Methods: Planning consistently happens in three areas, personal, ministry and organization and on three levels, strategic, tactical and operational

A Simple Planning Process

It has been said, if you don’t know where you are going, any path will take you there. And, if you aim at nothing you will be sure to hit it. Scripture illustrates, beginning in Genesis, that planning is in the nature and character of God. We are designed to plan in partnership with Him. Therefore, planning is a critical function of church leadership.

Planning can be defined as a process, usually linear, that takes you from where you are currently to where you hope to be in the future. This linear process has six steps, each required to develop an effective plan of any kind: Your Current Position; Your Goals; Your Specific Initiatives; Your Timeline; Potential Road Blocks; Alternative Goals.

A Six Step Planning Process

Step 1: Your Current Position

To determine how far you need to progress it is vital to understand where you are today. For example, if the church’s goal in the coming year is to increase baptisms by 100, the current position should be stated in terms of last year’s baptisms.

Step 2: Your Goals

Goals are stated in terms of the results or outcomes you desire to achieve over a given period of time. For example, if the church’s goal in the coming year is to increase baptisms by 100, the Youth Ministry may have a goal of contributing 25 baptisms towards that goal. Goals should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time specific.

Step 3: Your Specific Initiatives

This step in the planning process is where you identify the specific initiatives and action steps you will take to reach your goals. For example, in our above illustration specific initiatives could include a faith sharing class, baptism testimonies, teaching on biblical baptism, a river or lakeside baptismal service, etc. The six interrogative pronoun questions of Who, What, When, Where, How and Why should be used in developing each initiative.

Step 4: Your Timeline

Your timeline identifies specific completion dates for each goal and supporting initiative. The purpose of the timeline is to keep your plan moving and on schedule. For example, you might list the 100 increase in baptisms goal as concluding December 31 and the specific initiatives necessary to achieve the goal at various intervals throughout the year.

Step 5: Potential Road Blocks

Every plan has potential road blocks that might serve as obstacles to successfully achieving the plan’s goals and initiatives. The planning process should identify these potential road blocks as well as steps to overcome them. For example, how can you still reach your baptism goal in the event there is a loss of key staff members during the year?

Step 6: Alternative Goals

Every plan should include alternative goals that either expand on your original goal or serve as contingency in the event you are unable to achieve your original goal. In our above example, this could involve including baptisms from your church plants and church partners, baptisms on church mission trips and professions of faith that did not result in baptism.


This six step planning process is a tool that can be used to develop individual ministry or church wide plans. It provides a checklist for the key steps to be included in any comprehensive plan and can be useful to teach new staff and lay ministry leaders how to plan effectively.




Posted on August 23, 2016

Jim Baker

Jim is a Church Organizational Leadership and Management Coach, Consultant and Trainer. Throughout his career Jim has demonstrated a passion for showing Pastors and Ministers how to use organizational tools for church and personal growth and health.

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“For I may be absent in body, but I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see how well ordered you are and the strength of your faith in Christ.” Colossians 2:5