I have finished two significant ministry opportunities this year in addition to my role as Sunday School/Small Group specialist at the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. I am winding up a 12 month interim as Minister of Education at First Baptist Church of Edmond, Oklahoma. It has been a fantastic experience for me. During this year we trained almost 250 Sunday School leaders, conducted a neighborhood outreach involving 24 home groups, instituted a new Sunday School outreach strategy, and started 11 new ongoing groups. Attendance increased over 100 from last year and we enrolled almost 500 people in Sunday School. Pastor Blake Gideon and the First Baptist staff are a great group to work with and I anticipate that FBC-Edmond is going to have a great 2014.
In addition, I accepted a role as consultant at Tulip Grove Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee during the fall. Pastor Gerald Bontrager and his staff did a great job assembling a task force for me to work with. We had a great experience evaluating where the church has been and developing a strategy and plan for 2014. On November 17, TGBC began five new Sunday School classes and had 839 people present for Sunday School, their highest attendance in several years and only 11 people short of their goal of reaching an average attendance of 850 next year.
These two churches remind me how important it is to have a plan and then work the plan. Rather than vague ideas or hopeful dreams, both of these churches set goals and strategies to reach their goals. As you and your church leaders look ahead to next year, here are some things to consider:
- What is our mission?
- What is our church’s culture?
- What is our community’s culture?
- What is our plan to take our mission to our community?
- How we will measure our progress?
The Importance of Strategy
Jesus had a strategy. He created a small group of people that He invested in to carry out His mission. Your church needs a strategy. Strategy is what we measure our time, effort, and budget against. Will this program, expense, or event part of our strategy to fulfill the Great Commission. For most churches that are Southern Baptists, our strategy for carrying out the mission is usually through our small group (Sunday School). ReConnect Sunday School is our state convention’s resource that assists the local church in the development and equipping of their strategy.
Identify What Is Most Beneficial
There are dozens of things your church can do next year – and many of them you probably should consider doing. Before you fill your church calendar up with a bunch of ministries and events, give first priority to what will help you accomplish your mission. What particular activities are most strategic to your church’s strategy and mission? These are vital to the mission of your church and must be identified and implemented. For example: one of the best opportunities you have to reach new people with the Gospel, renew relationships with inactive church members, develop new leaders, and make disciples is the creation of new, ongoing small groups. Leadership training is another vital activity that needs priority time. Schedule these opportunities before you schedule other ministries.
Prioritize Your Calendar
Consider categorizing your church’s events as Priority 1, 2, or 3. Priority 1 events should be strategically placed on the church calendar first. This might require you to move some “legacy” events so that Priority 1 ministries receive the best calendar dates. Fill in the church calendar only after you have given your Priority 1 events first choice of dates.
The Importance of Goals and Dates
Many churches today shy away from goals and often fail to schedule when and how they intend to reach their goals. I mentioned Tulip Grove earlier. Their church task force wants to grow in attendance next year 120 people. During our consultation, I asked them how they intend to grow 120. We did the math and realized Tulip Grove averages 14 people per group. To accomplish their goal of growing 120 people next year, they realized they need to start nine new groups. We set some dates on the calendar to start the new groups. Thanks to the work of their new Minister of Education, Todd Capps, they are already halfway to their goal for next year.
Goals tell us what we are aiming at. Dates on the calendar provide the inspiration and accountability to accomplish the goal. Setting a goal gives us a visible way of measuring progress.
Because we often fail to set goals, at the end of the year we are often guilty of having “good intentions” but no accomplishments. We procrastinate away yet another year of what could and should have been some incredible ministry. Will we reach all of the goals that we set? Probably not. But we will be further along in our mission of taking the Gospel to the lost and making disciples.