Without a specific mission, the objectives we establish will be directionless and result in a lot of fruitless strategies.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi says, “Few things are sadder than encountering a person who knows exactly what he should do, yet cannot muster enough energy to do it.” Therefore, people need purpose, intention and integrity. Purpose is our missional purpose, intention are the clear objectives, and integrity is the harmonious ability to do what we intend.
However, what often happens for a planter is they fall trap to the “Tyranny of the Urgent” rather staying focused on their intention. A false sense of urgency will increase their activity but decreases their fruitfulness. This persistent work with little results is a frequent cause of burnout in the pastor, and disharmony in the church plant.
They expend a lot of effort, but the efforts are either misaligned or lack any traction towards an overall specific missional purpose.
For example, one afternoon, I noticed another church planter at Starbucks was working for hours on a powerpoint slide about leading worship in the round. He meticulously drew a square for the stage with the specific spot for where the pulpit, music stands and cross would stand, and then he dropped a hundred little squares to symbolize all the chair placements.
The effort he placed into that single slide was time consuming but probably was not going to help their church plant fulfill its mission (though perhaps worshipping in the round would, I am arguing simply that the task of meticulously detailing everything on that slide was busywork without real traction. He could leave the coffee shop feeling like he had “worked” that day–reporting to his launch team the 14 hour work days he was putting in–but whether that effort was really necessary is questionable). I have seen another planter who developed a personalized leadership development handbook (over 200 pages worth) before they even had someone in their flock to lead. Planters can get consumed with social media accounts, marketing strategies and databases that make them feel productive but has very little direct impact in the lives of the people they are called to pastor.
Ministry is what Peter Drucker calls, “knowledge work.” This form of work–as opposed to industrial or agricultural work–lacks specificity. A knowledge worker does not have the clear next steps and overall goals that a house painter would have–he would be able to see where one brush stroke ends and another needs to begin. Therefore, “the essence of knowledge work is that you not only have to do the work, but also [often simultaneously] define what the work is.” The doing is the “HOW,” while the defining is the “WHY.”
The problem is many of us get excited about the “how” of ministry, while failing to stay ruthlessly focused on the “why.” Therefore, we busy ourselves with HOWs (How do I get more people? How do I get more money? How do I increase commitment levels?), and forget the missional purpose. Desperate for anything to work, we scatter shot the hows hoping something will stick.
This is why I think the most important question that a church planter must come to terms with is, “Who breaks your heart?” Having clarity on the specific gospel needs of this mission target will allow you to create clear objectives, which in turn will produce daily executable tasks. The Why becomes your missional purpose which focus your clear goals in order to establish specific stragtegies.
Poor strategies, however, are the result of unclear objectives. Unclear objectives are the product of a vague missional purpose.
Too often a planter will want to throw a wide net and say “my mission is the dechurched” or “my mission is [geographical region].” However, the gospel needs of people vary tremendously and the idea that you as a planter have the capacity, capability and character to meet the needs of everyone is preposterous. Knowing succinctly and clearly to whom God has called you establishes a missional purpose.
This purpose mission becomes your top level goal. Once that is created and sharpened, it is then possible to produce mid-level goals, which become your seasonal objectives. With those clear objectives, you are now able to create daily executable tasks.
Before taking this into ministry, let’s examine this in light of running. Last year my Top-Level goal was to run an ultra-marathon. Therefore, I had to create clear objectives around mileage goals and nutritional objectives. This led to specific strategies about running 50-60 miles per week, monitoring daily intake of food, calculating fluid loss and intake during runs, yoga and strategic rest periods. I could use apps to track my weight, mileage/rest, and diet each day. I knew what type of workouts to go to, and that staying up late would be counter to this mission.
Using this approach for physical goals is often easier than other areas of life because variables are easily measurable (mileage, calories and fluid ounces are all trackable numbers).
Ministry is messier. Most pastors struggle with knowing how to gauge a successful year, month or week of ministry. It does not mean it is impossible, but it takes more work to find clear objectives and daily strategies. However, once you come up with daily strategies, you will have a means to gauge the direction God is leading you. By having daily tasks, you provide yourself little “checks” to say that you moved the ball down the field.
As one church plant coaching had taught me…a church plant is built over 1,000 coffees. This motivated me to keep count prior to our launch of how many coffee appointments I was having.
So this is how my flow chart looks this year:
Purpose: To Equip Leaders with the Gospel in order to share their faith in their places of influence in order to make disciples who make disciples.
- Relational: Spend time with leaders.
- Spiritual: Know the Gospel better than others in our community.
- Vocational: Know leadership principles and disciple-making mechanisms.
- Emotional: Be outward oriented, which requires an inward emotional resisliency.
- Physical: Be healthy enough to “keep up” with people on their turf.
- (Relational) Have 13 coffee appointments per week.
- (Spiritual) Read the Gospel every day and spend 5 minutes in meditation.
- (Vocational) Read one chapter of a leadership book every day.
- (Emotional) Send a note of encouragement to someone each day.
- (Physical) Workout everyday & meet people where they are.
As a first draft…write your missional purpose. Then proceed to consider how you would categorize your objectives that would help move you towards the missional purpose. Then create SMRT (specific, measurable, realistic and time-bound) strategies that can be executed daily or at least multiple times per week.