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The 6 Steps of Planning (Starting a New Church)

Planning is the process of first thinking about and then organizing the activities required to achieve a desired goal.

God Plan image

The Tension

I like to plan. My wife sometimes says I like to plan too much – guilty! I do believe, however, that tension exists between our desires to plan and to just let go and trust God. Whether its career planning, financial planning or planning to launch a new church, we have to wrestle with the proper balance between our planning and simply trusting God. I’ve heard some say that “God’s going to do what God’s going to do” despite our efforts, so why bother planning.  I don’t agree.

The Bible and Planning

One thing I do know is that God will build His Church! But I also believe it’s clear in the Bible that God desires order – and planning  facilitates order. One of the clearest examples of Biblical leadership and planning is in Nehemiah. Nehemiah had a mega project on his hands in rebuilding the wall when he returned to Jerusalem. After inspecting the damaged wall, he designed the plan by first breaking down this daunting project into smaller tasks. How Jeremiah approached rebuilding the wall, gives us insight on how to develop the plan for starting a new church. Before we dive any deeper, here are a few other examples of where the Bible speaks on planning.

Jesus on Planning

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.” Luke 14: 28-30

Proverbs on Planning

“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” Proverbs 16:9

“The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.” Proverbs 21:5

The 6 Steps of Planning

Step 1: Start with the End in Mind

Once you have a clear picture of the end (in this case opening day of the new church), you can begin the planning process working “right to left” meaning starting with opening day and working backwards with planning details to today (or when you plant to get started).

“To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. It means to know where you’re going so that you better understand where you are now and so that the steps you take are always in the right direction.”

Stephen Covey: 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Step 2: Develop Strategies

There are a number of strategies that need to be defined in the plan for starting a new church. Here are a few:what-plan

  • Fundraising
  • Marketing
  • Outreach
  • Discipleship
  • Assimilation
  • Staffing
  • Facility
  • Equipment
  • Budget

Eventually, you’ll want a written plan for each of these strategies, but begin first with a purpose statement (1-3 sentences) for each of them. After defining a clear purpose, identify 3-5 key objectives that need to happen for the purpose to be fulfilled. After defining key objectives, identify specific tasks needed to accomplish each objective. An example task for marketing would be to generate an exhaustive list of potential marketing tools (ex. flyers, direct mail cards, radio/newspaper advertising).

Step 3: Grouping and Sequencing

Identify the relationships between tasks and note which tasks need to be finished before or after others. If necessary, draw the relationships on a large wall chart so the dependencies are clear. For example, the church name is selected before incorporating, incorporation occurs before obtaining an Employer Identification Number (EIN), the EIN number is needed to file for 501(c)(3) non-profit status and most states require 501(c)(3) determination before granting state sales tax exemption.  A great example of why sequencing is important!

Step 4: Scheduling

Identify durations for each task by asking how long it will reasonably take to complete the task once it is started. For example, obtaining 501(c)(3) non-profit status from the IRS will take approximately 90 days from the time the application is submitted. And completing the IRS From 1023 (with associated attachments) to request 501(c)(3) status takes about two weeks. To simplify management of the schedule, look for logical groupings of tasks to designate as milestones. For example, the 6-8 actions required to obtain 501(c)(3) status may be linked to a milestone called “Complete Federal Legal Requirements.”

Step 5: Budgeting

Now that the tasks are identified and we know how long we can expect each task to take, we need to identify the cost for each task. The cost element consists of two components: time and materials. In other words, the person completing the task may be drawing a paycheck so their time needs to be compensated.  Additionally, there may be an associated expenditure for some tasks and some are BIG ONES (ex. AV Equipment). To develop an overall budget, simply add up the total costs associated with the tasks.

Step 6: Assigning Tasks

The final step in the 6 Step Planning Process is assigning responsibility of each task to individuals on your team. The key take-away here is that you can’t do it all yourself! But in reality, you as the church planter will “own” many of these tasks but this is a good time to establish a culture of delegation and be willing to release tasks to folks on your team.

Back to Nehemiah

God did an amazing work through Nehemiah in the rebuilding of the Jerusalem wall. The plan was successful due to Nehemiah’s obedience in that he first prayed and fasted as he sought God. God answered Nehemiah’s prayer with a clear vision and in the end God was glorified. Nehemiah clearly shows us how we should begin our planning process by first seeking God and then joining Him in where (and how) He is at work.  And in the end God will be glorified as He builds His church!