Moving Planning to Action: 5 Areas the Pastor Can't Ignore

I love seeing churches get Unstuck. Not very long ago, I received this email from a pastor after facilitating the Unstuck Strategic Process at their church. 


I can't thank you enough for being willing to work with us on a personal level. You brought a big process, the strategic planning retreat, to [our] church in the middle of Pennsylvania. The result, our people are now motivated to make a difference for Christ with their lives in this area and even beyond. And, our planning team is convinced God is getting ready to do great things through us for His glory!

Thanks again for getting us off on the right foot and being willing to walk along side of us for the next 12 months to help with accountability, follow through and focus on the goal we believe God has given to us.

Receiving emails like this is my favorite part about working with The Unstuck Group. However, not every email is so positive. Sometimes they are just the opposite. When teams fail to follow through, it creates a lot of frustration for the pastor. Good planning is only part of getting unstuck; plans have to be executed; and there’s only one thing that can make that happen. Leadership. 

In order for a church to begin moving forward, the pastor has to transition from pastor to Leader Pastor. This doesn’t mean the pastor needs to be involved with every ministry and meeting; actually it's just the opposite. However, the pastor must keep a finger on the pulse of the church to ensure movement is happening. In larger churches, this can be delegated through staff; in smaller churches the pastor typically has to be that point person to keep things progressing. 

Here are five areas that require leadership and attention from the lead pastor to help move plans to Action

1. We is better than Me: Whenever we work with churches, we always underline the value of team-led initiatives. When people join efforts around a cause, it produces creativity, participation and ownership. As a result, commitment heightens and things get done. Proverbs 15:22 reminds us of the value of planning as a team, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” The pastor must encourage teamwork. In doing so, leaders are developed and teams learn a new planning discipline. 

2. Plans Die When Deadlines are Ignored: Plans are pointless without paying attention to deadlines. Even more importantly, deadlines are only effective if they are used to bring accountability. In the world of church, volunteers (who have jobs) drive a lot of the work, so it’s easy for things to be left undone. Asking questions like, “How are things going? How can I help? Do you have everything you need to meet your goal?" reminds teams that the finish line is in sight. When people know that the pastor is aware (of the deadlines), it changes things. Jesus tells a story about a man who started building a tower. In Luke 14:29-30, He says, "Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.” Deadlines, if used properly, can help teams finish. 

3. Vision is Vital: Getting unstuck begins with gaining perspective and determining a clear vision. When churches begin moving forward, there is always a tendency to create or add new things. It is important to make sure that every new endeavor aligns with the overall vision. The vision gives you permission to say no. Anything that doesn’t drive the vision, must be cut loose. The pastor has to stand firm anytime something or someone challenges to deviate from the the direction God has provided. My friend, Shawn Lovejoy wrote a book, Be Mean about the Vision that deals with this subject. When God provides a vision,  you can trust it. Jeremiah 29:11 says, For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” 

4. Teams need a CEO: The pastor is the CEO, meaning, the Chief Executive Officer AND the Chief Encouragement Officer. Pastors must invest in their teams by reassuring their efforts and celebrating the wins. Proverbs 3:27 says, “Do not withhold good from those whom it is due, when it is in your power to act.” The words of the pastor carry weight, therefore encouraging the team is an investment that will always bring a return

5. Prayer is your Best Strategy: Lastly, above everything else, pray. Plans and strategies are pointless if we aren’t prayerful. The voice of the Holy Spirit is the most important voice of all. Any church that attempts to impact lives for Christ can expect resistance from people and retaliation from Satan. It’s during those times that pastors must pray and lean into Ephesians 5:20, “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us.” 

Here’s the best news of all. The church belongs to Jesus. In Matthew 16:18, Jesus says, “…on this rock I will build MY CHURCH.” Jesus wants your church to succeed. He wants your church to help people know Him. And if Jesus is for you…then who can stand against you? 


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