planning- e.g. no more than X sat events in a month
- Generate list of ideas* for activities, events and actions to help us achieve our priorities (and vision)
- Map these ideas onto a year plan

* we can and do use last years plan and activities as a start point
NB - the output of Session 1 is written up and circulated for reading before Session 2

Session 2
Again as many as possible of the people from the first session should attend this next session.
This session should last about 1-2 hours where you will:
- Review the notes / big picture plan from the first session
- Work through the details:
   > are there any date clashes?
   > does it actually help our priorities / vision?
   > can we deliver it? over crowded diaries / not enough resources?
   > does it meet our planning principles?
- Check if you have missed anything? A chance to add other bright ideas!

Session 3
A final session reviewing changes from the previous session, probably just a core team needed for this part of the process.
This session will review:
- dates and activities.
- communication of plans - see my previous post on communication
- action list
- agree review points for the plan over the course of the year

If you have a goal and a plan of how to move towards achieving that goal. It is madness if you wait until you've done everything or got to the end of your plan to see if it has been successful.

W Edwards Deming the man who is generally credited with helping the revival of the Japanese economy after World War II taught people, amongst many other things, about the PDCA cycle, Plan - Do - Check - Act.
After planning and starting to work on or towards your goal we should study how we are doing. Is it working? Do we need to refine things? This leads to action which is planned and so the cycle continues.

Does this sound too business like for a church? What if I was to replace the word Check with the word Listen - listen to God, listen to what any measures may be telling you, listen to what the church says (the wisdom of the crowd).

How often you review things probably depends on how long you are planning for. If you are planning for the year Sept-Aug, review in Jan/Feb then again around Easter. The Easter review could immediately precede or be part of the start of planning for the next year.

In summary...
No system or process for planning is perfect and can it always be improved. But being systematic whilst being open to change gives you a framework to achieve your vision, God willing :-). I would love to hear your thoughts and comments on planning, what works, your struggles, what you think of my structure, and anything else.


  1. Wow! I am a church admin and this hits the nail on the head fabulously! Thank you :-)

    1. Thanks for the compliment and hope this post helps you where you are