Pursuing Excellence: Plan Your Year

Pursuing excellence involves a number of different aspects. One of those is to plan ahead. The difference between mediocrity and excellence may come down to how well you plan.

Planning ahead gives you time to work on your project or event. When you start planning earlier, you have more time to think it through, prepare and determine the best way to complete the project. Giving yourself this extra time to think about your project means that you have longer to think about it and come up with ideas than if you are scrambling to get everything together last minute.

Pastors and church leadership teams, plan your upcoming year. While many people plan their years from January to December (I tend to plan my personal goals to begin in January), when it comes to working with churches, I suggest thinking of the year as starting in September and finishing in August. This is because church activities usually follow the school year, starting and ending about the same time the local schools do. In order to be ready for September, I suggest you actually do your planning in May.

Benefits of Planning Ahead

Planning ahead helps you improve whatever you are planning, because the earlier attention to the project results in more time given to consider it. This extra time can be used in numerous ways:

  1. You can gather the best team.
  2. You can train and equip your volunteers ahead of time.
  3. You can let life enhance your creativity – your reading and TV watching and living of life will give you ideas you did not have when you first began planning.
  4. You can find great ideas, not just good ones. Instead of settling for the first idea your team comes up with, consider how to improve on that idea. Your programs will go from good to great because of the time to percolate in the minds of the creative teams.
  5. You can build better resources and materials required for the project.
  6. You can spend more time in prayer, asking God to guide every aspect of your planning as well as the final implementation.

Plan Your Year – Start with the Big Events

Begin planning for your main programs of the year. Work with program leaders to determine the start and end times for their programs. If your programs start in September, leaders should be determined by the end of May, so they can start planning their programs and find their volunteers from June through August.

Are there a few big events or weekends your church celebrates? This could be a church camp or a family weekend, as well as Easter, Christmas, and a Fall Kickoff. Set the dates and work on developing themes. Decide who should lead each event and who should be on each team. Make sure that everyone involved knows the pertinent information, such as dates and themes, as early as possible. Plan when to do baptism and membership classes, as well as when to have the baptism and when to receive new members. Plan when and what you will do for evangelism and outreach activities throughout the year.

Once the basics of the big events are planned, start filling in the other Sundays and other activities. Pastors can work on sermon plans for the year ahead. (I’ll share more about how I plan my preaching year next week). Knowing in advance what you will focus on, give additional time to improve the sermons with good illustrations and pertinent information. By creating a year-long plan in advance, you not only give yourself more time for sermon preparation, but you also provide your worship and service planning teams that same additional time to create the best services they can.

The themes for each Sunday will come from the pastor after he plans out his sermons for the year. With a plan for both large events and sermon themes, add other activities to your plan. For example, identify when you should hold leadership meetings or training and discipleship events throughout the year.

After your yearly calendar has been filled, build in further detailed planning every quarter or so. Planning ahead involves a few stages: 1) Planning the year, 2) Planning 3-4 months ahead, and 3) Planning the week ahead. For example, begin developing detailed plans for Christmas by the end of September. Plan for Easter in January. Plan for September program starts in May.

As you plan ahead, the goal is not just to put on a great event or program, but that whatever we plan in the church will transform lives and bring us closer to Jesus. Pursuing excellence is not about performing flawlessly, but doing our best to help everyone involved become more like Jesus.

Have fun in you planning, pray for God to guide every aspect, and then rejoice as you see people impacted by God through events and activities you planned.

Keep looking up,

Andy Wiebe

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