planning

The Jolt That Jump Started the Momentum

Have you ever had one of those days where you dream about the future?

Maybe you had one of those moments talking with a trusted friend where the conversations turns to what could be and your heart starts to beat a little faster. You mind races as you bounce back and forth imagining what life would be like if we could just ______________. 

 

Unfortunately, as I’ve talked with pastors and church leaders, I’ve noticed one huge, discouraging problem! 

 

This problem plagues both organizations and individuals. 

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If you’re like me, the decade markers of our lives tend to be the moments when we evaluate our progress to date. Some people have panic attacks, others have a mid-life crisis. I landed somewhere in between. I was having a fair amount of success in my job (not in the church) but wasn’t having the kind of impact I had always imagined my life would have. I was working hard, enjoying my life but I wasn’t making any progress towards anything that remotely resembled my “life’s work”. My own life was plagued with the same, huge, discouraging problem. 

 

So, what was the huge problem I saw?

 

The problem can actually be separated into two equally important parts.

 

1. No clear, actionable plan to move toward the dream. 

More often then not, the dream of the future is much clearer than the steps to get there. That’s probably because dreaming is the easier part. Working out an actionable plan means working through a truckload of variables. It requires the ability to uncover what’s most important and which steps require priority. It requires a clear understanding of the current situation, as well as, what’s happened in the past. 

It commonly requires some type of change management, which undoubtedly requires conviction and focused energy. 

Teams need more than emotional enthusiasm; they need solid planning and strategy that empowers and executes the vision.
— Tony Morgan

That potential for conflict can stop any sort of actionable plan dead in its tracks. 

An aggressive actionable plan requires an appropriate amount of tolerance for risk and ambiguity, matched with the right timing, level of details, understood variables and defined tasks. None of which all come naturally to one person and therefore require some level of healthy conflict. 

 

2. No jolt, to break you from your current reality.

A jolt is most often the required ingredient for teams to overcome the fear of conflict.  That event that can serve as a catalyst to open the planning process and present the need for immediate action. 

Better yet, an external guide to help the process can help the team move beyond personalities. An outsider, who doesn’t, as they say, have a horse in the game can provide an unbiased focal point for your discussion and planning.  

A couple of years back, our church hit a turning point by going through this exact type of process. We hired an outside organization to walk us through a process that would point us toward a much clearer path moving forward. Starting with a two-day offsite (a jolt) we spent the following year moving through a clear actionable plan. Not only did we have a map to follow, we now had a taste for clarity and focus.  

 

Why I became StratOp certified.

 

That experience is precisely why I became StratOp certified. It has always been a passion and a calling of mine to help those I care about find clarity and purpose in what they do. The StratOp process provided the clarity and longevity to accelerate that impact. It’s why I now offer a Lead Forward process based on the Strategic Operating plan pioneered by the Paterson Center over the last 30 years. 

 
 

Leading forward to the dream and vision you have for your church’s future means is what you were meant to do. Don’t stay still and grow stale, jump forward and lead your church to the next level. 

Preaching and the Importance of Landing The Plane

I felt this panic come over me. At this point I had only taught a handful of times and I found myself at the end of my notes. I had nothing left to talk about, I’d made all three of my points and I was done. Out of nowhere I said a concluding sentence, prayed and walked off stage. The only thing worse would have been to drop my mic in the process.

I was new to this preaching thing and had spent all my time working on the main points of my message. I had completely forgot about how I was going to “land it”. In turn, it was a completely abrupt, drop out of the sky finish that left everyone jarred and confused.

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Very often we don’t give our conclusion enough credit.

Some times we treat it like an obligation. We repeat everything we’ve already covered, we pray, cover that same material again in our prayer…and then we dismiss.

Our closing is so much more than that. It is the “landing of the plane” after a journey through life and scripture together. 

In order for a conclusion to be as effective as possible we need to know how we are going to end our message (aka “land the plane”) before we even begin writing our message.

A predefined conclusion becomes the deciding factor.

By knowing where you are headed with a given message, you now have the necessary tools to help you focus your content. Does the funny story you want to tell help you move toward your conclusion?

Just like flying a plane, your planning is heavily effected by where your flight is ending. Your destination helps you decide how much fuel to bring, how many staff will be necessary, etc. The same is true with teaching. Knowing how you will conclude your message helps you decide what is most important to teach and what can wait for another day.

A predefined conclusion helps the landing seem smoother.

Landing a plane doesn’t just happen over the runway, it’s something that begins miles out. The pilot begins a process of steps down as he prepares the plane to land.

The same is true in preaching. Moving toward conclusion isn’t just a summary of the message, it is helping your audience answer the question “So what?”

Your conclusion helps them to bring your message down to earth and to apply it to their every day life.

A predefined conclusion means you can answer this question:

What do I want my audience to do as a result of this message?

The answer to that question is your conclusion, it is the landing strip for your message.

Your conclusion is the landing strip for your message.
— StevenJBarker

Take that question a step further and outline what implementation looks like for each demographic in your audience (singles, married, job seekers, managers, men, women, students, etc.)

Understanding your conclusion prior to writing your message helps to focus your preparation time and to focus your content.


Still struggling uncover your predefined conclusion? Read “The Most Under Recognized Ingredient in a Powerful Message”.

Is Your Preaching Calendar Helping or Hurting?

52 weeks of sermons. Does that seem daunting? Maybe, maybe not. We’ve got a lot of material we could cover. It shouldn’t be that hard to fill the time. You’ve been doing that for years.

52 weeks of life changing, vision casting, church growing, awe inspiring sermons. Okay, now my palms are starting to sweat.

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If you’re like most pastor’s you have a plan. You already have a system for thinking ahead and most likely already have an Annual Preaching Calendar.

But is that preaching calendar helping or hurting?

Is your preaching calendar helping or hurting?
— Steven J Barker

When it comes to building a preaching calendar, most standard advice focuses on balance.

Balancing content. Ensuring that you have some doctrinal series, some ethical series, and maybe some relational teaching as well. Not to mention balancing content between the New and Old Testament. Keeping your content fresh by balancing content types is important, but it’s not most important.

Balancing tone. It would not be very helpful if all we ever did was comfort our audience with the hope we find in Christ. At the same time it would be exhausting to spend a year only challenging people on their shortcomings. Sure, balancing the emotional tone from one series to the next is important, but it’s not most important.

Balancing style. There are many different approaches we can take to teaching.  One could address an entire book of the Bible and then in the next series into a character study of Moses or David. You could even follow those with a biblical look at parenting. Engaging a broad range of learning preferences is important, but it’s not most important.

Balance can't the primary objective for our preaching calendars, because if it is our primary objective it assumes teaching every seven days is an absolute. Do you think Paul felt that way? Did he write to the early church communities because he was on a set schedule? Not by a long shot. He wrote to help them. He wrote to address the issues they were dealing with. He wrote to cast vision. He wrote to inspire life change. He wrote to grow the church and increase those that were being saved.

So what then is our primary objective?

It’s to help people and to lead our community.

Do this right now: find your church's annual goals. Assuming that your goals are driven by a compelling, community driven, Christ centered vision, what does your church what to accomplish in your community in the next 12 months?

Print them off, set them on your desk.

Now, how can you help energize those goals?

  • What does your community need to understand about God’s character in order to move forward?
  • What’s distracting them? What are they dealing with? What is their life context?
  • If your goal is to launch more campuses, what does your church need to biblically understand in order to move forward?
  • What content, character studies, series tones and styles can help you lead your community?

When you think about your church’s annual goals, they represent your hopes, your dreams and your plans to impact your community. Goals outline our anticipated accomplishments each year, so should our preaching calendars.

Goals outline our anticipated accomplishments each year, so should our preaching calendars.
— Steven J Barker

Sure, your Annual Preaching Calendar needs to be balanced. It needs to stay fresh and engaging, but when it comes to the end of calendar will you be able to look back and say you and your church accomplished something?

What do you want to accomplish with your 52 messages this year?