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Getting Your New Year’s Wish: Better Planning

Thanks to Lesley Baker for another great contribution – with excellent tips for both staff and leadership.
Recently we took a poll and asked the following question, “All I want for Christmas is (fill in the blank).” The most fascinating response was the following, “All I want for Christmas is as much planning to go into the process of how to do something as was put into the idea of doing something.” This is a common dilemma for church staff, and the topic for this month’s Herding Cats blog – because maybe you didn’t get it for Christmas, but you can surely resolve to help implement it in the new year.
Here’s what I’ve seen: The distance between creating an idea to implementing said idea can be as wide as the Grand Canyon. Sometimes leadership gets so excited about an idea, they think, “why not take the new strategy or new event announced today, and implement it by this weekend?” Below, I’m going to address leaders directly – but first, I have a few ideas for staff in this position.
A note to church staff:
You know that many big ideas for the church don’t just happen instantly. And it’s all too easy to exhaust the entire staff by going crazy to produce too quickly – plus, if there isn’t adequate time spent creating a process or thinking through the steps that will be required to carry out an idea, that idea will have zero impact.
In an effort to begin collectively as a body of church staff to recover from the endless burnout we face, we want to provide you with a few tips that we hope will help you the next time you’re presented with an idea that you’re being asked to carry out … by tomorrow.

  • Speak up and offer a solution.

One of the first things I learned while working in corporate America is if you’re going to speak up about a problem, you’d better be prepared to offer potential solutions. Even if the solution isn’t implemented, you will demonstrate that you’re willing to tackle the problem – that alone means you will be more likely to get the attention of leadership.
Sometimes that solution might be a short-term fix, with sights toward a long term solution. But remember, and remind others that the risk with any short term-fix is that a poorly executed idea could end up being unsuccessful. Am I saying that it always takes months to successfully execute an idea? No – and neither should you. But be clear that with proper thought going into the process of executing an idea, the greater the success rate is and less chance for disaster recovery on the backend.

  • Create (and utilize!) a planning team.

Within your church staff one of the greatest assets you could have is a team that functions like project managers. Those individuals need to be versed in a wide variety of day to day operations and services the church offers. Use this team to think through the idea and determine all the steps necessary to create a process to implement the idea. Then make sure various individuals are assigned tasks. Use this team to make a recommendation to leadership suggesting how much time it will actually take to have success with the idea.
A note to leaders:
Leaders, realize you run the risk of burning out your staff when the norm at your church is that every idea becomes an emergency. Burnout for any Christian is dangerous, but it is especially dangerous for church staff.

  • Encourage your staff to be honest with you.

My advice is to communicate to your staff that you need to hear from them if you give them something that they know they can’t accomplish by the deadline you’ve asked for. You’re the visionary and you don’t need to get caught up in the details of how to create a process to implement an idea. But all you need to do is realize you need to give the staff time to work on the last project before you give them the next idea.

  • Remember that poorly-executed ideas matter.

The fact is, a poorly executed idea can decrease a congregation’s confidence in the next idea. A properly planned process has huge returns, starting with your staff being well looked after, just like the flock, and the potential for the God given idea to achieve exactly what God intended it to.

Remember, church culture moves fast.
One thing church staff never have is enough people or enough time. But there are ways to make things happen quickly (just maybe not overnight).
What other tips do you have for those who have a planning problem in the church, and how are you planning to resolve your issues in the new year? Tell us in comments.

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