Preparing for the Future

Preparing for the Future

When it comes to future planning for your church, how far out do you think/dream? That question came to me last week as I sat outside on my patio. It was a Friday, and I had some downtime to think. It had been a busy week, and I need to plan out the next year of newsletters. Yet, I found myself thinking further into the future. Where do I want to be ministry-wise in five years kind of thinking?

My thoughts led me to think of a recent conversation with a staff member about how renovating or building office space for staff always gets pushed back. There are lots of reasons why this happens. The primary one is that when the project cost increases, the first thing that gets the axe is the new office suite. I started thinking about how a pastor could avoid this. My thoughts were not confined to office suites but around the principle of “selling” any new venture, whether a physical building or a new program. It all boils down to having a compelling vision and giving time to the vision. I will probe that in this edition of the Coach entitled Preparing for the Future.

How would I advise a pastor to see the office suite completed rather than cut? That was the initial thought I had. But the question applies to advancing any change or decision to become a reality. But let’s use the Office Suite as an example. Here is how I would advise a pastor to lead.

You must connect whatever it is you are advancing to vision. Casting a vision for a new children’s or student facility or sanctuary is typically easier than a new office suite. So, how would I go about helping my church see the need for new or updated office facilities? By showing how those offices help advance and support the missions and ministry of your church. Start by asking and answering these questions. How is/does the office support the ministry? How is the present office hindering/limiting ministry? What is the solution, and how will that solution solve the problem and help advance the overall vision of your church? Answer these questions to help you make the case for the vision and project.

You must advance that vision to the right crowd. Always start with your leaders first. Any new initiative, from programs to projects to special offerings, must first be “sold” to your leaders. Leaders typically have the maturity to realize the importance of projects that newer members might think are excessive or unnecessary. Your leaders are also the ones who will give to support those projects or new initiatives. We discovered that, on average, 10% to 15% of a church’s members give 50% of all that is given. In capital campaigns or any over-and-above-giving initiative, this group gives as much as 90% of all that is given. They are also the influencers of your congregation. By gaining your leaders’ support early in the process, you better ensure the success of whatever you are attempting to “sell.” This is why…

You must already have a relationship that gives you the right to advance that vision. If you only reach out to me when you need money, then you show me what my value to you truly is. Giving, especially over and above the tithe giving, comes primarily through building relationships with those who have the means to respond. Yet, that relationship must be built ahead of time and not around what the donor can do for you but what you can do for the donor. If your contact with potential donors always leads first with ministering to them, it is much easier to discuss finances when the time comes. I recommend a strategy around what I call the Legacy Team. Let me quote myself,

My Legacy Team Definition – A group of people who either have the gift of generosity or are looking for creative ways to use the blessings God has given them to be a blessing to others. I have a two-pronged focus for this team.

  • Building the foundation for the future – Someone built it for us. Now, it’s our turn to build the foundation for the next generation.
  • Leaving behind a legacy to assure the future – We must shepherd every member to have an estate plan that includes their church.

You must take your message to this crucial group for any giving strategy to work. This group has the spiritual maturity to hear your message and is typically in a financial position to give more.

    One of my recommendations is for pastors to regularly meet with their lay leaders, pouring into their lives without any desire for money but simply to minister to this key group. This earns you the right to make the “ask” when the time comes. That leads me to my final point about building relationships…

    You must give time to advance the vision. You can’t hop from one church to another every two to three years. You must find where God wants you and plant your life there. The longer you serve, the more trust you build, and the more likely you will raise the funds you need, even for things less appealing, like a new office suite.

    This is how you advance a vision. But you must have a vision to advance. Let me illustrate this point with two stories.

    “I wish I would have planted flowers.” My wife made that comment after we moved out of the parsonage and into the first home we owned. We had lived in the parsonage for five years before that. Looking back, my wife wished she had planted more flowers around the parsonage, even if it wasn’t ours. My lesson to you? Don’t wait for greener grass; plant a vision wherever God has you with whoever He has given you. Start sowing the seeds of your vision in the garden God has entrusted to you.

    “My Saturday mornings are reserved for thinking.” That was a comment my mentor, Dave Sutherland, once said in a team meeting. He reflected that every Saturday morning, he would get up before anyone else, brew some coffee, take a blank page of paper, and sit in his favorite chair and do nothing but think, plan, and pray about future decisions. That thinking helped him advance our stewardship firm to become one of our industry’s largest, most forward-thinking companies. It all started with Saturday morning thinking. This leads me to the main point of this column. I want to know this…

    Do you have a set time and place to think and pray about future decisions? In my fifty years of ministry, I started preaching at 15; I have found that the tyranny of the urgent keeps most pastors from establishing a time of reflection like my mentor Dave had. We live in a highly distracting world. The typical pastor and staff member has so many balls in the air that alone time for reflection gets pushed back and ultimately ignored. But without a vision, your people will perish. Vision, in my experience, takes time both to germinate and then to sow into the hearts of those who can and will help you see that vision to completion.

    My back patio is my go-to thinking, planning, and praying spot. Where is yours?

    Mark Brooks – The Stewardship Coach

    Missions and Ministry Moment (aka Offering Talk) – This week’s talk can be accessed after you register at:

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