Strategic and Visionary Planning 2.0

A while back (almost 6 years ago) I wrote this post (click here for post) about strategic planning.  Over the past 6 years, it has been one of the most shared and looked at post on my blog, and I think the reason is that people want a simple way to do strategic planning.  When you google search “strategic planning charts” the image base is a limitless amount of charts… but none of them make any sense to people like me who like things simple and focused.  Well, over the past month or so, I have been refining my own thoughts on the strategic planning process and have come up with a new chart that I believe makes even more sense.  Here it is:

strategic planning process-01

MISSION: every organization has a mission that they are going after.  It is what drives your organization to exist and, at the end of the day, it tells you whether or not you are successful.  It is your GOAL.

VISION: your vision is what propels you toward your goal.  Your vision is the picture of your preferred future that you dream to be true.  It is the thing that keeps pushing you to keep on going after your mission.

VALUES: values are like the guardrails of your organization.  They keep you from driving off the road and going in a direction that is away from your mission.  Your values are what keep you focused on the goal.

INITIATIVES: Initiatives are the things you hope to accomplish in the near future that will make your vision a reality.  Your vision usually can be broken down into statements [“I see…” ].  In order for those statements to become more than vision, though, they need strategies behind them.   vision statement + realistic strategy = strategic initiative.  I would also encourage this:  you may end up with SEVERAL vision statements from your vision.  That’s OK.  In fact, that is AWESOME because that shows you are an organization with BIG VISION.  The reality, though, is that you cannot go after all of them effectively.  So I would suggest trying to tackle 2-3 initiatives in a given year.  1) It will keep you focused, and 2) you will have enough bandwidth to put excellence into them.

My hope is that this will help you and your organization plan more effectively and efficiently.

Exponential’s 5 Reproducing Principles

Jon and Dave Ferguson wrote an AWESOME book a few years back on reproducing your church experience and becoming a missional-based church.  If you are a church leader and are interested in 1) taking your church to the next level or 2) reproducing your church (venue or multisite) this book is a MUST READ!  [you can pick it up here.]

In their first chapter, they outline 5 Reproducing Principles that I have found myself putting into practice in my Student Ministries that I have been over for the past 8 years (at least).  Here is that list:


If you are going to grow as a ministry, and have the ability to reproduce it in a healthy way, you need to have someone who you are growing to take your place.  It is not only a practical idea… it is a thoroughly BIBLICAL idea.  Moses had Joshua, Elijah had Elisha, Jesus had his disciples… especially Peter, James and John.  When you take the step from DOING ministry to TRAINING others to do ministry, you are stepping closer and closer to reproducing health in something like a multisite.


Reproducing leadership should be an ON PURPOSE decision, not one that happens to you.  If the reason you are reproducing leadership is to solve a problem, and not to fulfill a vision, then you should probably go back to the drawing board and figure out WHY you should reproduce.  Multi-site replication is not a fix to overcrowding or to declining attendance… those require different actions.


Some leaders think that they can’t multi-site their church until it reaches a certain size.  That MAY have been the thinking early on, but the statistics show us that there are a lot of churches that aren’t even close to the classical “mega-church” status that are multisite.  Why?  Because it isn’t about how many are attending your church… it’s all about if your leadership is ready to replicate.  It’s all about if there are healthy systems in place, written down, that you can fall back on.  It’s about leader readiness.


Before you replicate anything leadership-wise (multisite or not) you have to do some big soul searching.  I often am searching my own heart for why I want to build into leaders and interns: “Is it because I want to be viewed as a leader among leaders?” “Is it because I want to build something that everyone will be WOWED with?”  or “Is it really because I believe with everything that I am that God has entrusted to me the building and furthering of HIS kingdom here on this earth in this spot… and this is the best way I can find to do it?”  A good, old-fashioned heart check is a great place to start.


Leader replication can’t just be something that you do for multisite… it needs to happen EVERYWHERE!  It needs to be a philosophy of ministry that you buy into whole-heartedly… not just a strategy to get to a multisite campus.

I have loved how this book has challenged me in ministry.  It has helped move me from DOING ministry to EQUIPPING others to do ministry… but my goal is to not stop there… but eventually to have those who I am pouring into to take someone else through the replication process.


3 Key Traits to Replicating Ministries

One of the biggest trends in Churches right now is to make your church a multisite church.  One church, several locations.  There are many reasons for doing this, but the primary reason that a church goes multisite is to reach people beyond the physical influence of their current campus.  Our church (Hopevale) has been diving into the discussions of what it would look like for us to multisite in our area… and they have been great conversations so far.

But before you can pick a location and start putting plans in place, there are three traits that a church must have if they are going to replicate their ministry.  Those traits are:

1) Common VISION

If you are going to replicate your ministry into a new setting, you must make sure that everyone is on board with a common vision.  This is not the same as your church replicating their mission statement.  Mission statements answer the question “Who are we?”  Vision is all about “where are we going?”  If you are not in alignment with where you are going, you’ll never get there.

2) Core VALUES

In order to replicate ministry, you need to replicate it’s DNA.  The DNA of your ministry is found in a few shared VALUES that make you, as a church, unique.  It is these values that will keep you within the guardrails and help your multisite from going rogue.  For a lot of churches that are dreaming of going multisite, they may intrinsically KNOW these values… but in order to replicate them, you must WRITE THEM DOWN… and then keep each other accountable to them.

3) Consistent VOICE

One of the most important things you can do to replicate your ministry is to make sure that you have a consistent voice across the board on any campus that you call your church.  Your marketing, brand, graphics, language, feel… it all needs to be CONSISTENT with who you are as a church.  I bet there is a certain look that makes your church your church.  There is also a way you uniquely say things.  All of these things are important when you multisite.  These are the things you want to replicate.  It is also important that branding and marketing can travel well… meaning this: you can’t have something that is your location specific and then try to replicate it in another location without confusing people.  For example, our middle school ministry at Hopevale is called WIRED.  Now, that might make sense for the kids who come to WIRED or middle schoolers who live in our area and are used to our campus.  But what if we started another campus and had our middle school and high school combined?  That branding wouldn’t travel well for that.  That is why we are going to re brand our ministry to HOPEVALE STUDENTS this summer… and simply call it Middle School and High School.  It is clean and simple and makes complete sense to everyone we communicate to.  plus… Hopevale Students travels well… and it becomes a CONSISTENT VOICE across campuses.

Replicating ministries is not an easy task… but it becomes easier with a common vision, core values, and a consistent voice.

Two more LITTLE words of BIG leadership

a little over a month ago I was sitting in my office with my Student Ministry leadership team and we were listening to a podcast by Andy Stanley.  In that podcast he talked about two words that are huge for leaders… and everyone around the circle agreed that those two words make all the difference.  Andy said that these two words were even more important than giving someone a paycheck.  What are these two words?


Wait… WHAT?  That’s it?

Yes.  But those two words express HUGE leadership.  Especially when they are spoken to people who are doing what they are SUPPOSED TO DO.

I’ve seen people give more, and serve longer and harder because someone took the time to say “Thank you” to them.

How would your leadership grow if you just learned the art of saying “thank you” more often?

One LITTLE word that makes leadership BIGGER.

When I was a younger leader (because 36 is still pretty young in my opinion) I remember being full of great ideas and thinking “All of my ideas are awesome… in fact, they aren’t just A way to do things… they are THE way to do things.”  I would often think that senior leaders over me didn’t really know what was going on or that their ideas were old and out of touch with the future.  I know… I was young and naive and I was full of ideas and idealism.  I was also, though I would have never said it back then, full of pride.  I never would have said it because I didn’t recognize what I was doing or feeling as pride.  I just chalked it up to being full of the best ideas and being a leader.  I was wrong.  Here was my discovery.  I learned that one little word would take my leadership and GROW IT.  One little word, over time, would end up maturing me.  This little two-letter word has power both when you learn how to say it… and when you learn how to hear it.


Now, I know much has been written on the power of learning to say NO that will grow your leadership.  I think that is true and important, but that isn’t what I want to talk about.  I want to talk about learning to HEAR the word “NO” and accepting the word “NO.”


Early on, the word “NO” was a shot to my ego, reputation and leadership.  When I would talk about my ideas or present my idea to a senior leader and they would say “NO” or would choose to go in a different direction, I would get mad, upset, and feel like they weren’t seeing it or that they didn’t trust me. (see… pride)  I would sit around with other younger leaders and talk about how my ideas were still better in hopes to gain support or rally them to my side or cause.  (that proves to be damaging and divisive, by the way… and shows a real character problem.)   But I slowly have learned over time that the best thing I could have ever done was to present an idea, only to hear “NO.” Why?  Because it taught me that, although my idea may have been good, my ideas aren’t always what is best for everyone. (see, the attitude of “my ideas are always the best and will always be what we default to… that’s PRIDE)  It taught me to hold loosely to my ideas and LISTEN to the BEST IDEAS in the room.  Leadership isn’t about WHO has the BEST ideas… it’s about who HEARS the best ideas and promotes that person.  It’s having enough humility to not be so insecure to think that it has to be YOUR way or NO way.  Now, sometimes the leader has to step in and make an unpopular call because an idea, even if it is good, will end up hurting the organization… and I have had to do that from time to time, but BIG leadership isn’t about being a dictator.  Leadership is about helping people move from point A to point B.  Sometimes it’s our ideas that get them there… often times it is recognizing other’s ideas and boosting them as the best.

So when you have an idea… no matter how great it is, hold it loosely and welcome a “NO.”  Fight for your idea, but at the end of the day, be open to the fact that your idea, although good, may not be what is truly BEST for your team or your organization.


It’s a LITTLE word that can have a BIG impact on our maturing leadership.

Thinking “STEPS” in Ministry [part 2]

Yesterday I wrote part one of this 2 part blog series on “Thinking STEPS in ministry.”  If you haven’t read it yet… go back here and read that one first.  If you have read it, here we go with the PRACTICAL “how to” side of thinking STEPS and not just programs for your ministry.


Before you start identifying a cute strategy with words that all start with the same letter, have some kind of slick diagram that looks like a baseball diamond or spells the name of your ministry (don’t think you weren’t coming up with something like that… I know our type too well 🙂 )… the FIRST THING we have to do is identify the OBJECTIVE.  We need to know what we are trying to accomplish before we try to accomplish it.  What if the inventors of Baseball never came up with the concept of scoring runs?  What if they created this awesome game where you got on base and then moved from base to base… only to just keep moving from base to base.  I can just imagine that conversation:

“so, after they get to third base, then what?”

“Well… they go to home plate.”

“Then what?”

“um, go to first base?”

“So when do they finally stop going around the bases?”

“When the other team gets three outs.”

“So how do you WIN?”

“um… great question.”

Thank God they came up with scoring runs… or baseball would be a very confusing and boring sport to watch (I know… some of you already think it is).

So when we think about our students in our ministries… we need to ask “What is the end goal?  What does a RUN look like for a student?”  When I first started asking this question… it was very difficult to answer because we are never truly FINISHED as a follower of Jesus while we are still living.  We are ALWAYS progressing towards becoming more and more like Jesus.  (Sanctification, for you theology nerds)

I finally figured out that I don’t have to think about what a completed Christian is supposed to be like… I just need to think about what JESUS wants for an adult disciple.  I thought about the answer to the question, “What kind of Followers of Jesus do I want to graduate from my ministry?”  And then it clicked.  I want students to be fully in love with Jesus, ready to give everything they have to follow Him and want to share their story with as many people as possible.  If I could graduate those kinds of students… then I would feel like I did what I was supposed to as a youth pastor.  So that became my objective.  That is why I said yesterday that I no longer became impressed with how many students attended my program… because that was not my end goal.  That was not my objective.  My goal was to ask how many students look like that profile I just described when they graduate from High School?  That changed HOW I do ministry.  I moved from Programs to STEPS.


The model I use now is very different than where it started 10 years ago.  Why?  I’ve learned over the years how to think about it in a better way.  I now use 4 words that describe the steps I think it takes for students to be fully in love with Jesus, ready to give everything they have to follow Him and want to share their story with as many people as possible.


GATHER – students need to have a place where they can gather together to have fun, be with friends, sing about God in a way that makes sense to them, and hear about what God wants for their lives in a meaningful way.  It’s a place where students who are far from God will hear about Jesus and the incredible life he has in store for them… and how he wants to have a deep, meaningful relationship with them and wants to forgive them of their sins.  This is where our youth group program fits.  And notice… this is not the THE GOAL… but it is STEP 1 in a process.

GROW – Programs don’t grow disciples.  Sure, students will grow under the teaching of the word of God and under giving of themselves in worship… but we believe that people grow BEST in the context of friends and mentors sitting in circles doing life together.  This is where our small group ministry is HUGE.  And we value our small groups in such a huge way, that they are a BIG PART of our YOUTH GROUP PROGRAM.  That’s right… we cut out a huge chunk of our time that we could be entertaining, singing or teaching from the STAGE to teach through sitting in a circle with mentors.  WHY do this then?  Why not create a separate ministry or program to do this?  2 reasons: 1) we don’t think in the context of programs :-), and 2) our youth group time is the time where all of our students are already there… so why wouldn’t we take advantage of that vs. asking them for another time commitment out of their week? That’s why.   A small group is where a student will be cared for, loved, prayed for, encouraged, challenged, and heard.  Big time discipleship happens in small groups. (or at least it should)  A part of our Small Groups this year that will continue the GROW aspect is something I am calling “The First Five.”  It is a devotional sheet that goes home with the student that has the bottom line for the week on it, the memory verse for the month on the topic we are teaching on, and 5 days worth of devotions for the student to develop a consistent quiet time with.  It’s called “The First Five” because we want our students to spend “The First Five” minutes of their day with God.  The more time they spend with God and the more time they spend with meaningful  friends and mentors, the more they will grow to be like Jesus.

SERVE – Someone once said that “we are never more like Jesus than when we are serving.”  If that is true, then serving needs to be a BIG STEP for a student progressing toward the goal of being fully in love with Jesus, ready to give everything they have to follow Him and want to share their story with as many people as possible. We need to be intentional to not only PROVIDE areas for students to serve, but to TEACH them to look for ways to SERVE OTHERS ON THEIR OWN.  We want our students serving both INSIDE the walls of our church doing MINISTRY, and OUTSIDE the walls of our church doing OUTREACH.

SHARE – The final STEP in our process is SHARE.  We want our students to be fully equipped to SHARE their story of who Jesus is in their lives with as many people as possible.  We teach on it, mentor it, and try to demonstrate it whenever possible.  For me, this is where I go “THEY GET IT BIG TIME!”

The tricky thing about these four words is that, unlike baseball, you aren’t done with one step when you move on to the next.  I know a student is hitting the goal when ALL FOUR words are present in their life.

So what is the goal for your students?  And what are the steps they need to take to reach that goal?  I think it is time that we start Thinking STEPS in Ministry.



Thinking “STEPS” in Ministry

Around 10 years ago (that seems impossible as I write it… but it is true) I read a book that revolutionized the way I look at ministry.  It was “The 7 Practices of Effective Ministry” by Andy Stanley, Reggie Joiner, and Lane Jones.  It is an awesome book.  If you haven’t read it yet, do yourself a favor and pick it up here.  One of the practices that they highlight is “Think STEPS not Programs.”

It’s easy to think of ministry in terms of programs.  Just pull off a youth group night once a week and make it awesome and get a bunch of kids to show up… that’s good student ministry, right?  WRONG.  That’s a good program.  But one of the things that every youth pastor knows for sure is that your program is not going to disciple your students.  That’s why they wrote the chapter “Think STEPS not Programs”… because your students need to take next steps in their faith.   Without a well thought out strategy of how to move students from one step to the next… they will get stuck in PROGRAM mode and, as they grow older, will be forever unsatisfied with their faith thinking that the 1 hour a week on a Sunday is supposed to be the magic sauce that will make them grow.  So they will hop from church to church looking for that SECRET INGREDIENT… and eventually give up on the local church for “not meeting their needs.” It’s sad.. but it’s true.   Our programs need to be a PART of our strategy… but not the whole strategy.

I played a lot of baseball growing up.  Now I coach my kid’s baseball teams.  One of my favorite things about baseball is the fact that it is easy to determine how successful you are… YOU WIN or LOSE… that’s it.  And the way you win is to SCORE MORE RUNS than your opponent.  And the way you score runs is simple… you move your players from base to base until they cross home plate. (it doesn’t matter how fast either… they can walk, hit, steal… as long as they don’t get out) And they can’t skip a base (even if they hit a home run… they still have to touch all the bases).  You can’t win without going through all the steps.  This is the way people work too… they function in steps.  And in order to be successful… they need to move from step 1 to 2 to 3 and then to 4, etc…  But in most churches (probably an unfair statement, but I’ll say it anyway) it seems like the goal is to get people to the plate (sunday mornings).  The more people we can get to step up to the plate… the more successful we are.  WRONG.  Success isn’t measured by how many at bats your team has… but by how many of those at bats turn into RUNS (And I’m going to go for it here… RUNS aren’t SALVATIONS.  That is a step.  That’s like first base).  But a lot of us are so focused on the numbers game (how many at bats our team has) that we neglect how to get them on base and get them around the bases to cross the plate and score runs (true discipleship).  And, if we were brutally honest, we probably would have to admit that we haven’t even identified what those bases are and what it looks like to score runs.  But hey… a big team LOOKS impressive, right?  The illusion of success is what our culture loves to praise.

But what if we ditched that way of thinking… and actually sat down and asked “What does it look like to score runs?”  What does it look like to really DISCIPLE someone?  I bet you’d have to change the the main thing you focus on.  I know I did.  I no longer became impressed with how many students attended my gatherings.  Why?  Because I started looking at home plate from the other side.  I started asking myself “How many of those students are out in the world, after high school, making more disciples?”  OUCH!!!  The truth is brutal sometimes.  When you think of steps and not programs… it begins to change your approach.  It begins to change what you focus on.  It begins to change what you prioritize.  It also begins to change what impresses you.

So what does it look like to think steps and not programs?  How do you integrate your program into a STEPS model?

I’ll cover that in a post tomorrow. (I hate it when people do this… set you up but not deliver… but I’m tired of writing for today and this next part needs its own post)