4 Steps to Take When Your Plans Go Wrong

This past week, a major snowstorm hit the east coast dumping massive amounts of snow on the New England states.  In my town in Pennsylvania it was predicted that we would get between 8-14″ of snow overnight.  In preparation for that storm, businesses advertised they would be closed the next day, some schools would be closed, parents allowed their children to stay overnight with friends, and school teachers stayed up late knowing that they would not have to go to work the next morning.

Then, the unpredictable happened.  As the evening went on, a small high pressure system developed over our area and remained in place the entire evening.  It was snowing to the west and to the east of our location, but this small area of high pressure formed a wall that kept the snow from  hitting our area.  The result was that we had no snowfall throughout the night.  However, everyone had made plans based upon the forecast.

The next morning we discovered a very different world than was predicted just the night before.  The plans no longer worked, the strategy no longer fit the circumstances, and everyone was scrambling to figure out how to respond.  Sounds a lot like the church, doesn’t it?  We plan our plans and dream our dreams only to find out that something unpredictable has changed our world.  We are left asking the question:  “What do we do when our plans don’t work out right?”  Let me suggest 4 simple steps to take.

  • Reevaluate your plan:  Take a fresh look at what your strategy or plan looked like and what has changed in your current circumstances.  Even when things work out right, it is a great practice to continually reevaluate why you are doing what you are doing.
  • Develop a new plan:  Based upon the changing circumstances, develop a new strategy or plan.  Reevaluate your strategic goals and develop new goals based upon the new circumstances.  Our world is fluid and is constantly changing.  Many times this takes us off guard and we find ourselves behind in the game.  That’s when we need to reevaluate and develop new strategies for this changing world.  See my post on 3 Level Vision Planning for more help in this area.
  • Respond immediately:  When you find yourself off track, begin immediately taking steps back toward the right path.  The longer you wait to respond, the further you will get from your intended target.  I am famous for getting “in the zone” when driving and talking at the same time.  One time I was leading two vans full of people toward our destination at a retreat center.  Finally, one of the team asked me why we were heading the direction we were traveling when I should have taken a left turn back at a certain intersection.  The problem was that he waited 25 minutes to let me know I had missed my turn.  I learned that day the quicker you respond to changing circumstances, the shorter the time it takes to get back on the right path.
  • Learn from your mistakes:  When we miss a goal or our circumstances change, there are always things that we can learn from our mistakes.  Back to my snow storm example for a moment.  As the evening progressed, the high pressure system developed and remained stationary.  Had the business owners, parents, and schools kept an eye on the developments, they would have noticed that throughout the evening the forecast began to change and the snowfall amounts were lowered.  The indicators were changing and the weather forecasters were adjusting their predictions.  Thus, the events of the next morning would have been different if someone had kept an eye on the circumstances as they were changing.  It could have been as simple as staying up and watching the weather forecast instead of being distracted by their favorite TV show.  Most times, the predictors of change in your circumstances are there to be seen, but no one is watching for them.

Our world is changing faster than we can imagine.  Even our best predictions and goal setting efforts will fall short many times.  However, implementing these four steps will help you make sure your plan is as effective as possible and will help you make a better difference for God’s kingdom.

How will you implement these four steps into your goal and strategy planning?

3-Level Vision Planning


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?

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The Strategic Church Leadership Process, Part 2

Strategic Church Leadership

In The Strategic Church Leadership Process, Part 1, I discussed the first two steps of the process:  Clarify the Culture, and Identify the Values.  Once the culture of your church has been clarified and the values identified, you can then move on to setting the goals necessary to accomplishing the vision that God has given you for your church.


Developing good goals within the church setting is a difficult process.  The exception to this is when your leadership team is comprised of business leaders and executives who have been exposed to the goal setting process.  However, taking the time to help your leadership understand how to develop good goals is crucial to achieving your unique vision.  In this step, you begin to develop a list of goals that the church needs to accomplish in order to make the vision a reality.  In goal setting, it is vitally important to understand the many varied aspects that go into planning the goals for the church.  I will list a few of the major aspects here.

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