When I first began in ministry over 25 years ago, a lot of discussion within the church leadership setting centered around long-range vision planning. We were taught that each church should set goals for what they want to accomplish over the next 20 years. These goals were based upon the vision that God has given to your church and they enabled us to set milestones to accomplish 15 or 20 years into the future.
Most experts agree today that long-range vision planning in the church setting has at best become ineffective. With our rapidly changing culture in America, long-range planning is outdated as soon as we begin implementing it. Three to five years into our plan we discover that the long-range goals are no longer valid due to the rapid changes in our church and community. So, how do we plan effectively in order to accomplish the vision that God has given to our church?
Here is where I want to suggest 3 Levels of Vision Planning. These three levels are long enough to provide a path to vision fulfillment, while short enough as to not be outdated before you can implement them.
90-Day Vision Planning
This level looks at the next season in the life of the church and answers the question “what do we want to accomplish during the next 90 days?” I suggest breaking the church year into four 90-day periods that align with the seasons of the year: Winter (Dec. – Feb.); Spring (Mar. – May); Summer (Jun. – Aug.); and Fall (Sep. – Nov.).
Each season carries with it unique opportunities for ministry. For example, an all-church emphasis (i.e. 40 Day of Purpose by Rick Warren) is good to implement in the fall season. Outdoor events such as soccer camps, Vacation Bible School, and Movies in the Park are great during the summer season.
The main point of 90-day planning is to always be planning for the upcoming season while you are carrying out your ministry plans during the current season!
1-Year Vision Planning
This level asks the question “what does God want to do during the next year of our churches calendar?” There are two options for designing a 1-year plan: (1) follow the calendar year from January to December; or (2) follow the seasons of the year mentioned above. When using option 2, I usually start with the fall season, or September 1. This is the time of year when everyone is going back to school and is a natural “starting point” in the lives of the people in your community.
3-Year Vision Planning
This level follows the basic structure of “long-range” planning from years ago. It answers the question “where does God want us to be 3 years from now?” This level works well for items like purchasing land or expanding facilities, adding staff based upon milestones of future growth (i.e. when we reach 200 in attendance we will hire one staff member), and any items that are too far in the future to fit into one of the other levels.
Effective church vision planning and goal setting involves planning at all three levels, while also being open to God-moments when He provides opportunities that your plan does not cover. Vision planning enables God to work through the lives of people with whom He partners to reach this world.