Most churches have a Mission (answers the question of why we exist). Some of those churches do a good job of articulating that Mission.
However, it is imperative to have a strategy for achieving a Mission.
A church mission strategy defines how a ministry will achieve its purpose to serve its members and the community in which it resides.
A Reader Question
I have a reader who has been appointed to a new role, “Ministries of Trustees” position, who recently asked for advice on preparing to meet with their pastor.
“I am meeting with our pastor. He’s been reviewed by the Ministries and by the session, but I thought it would be courteous and smart to ask him to share his hopes and dreams about where he wants to take our church family in the next 3, 5, 10 years. He’s been with us for 18 years, so he has a solid grasp on what the church members will “bear,” but I want to hear him out before we decide on salaries for him and program staff.”
This was my response:
In regards to meeting with your pastor. It sounds like you are asking your pastor to come up with a church mission, vision, and strategy for the next several years.
This is a great first step in developing a strategic plan for your church.
Strategic planning is a great way to formalize the process of implementing the church’s mission and vision.
As far as salary, that should be determined by the church board based on how well the board agrees that the current pastor is performing.
And to answer that question, I would ask what (if any) measures are you using to assess his performance and church management?
You should be able to answer the question – are there any goals written for the pastor?
In other words, how can you assess his performance unless he was clear about the expectations you had for him?
Church goal examples might be, increase membership by X%, develop discipleship programs, create community outreach (homeless, single moms, seniors) programs, etc.
What many organizations fail to do is write goals – which means they are simply maintaining the organization.
This makes it difficult to assess an employee’s performance because (in the example of a church) just holding weekly church services is merely maintenance.
Growth and development come when new ideas, initiatives, and strategies are developed and implemented.
In my book, Smart Church Management: A Quality Approach to Church Administration, I explain ways that can help your pastor articulate his vision and create a specific plan for implementing it.
You mentioned pastor salaries so I want to share with you a way to benchmark salaries.
There is a great book by Richard Hammar, Compensation Handbook for Church Staff, that provides salaries based on the church’s size, annual revenue, etc. It is a great resource that covers all of the staff compensation.
Meeting With The Pastor
Have a casual conversation with the pastor. Keep in mind this process may intimidate him a little bit.
From his perspective, he keeps the church going, and many in his position struggle with a governing body giving them direction and making salary decisions for them.
Having said that, your responsibility is to ensure that church financial resources (member tithes) are used in the best way possible to further the mission of the church.
This is when leadership is held accountable and pastoral leadership is assessed.
You may want to give him a heads up about what you want to talk about.
This will allow him time to prepare.
Send him an email or give him a call (whichever communication mode you think he would prefer) and let him know that you want to connect and hear what he is hoping for the church’s future.
It is very, very, very important that you are an encouragement and help him see the value he has brought to the church.
Try to highlight the successes and milestones from the last 18 years (hopefully, there have been numerous).
Many pastors with that kind of tenure are burned out and lose perspective. This is when someone, like yourself, can encourage him.
You should send the message that you are there to help him fulfill his call.
Let Him Know You Will Ask Him Three Questions
1. Where have we been?
In 18 years, the church has come a long way. Ask him to reminisce on the early days and recognize successes along the way. Help him recognize that his efforts have not been in vain.
Try to empathize and recognize that pastors who have been at it for a long time can often lose sight of their great achievements.
For instance, even if a church is stagnant, there are still many great things that the pastor does every day.
2. Where are we today?
This is when you can speak about the status on the current state of the church.
The current status of the church might be that it is growing, stagnant, or in decline.
This question should flush out the reality that the church is living in and talk about it.
For instance, if your church is experiencing a decline in membership, the question that should be asked is, why?
Is it because it caters to an older demographic that are simply dying off?
Is it because there are not enough programs for young families, and they are going elsewhere to meet their family needs?
Or is it because of unresolved conflict in the church that has festered to the point that members leave rather than endure the drama?
These are often difficult discussion topics but important to articulate.
I used to tell staff, “I can’t fix it if I don’t know it’s broke.” You need to understand what is not working so you can begin the process of fixing it.
3. Where do we hope to be in the next 3, 5, or 10 years?
In other words, does the church commit to develop or grow ministries, outreach programs, or discipleship initiatives?
This question speaks to intent of the ministries and how it sees its future state (vision).
Answering these questions will help to begin the process of articulating a vision statement. Envision a future state of the church.
For instance, the church might want to open a second campus in five years, or it might want to expand its outreach programs into underserved neighborhoods, or it might want to develop a Bible school.
These are examples of targets for the future of the church.
How You Can Help The Pastor
Have a discussion with the pastor on these three points as a first step in formalizing his vision into a strategic plan.
Next, get a team of the right people in the room and go through the formal strategic planning process.
This is a great time of year to start church planning, develop a strategy, and write goals.
Use this example as a point of discussion and try to figure out where God is leading your church next!
Do You Need Help With Strategic Planning?
If you go through this process and need help with strategic planning, Elemental Churches might help.
They have a great do-it-yourself tool that is basically a board game. Your team plays the game, and you have your strategic plan written at the end of the game. It is easy; it is fun.
If you think you might be interested, Elemental Churches is offering a discount to our readers. You can use coupon code SmartChurch25 to take $25 off of your kit.
Try it and let me know how you like it!