Yesterday, I spent a few hours in Retreat with the Elders Board of a local church leading its members in seeking to find God’s vision for the future ministry of the church. We followed an outline developed by Bobb Biehl described in his book, Masterplanning (Aylen Publishing, 2005). We started with questions about the church’s sense of identity asking personal questions about what drew the members of the Board to the church and why they stayed.
One section of the outline is called, Milestones, which focuses in on accomplishments in the life of the church. So early on we took time to talk about accomplishments in the life of the church and then spent some time in prayers of thanksgiving and asking God for the future direction of the church. Using several Scriptures (Proverbs 16:9, James 4:15, and Isaiah 32:8) I reminded the group that planning and the leading of the Spirit are not mutually exclusive as some people think. God wants us to use the resources he has given us to plan as long as we remember that God is sovereign over all of our plans.
Biehl uses the acronym DOCTOR to identify the planning process. These letter stand for Direction, Organization, Cash, Tracking, Overall evaluation, and Refinement. We spent most of our time on the Direction part of the process but took a bit of time to talk about the distinction in the roles of the Board and the Senior Pastor. I proposed that the Board and Pastor should work as a team while they are in session but that the Pastor needs to be given the authority to carry out the decisions of the Board between meetings. He is responsible to develop the vision discussed by the Board and to present it to them for their final input and approval. (Board/Pastor relationship and team ministry would work much better if this relationship existed in all matters related to Board and Pastor leadership.)
We spent most of the four hours we had together on defining Needs, Purpose, and Objectives, the first three aspects of the Master-planning Arrow. Defining the Need in the community that the church is especially qualified to meet is an important aspect of developing vision. In fact there is a direct relationship between the urgency of need among people outside of the church and its sense of vision. It’s important to take enough time to really understand the burden of God’s heart for people who are outside of the church.
Purpose focuses on the question of Mission and seeks to answer the question of why the team, organization, or church exists. We did an exercise of trying to put it into a single word, and then a three-word phrase. I like Biehl’s suggestion of thinking of purpose in terms of what one would like to be remembered for after they are gone, or after the church is gone (an epitaph). We experimented with sample Mission Statements. A short phrase to sum up what one’s organization or church is all about is very empowering and motivating. It gives clear direction, tells others what the organization is not about, helps define what activities to engage in, and is memorizable.
It was exciting to see how the group began to track with ideas on what the church’s mission was all about. We took a bit more time to talk about other aspects of the Master-planning Arrow, as Biehl calls it: Ideas, Roadblocks, Resources, and Leadership.
We concluded with Biehl’s thought that Leadership is knowing what to do next, knowing why, and knowing how to bring resources to bear on the need at hand. Talking about direction in these terms is an exciting way to get a church board thinking about how the church can become more intentional (and thus effective) about its ministry.