Insanely practical resources for leaders of normal-sized churches.

Make Next Year the Best Year in Your Church (7 Practical Steps)

The last couple of years have been among the hardest ministry years for most pastors.  So many of us are ready to turn the page.

You certainly don’t me to give you a list of all the difficult things you’ve dealt with.  You’ve lived it.

But I’m also sensing a renewed spirit of optimism in the church.  We’re looking ahead with optimism, trying to leave behind anxious thoughts and move on from tough decisions.  We’re ready to get back to the ministry we’re called to do.

I want 2022 to be a year filled with optimism, energy, and a renewed sense of purpose.  Years from now, when you look back on this season, I want you recall how this next year was the turning point.

With all this in mind, here are some ways you can make 2022 a great year in your church.

 

#1 – CUT BACK ON PURPOSE

Over the last two years or so, many of us have had to cut things out of our budget and out of our programming.  You likely did this as a response to something, maybe even feeling like you didn’t have a choice.  

But now you have the opportunity to cut back, not out of a response, but out of purpose.

If you've ever written a book, you know that editing is often the hardest process. It's pretty easy to put the words on a page, but what turns a good book into a great book is editing. And editing is largely cutting things down and removing the non-essential.

As we look ahead toward 2022, there are things in all of our churches that are not really tied to our core mission, things we've been holding onto that are just not effective anymore.

they may be programs, ministries, legacies — things that are no longer moving the ball forward, but just existing. Maybe you inherited them. They are taking resources, and they are taking people.

When I was pastoring a church, one of the most impactful books I read was Simple Church by Thom S. Rainer and Eric Geiger. It gave me permission to stop trying to be all things to all people, but to make sure every program and ministry was intentionally aligned to a greater purpose.

As you move into this next year, cutting back on purpose could actually be key. We have a saying at Church Fuel, “The key to growth may not be something you start, but something you stop.”

So many times we go to conferences, webinars, or trainings, even from people like me, and you try to add these new ideas to an already crowded menu. It doesn't work because the key to growth isn’t just adding more and doing more. It's usually stopping something and taking that energy and putting it into what's already working.

The most important ministries in your church – we call them Keystone Ministries – deserve an unfair advantage.  They need more money, more volunteers, and more focus.  When you stop doing things that are off-mission, you can focus on these keystone ministries.

Pruning brings new growth. Don’t wait for things to be almost dead to remove them from the venue. Be proactive. Cut back, but on purpose.

 

#2 – CREATE A REAL STRATEGIC PLAN

Most strategic plans in churches are worthless. They're usually 50 pages long, and expensive consultants come in and help you create these impressive but unactionable documents.

A real strategic plan simply answers the how questions, not the wow questions. You know we're going to change the world. But how are we going to do it? A strategic plan translates your purpose and your vision into tangible, actionable steps.

I'd love for you to gather some of your church-minded leaders to say, “Hey, it’s not about what are we going to do next year, but how are we going to do it?

Strategy, not vision and not purpose, is the key to alignment.  I know everyone has tried their best to convince you that a big vision is the key.  But rah-rah rallies about some big destination isn’t going to help you get people on the same page.  If you’re not united around HOW, the big vision will actually de-motivate people over the long haul.

Strategy is what gets people on the same page; it’s not just agreeing where we're going, but how we're going to get there. If I fly on the plane and you drive in the RV across the country, we're arriving there at very different times, having had very different experiences.

The strategic plan we recommend is called The Two Page Plan.  It’s a unifying exercise that raises some great questions and promts some powerful discussions.  But in the end, it’s actionable, sharable, and meaningful.

Learn more at twopageplan.com. 

 

#3 – CREATE CHURCHWIDE GOALS

I encourage you to create three to five churchwide goals – not what are we trying to do in general, but what are we going to do specifically.

Most churches have grandiose purpose statements like “we exist for the glory of God” or “we make disciples of all the world.” Those are very big ideas, and we should have those.

We need these big ideas to anchor us and ground us, but we also need to know specifically and tangibly, what are we trying to do in this next year.  Are we trying to connect people in small groups? Are we trying to grow our attendance? Are we trying to grow? What are we trying to do specifically?

These goals need to be churchwide, bigger than any one specific ministry.

What gets us in trouble with goals and churches is that all our ministries, programs, departments, volunteers have their own goals. And when you put them all together, there's nothing cohesive that holds them together.

We need to have churchwide goals, reflected in all of our ministries and programs. When we get clear about who we are, when we get clear about our strategy, that strategy should point to something specific.

One of the most helpful things I think you could do in this next year is say, “Hey, here is specifically what we're trying to do as a church.” Your deacons, elders, small group leaders, staff, team, key leaders, everybody needs to know clearly what those are and know how what they do feeds into them. And they're unifying and they're uniting because the whole church is involved in seeing those goals.

 

#4. TAKE A FRESH LOOK AT JOB DESCRIPTIONS

Too many times, job descriptions are not useful documents. We create them when there is a job opening and they are accurate for a couple of weeks.  But a few months in, nobody looks at that document.

If you were to pull out your job description, you might say, “Oh, I don't do that anymore, and it's missing these 12 things that I actually do.”

Our job descriptions don't reflect reality. They don't reflect the changes that our church has gone through over the last couple of years.

Instead of just being this HR document that sits in a folder in a filing cabinet somewhere, a job description  can be something that clarifies what we do to contribute to our church’s goals, strategy, and mission.

At the beginning of the year, take a fresh look at everybody that has a job, whether it's a full-time, paid position or a part-time volunteer role.  Update it to reflect current reality.  Use it to cast clarity.

After all casting clarity might just be one of a leader’s most important tasks.

We have 50 different sample job descriptions in the member site of Church Fuel, one for every role that could exist in a church.  Many of these templates have KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) that help connect the dots between tasks and outcomes.

One of my favorite resources in Church Fuel is called the One Page Job Description. It will help you summarize your job in one page.  It’s an amazing, clarifying exercise.

Imagine if everybody that had a job at the church did that and said, “Of all the things that I could do, this is what matters most. This is what we're focusing on this year.”

 

#5 – BRING LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT FRONT AND CENTER

Leadership development in church is really discipleship. 

You have some people in your church who are leaders, who are potential leaders, and they need you to disciple them.

Luke 16:10 describes the challenge many churches are facing in this area. If you're faithful with a little, then maybe God would bless you with more. It says he who is faithful with a little can be entrusted with more. We know this in parenting. We know this in finances. The better stewards we are, the more trust we build, the more likely we are to be given more.

You have some leaders, or you may have only one, but what is your plan to disciple and develop them?

As we focus on developing the leaders we have, I believe God will send us more. We get this backwards in church. We keep asking God, “Send us more, send us more.” And I wonder if he's like, “Hey, you have a whole bunch. You're not doing anything. Why would I send you more?”

Let's develop and disciple the leaders that we already have. Let's commit to having one-on-ones with them. Let's commit to taking our meetings and retreats and the things that we already have and making them more meaningful. We don't have to necessarily add more to the calendar, but we can be more intentional with what we're already doing.

We have a resource, a whole system really, called LeaderPulse. It's meetings and retreats.  It’s leadership development curriculum. There are videos, there are guides, there are exercises that you can work on together to bring intentionality and focus to helping all the leaders in your church get better.