Confession: I used to hate planning.
I didn’t like planning sessions, meetings, or anything having to do with planning, especially when it came to the church. Leadership felt more intuitive and spiritual leadership felt more like simply trusting the Holy Spirit.
But what I would learn very early after planting a church is that planning was not only necessary but biblical.
As a pastor and church planter, it was necessary to plan services nad outline messages. And successful events needed a bit of planning. But larger initiatives or strategic planning still wasn't on my radar.
I realized that not having a plan was my plan.
I would use the excuse that I was letting the Holy Spirit lead us by not planning too far down the road. And although I do still believe the Holy Spirit directs, I now know that the same Holy Spirit is just as much a part of the planning as well.
I was being lazy and blaming it on God.
As I have grown as a pastor and church leader, thankfully I have learned how to plan better and rely on the Holy Spirit in those plans because I have a better biblical view of planning. So not much drives me crazier than when I hear someone complain, “You’re planning the Holy Spirit out of it!”
First, that's not possible.
Second, the Bible is full of people planning. There are Bible verses about God's plan, Scripture references about preparation, and Biblical reasons to be prepared.
Three Reasons to Embrace Biblical Planning
1. God is a Planner
When you read the story of creation, you see God's plan in action.
On the day of creation, light emerged from darkness and day followed night, leading to the cycle of evening and morning. From there, sea and sky were divided, the earth was filled with abundance, the sun and moon shone bright in the sky, fish populated the seas, birds filled the air, living creatures roamed on land, and man and woman appeared before God's restful Sabbath. Creation occurred in an orderly format.
And God had a plan to create mankind in His image.
Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.” – Genesis 1:26
God’s will was to make the earth his kingdom and to get it ready to be ruled by humans.
When the fracturing of the world happened through the fall (Genesis 3), God would have a plan for our salvation through the coming of a messiah in Jesus.
God gave detailed instructions to Moses, Joshua, David, Jesus and others.
God provided detailed instructions for all offerings, documented in the book of Leviticus, and the law was given with a specific purpose in mind.
And even if you’re still not convinced that God is a planner; do we not believe that God has a plan for our lives?
There are Bible verses about taking action, Bible verses about achieving goals, and Biblical encouragement to pray and plan at the same time.
2. People in the Bible Had Plans
Not only is God a planner, but there are plenty of examples of people in the Bible of people creating God-inspired plans.
Moses: In Moses’ first encounter with God, he’s given the plan to lead the people of Israel out of slavery. Later, when not having a plan became too much to handle and was seen by his father-in-law Jethro, he said to him, “What you are doing is not good.” In Exodus 18:17, a plan was developed. There would be many more carried out by Moses, including a succession plan to have Joshua be the next leader.
Joshua: Speaking of Joshua, when reading the book of Joshua, there is one plan after another. The fall of Jericho happens through a plan. Later, Consequently, in Joshua 6 and 7 when Joshua decides to make his own plan without hearing the Lord first, things do not go so well.
Nehemiah: Nehemiah took a strategic approach to reconstruct Jerusalem's walls: he evaluated their status, calculated the expenditure, and appointed leaders and helpers to help him complete the task. In short, he prayerfully followed a plan.
Jesus: The ministry of Jesus was all part of the plan. He sought out men who he would develop to send out and carry on the mission after his resurrection and would even give them a plan to do so (Matthew 28:19-20 and Acts 1:8). His entire life on earth was all part of God’s plan to bring redemption to mankind, as Jesus came to “seek and save the lost.” (Luke 19:10)
3. Scripture Backs It Up
What does the Bible teach about planning? Here are a few verses about planning.
- Proverbs 16:3 – Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.
- Proverbs 16:9 – The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.
- Proverbs 15:22 – Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers, they succeed.
- Proverbs 19:21 – Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.
- Psalms 20:4 – May he grant you your heart's desire and fulfill all your plans!
- Acts 2:23 – This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.
- Luke 9:51 – When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem
- Luke 14:28-30 – For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.'
The tension between planning and trust is real, but it's something we need to embrace. Yes, let the spirit of God move and work in you, through you, and in your church. But allow the same spirit to move in and through your plans. Like the writer of Proverbs 16:3 says, commit it to the Lord.
What Kind of Plans Should Churches Make?
When you think about prayerful planning in your church, here are some plans that you could put in place.
#1 – Your Church Should Have a Church-Wide Strategic Plan
Just like a new business should write a business plan and an existing organization should follow a documented business plan, your church would benefit from the clarity that comes from a simple strategic plan.
I'm not talking about a 65-page, consultant-driven document that sounds like a lot of work. I'm talking about a simple document that will help you get everyone on the same page.
The template we've created for you is just two pages and we call it the Two Page Plan.
Read more about how a strategic plan can help you get everyone on the same page and help your church accomplish its mission.
#2 – Every individual ministry would benefit from a simple Ministry Action Plan.
Once you create a Two Page Plan for your entire church, the next step is having every ministry create an even simpler version.
You children's ministry, worship team, or deacon board need a one-pager that summarizes purpose, mission, key events, and goals.
And you guessed it, we have a template you can use.
You'll find The Two Page Plan and the Ministry Action Plan, along with explainer videos and real-church examples, right here.