By Allen Quist & Tim Robnett
Throughout this book, we have been challenged as leaders to seek a continuously growing, dependent, love relationship with Jesus Christ, and from that relationship be his servant-leader in the life of your church and congregation. We have challenged you as a group to pray, to study, to share, to discuss, to discover, and to write out what you believe is God’s purpose and mission. We have challenged you to discover God’s vision for you—the clear, unique, and inspiring word-picture of the ministry he intends for you and your church or your ministry for a time, which will be consistent with his purpose and mission.
We have challenged you servant-leaders to take on a balance of two roles: (1) to be Christ’s steward, to lead Christ’s people to carry out God’s purpose and mission and his unique vision for your church or ministry, and (2) to be Christ’s steward to serve, love, and develop those being led. It is within the context of all the previous chapters that we open the discussion on implementation.
Suppose our congregation and we spent a year or two learning God’s vision and plan for us to put new life into our congregation. We held meetings, surveyed the congregation for passions and gifting, surveyed the community for a profile of needs, and arrived at what we believed was God’s unique vision for our congregation in this season of the life of our church. We carefully planned the detailed, measurable steps we would take to make God’s vision a reality. We even worked out a budget to be sure we would be able to pay for the new thrust. We have put in thousands of hours of effort—but nothing happens. It takes faith to create a plan, but it takes great faith to implement a plan—that is where the risk is.
I (Allen) was meeting with a church in a situation similar to what we just described. They had done a lengthy analysis, held long sessions of prayer and discussion, and spent hours of writing to come up with a vision and plan. (They said they already had a purpose and mission statement, which I did not see.) Since the church was in trouble at the time I was there, I asked them how it went when they implemented the plan they had put together. They answered that they never did get around to putting feet to the plan; it was in the filing cabinet gathering dust. Because they had never taken the first step, nothing changed that they had wanted to change.
Nothing ever happens with a vision and plan unless a leader directs the faith step. Joshua and Israel would have remained on the east side of the Jordan if Joshua had not led them to take the faith steps. Our church will have only a dream of new life if that faith step is never taken.
Taking those first and continuing faith steps is called Implementation. It is the process of making God’s vision and plan for us a reality. Implementation is the “faith” ingredient in any intention to do something differently. Read Hebrews 11 to see “faith” in action.
Unfortunately, implementing a plan (a change) is often poorly understood.
You may be asking, “What are you talking about? Making a plan happen cannot be all that difficult. It simply means to start taking the steps spelled out in the plan.”
Achieving a quality Spirit-led and Spirit-driven implementation is a great deal more than just taking the first steps. It also involves dealing with the barriers we will encounter along the way.
For years in banking, I (Allen) was involved in managing various changes and made many mistakes. Probably the most critical mistake I made was putting all my attention to coming up with an action plan to solve whatever problems we were dealing with. I had learned that problems were the difference between our current situation and what was desired. Therefore, all we needed to do was accurately decide what our current situation was, and what was ideal, and then arrive at a plan of action to make the change.
That approach worked for a while because no one was affected deeply. However, as we moved into the early 1990s and the banking industry entered what we called “merger mania,” suddenly leadership was affecting lives deeply. People were losing or changing jobs and experiencing all the misgivings that come with job change.
Fortunately, the bank I was working for had a heart for the employees. Soon after a merger announcement came news of a transition plan; a plan to care for the staff whether they were being displaced or kept. What a revolutionary idea! Leaders had spent time coming up with a plan to care for us.
Admittedly, there was a business reason to explain a portion of the bank’s care. The bank could not afford a mass exodus of the staff. And without some specific action, a mass exodus would have happened.
The bank, however, went much further than just preventing our mass exodus. In addition to an exit package for all displaced employees, regardless of position, they provided outplacement counseling, résumé writing support, help in finding other jobs, and notice far in advance of the time management would displace people. The plan did not remove the fear reaction within the ranks, but it went a long way to reduce it, and I was introduced to a whole new world of managing change and transition. Christ used a secular organization to introduce me to what I now see is needed in many churches today—helping people deal with the fears that follow the change in their lives.
However, Christ was not through teaching me about transitioning people. Three years later, the next bank I was working for announced their merger, and once again I was back in the business of managing change and transition. Our Lord had more lessons for me to learn.
During this second merger and transition management experience, I had the opportunity to become involved earlier. This chapter is largely what I learned from those two mergers and transitions—especially the second.
Please remember that you are a servant-leader, with two equally important roles—to be Christ’s stewards in the life of the church and his stewards in the lives of those in the congregation.
We often think of implementation as a plan-oriented work. It is more than that. It is the work of discovering the purpose, mission, and vision as well. Even the activity of determining God’s vision for our church will not happen if one or more leaders do not take the first step.
Coming up with God’s purpose, mission, and his unique vision statement for us does not just happen accidentally. It takes the right people (people who can set aside their personal agendas) and the best environment (where people are reasonably comfortable). It takes safe relationships (where people are acceptably comfortable with one another), organized and coordinated Scripture study, a focused prayer time, and a guarded discussion time where each person’s safety is protected.
Intentional and careful work to discover God’s vision is key to reaching a prayerfully thought-out purpose, mission, and vision statement.
One often forgotten factor in discovering God’s vision for us is the time it requires. We cannot hurry this. We have heard of churches that have taken up to a year of prayer, study, and discussion to arrive at God’s purpose and mission statement as well as their first well-prepared vision statement. There are likely other churches that may take as little time as one evening, although we doubt that one evening is enough time.
Planning is much like discovering vision; we will need the right people, the best environment, safe relationships, organized and coordinated Scripture study, a focused prayer time, and a guarded discussion time.
However, the planning process is more complicated. Purpose and mission are heavily theological. Vision is mixed. Some characteristics of vision are theological and some engage practical needs and problems.
Because planning deals with practical steps for practical needs and practical problems, it will engage a number of issues.
Evaluation of the Community
Since churches are located within communities and within neighborhoods, part of planning requires that leadership understand the nature of the people to whom they are called to minister. This will be information such as average age and family size, the number of single parents, varying ethnic backgrounds, population change, economic trends, and the political environment.
The community evaluation will include a look at unmet needs, such as poverty, youth problems, single parent issues, young families, the elderly, hunger, and education.
Once we begin this type of analysis, we will find other subjects that will be helpful to know in order to build the church plan, especially God’s plan.
An Internal Evaluation
The internal information about our own church that would be helpful to know and understand in planning could include, but is not limited to:
God’s Vision Statement Compared with God’s Plan
As discussed in chapter 13, God’s plan is God’s vision statement expressed in measurable action steps. Discovering God’s plan will require the same care and diligence that is needed to discover God’s vision for us.
If part of God’s vision for our church is a new evangelism thrust, God’s plan will develop specific measurable steps to carry out that vision. The plan may include specific headings, such as “Develop a training program for evangelism” or “Create leadership for the program.”
In the plan under the heading to “Develop a training program,” there will be specific actionable measurable steps to take, such as “Choose five of the best evangelists from the congregation.” Notice the step is measurable. We can tell when it starts and when it is completed. That is the key for all steps.
God’s budget is God’s action plan expressed in terms of money—the cost of doing the plan. Please refer to chapter 13 for a review of the budget. We do not intend to go into detail on developing the budget. Quality budgeting is a subject that would easily take an entire book to explain.
Your church will need people who are thorough, who do not take shortcuts. Your church will need people who can take the mountain of information, analyze it (keeping in mind God’s purpose, mission, and vision), and put together a plan and budget to make it happen.
[BEFORE CONTINUING, IT MAY BE HELPFUL TO REVIEW CHAPTERS 6, 8, AND 9.]
Once upon a time in the “Valley of Difficult Leading,” our leader gave us an assignment: to build a trail to a village in the mountains where the people are starving. While we will have many assistants from our “Valley of Difficult Leading” to help us, we will also have a number of opponents who will hinder us. But we are to love and protect them all, even the opponents whose intent is to stop or hurt us.
During the journey we are about to embark on, we will consistently meet our opponents, the “self-interest” and “fear” in other people. An opponent might even be another leader. Those opponents will be along the path, throwing things at us, trying to trip us, trying to confuse us by yelling or giving us false directions, and trying to frighten us to go back with false warning signs. They will be hiding from us (avoiding) or confronting us directly (attacking). But as challenging as those opponents will be, they will not be our most difficult problem.
Our most difficult problem will be the enemies of “self-interest” and “fear” within our own minds and hearts. Our enemies will tell us to look out for ourselves, to avoid our opponents or if we cannot avoid them, to grab our swords and shields and defend ourselves. They will tell us that it is not our job to love and protect our opponents. If they cannot get on board, that is their problem. Our enemies within will tell us that we do not deserve this; it unfair for our leader to ask us to do this. If he knew our opponents like we do, he would not have asked us to love and protect them also.
This little story describes how it is when we are a servant-leader, being a steward for God, helping his people through the implementation of his plan. God is the leader who has asked us to implement his particular plan while loving and protecting even our opponents—his children who are against his plan. The enemy within us is real. That enemy is the flesh, which we have addressed throughout this book, and Paul revealed in the fifth chapter of his letter to the Galatians.
We could make it easy on ourselves if we backed off the scope of God’s plan, which he asked us to implement with his leading. Remember that we are servant-leaders, with all that we now know it means. We have two roles and BOTH need our attention. It is a servant-leader’s job to lead and manage the implementation of God’s plan through the quagmire of opponents, while fighting off the enemies in our minds and hearts. The most challenging nature of this adventure is that our assignment from God is to get the church successfully through implementation while loving and protecting everyone, including all of our opponents. How likely is it that we will do a perfect job in your assignment? It is not likely, but it is our assignment.
How about that! And you thought that implementation was going to be a piece of cake.
Here are five suggestions for leaders as we prepare for our roles in the Spirit-led implementation:
One of my favorite Scriptures on fear is what God said to Joshua as he handed Joshua the enormous job of leading his people into the Promised Land.
Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go. (Josh. 1:6–9)
Christian leaders, I believe God is still telling us to be strong and courageous and careful to obey. God is telling us not to be terrified or discouraged; he is with us.
During the second bank merger discussed earlier in this chapter, we became aware there was a sense of helplessness within the staff. Morale was lower than low. People were ready to give up, which would hurt both them and the merger process. We determined that it would be good if we could provide something that would cause forward thinking, something that would help people think optimistically about the future, and the president thought it was right and ethical to do something for the staff. We came up with training.
Why would you train people who are leaving? Where is the return in that? Contrary to what you might think, there was a return. For the company, it resulted in stronger participation in the merger process, and it was consistent with corporate values. Additionally, knowing that leadership did care helped the staff feel more valued. They began to think more optimistically about the next step in their lives. It was the right thing to do.
If developing people could help displaced bankers, what could it do for believers who are going through their transition and its resulting fear?
Developing people during the implementation of God’s plan has two benefits: 1) it will help leaders, staff, and the congregation adopt possibility thinking, and 2) it will provide a source of quality new leaders for the time of growth we will experience because of the change.
Often during transition within an organization, including a church, people start thinking back to when everything was safe, back to the way it used to be. It is a normal reaction.
Training people, especially with a development plan designed uniquely for each individual, will help people start thinking about possibilities, including new ways that God may use them. It will help people begin to think of themselves differently, viewing themselves as part of God’s vision for the church. Each person is a unique person in the church and needs to know it.
Leaders for the Future
In the future, our church will need new leaders, either to provide for the additional members in our congregation or to replace existing leaders who leave. The only way to avoid the need for new leaders is to close our church or let it die slowly.
However, if our church is growing, I cannot think of a better way to find our new leaders than growing them ourselves. It is amazing how few churches have a leadership development plan. If we are one of those, implementing a development plan simultaneously with the implementation of a God’s new vision for our church will be a double blessing.
A leader-development ministry in our church is a renewal ministry, a morale-improvement ministry, a growth ministry, and a possibility-thinking ministry. A leader-development ministry is a ministry from which will flow future pastors, missionaries, Sunday school directors, elders, deacons, worship leaders, and stronger families. A leader-development ministry will do a great deal to provide a strong leadership pool that will accept future leadership responsibilities.
By now, we have God’s purpose and mission, and we have God’s unique vision for our church. We also now have a carefully selected team of leaders and a structure in which to lead. Our leaders have embraced their new roles as servant-leaders in addition to having skill in dealing with their own fears and the fears of other people.
There are four essentials for our church to take us into Spirit-led implementation:
To facilitate implementation, we will need leaders prepared for the role of implementation. We suggest three groups plus one individual.
1. The core senior leadership of our church should be the core servant-leaders. Their roles are to be:
2. Ministry leaders with key roles in both directing ministry and facilitating change—to be thoroughly trained as servant-leaders with the task of:
3. The minister and leadership development team:
4. One person in the temporary position of senior servant leader:
We have not given you all you need to be skillful at planning and implementing. There are a number of excellent resources available to help you. Here is just a sample of what is available.
Bobb Biehl’s book entitled Masterplanning provides specific steps, a chart to aid you, and suggestions about procedures and much more. Aubrey Malphurs’ book Advanced Strategic Planning provides a comprehensive model for strategic planning, including many helps. We suggest that you look into some project software to help you organize and manage the intricacies of a plan: assigning resources, managing linkages, tracking progress, and communication. If you do decide to use software to help you, we suggest that you give the task of managing the software to one or two people as support to the core servant-leaders.
It is not our goal to give you or direct you to a specific leadership form or model. It is our prayer that regardless of what form or model you choose to use, that you will overlay the entire process with Christ’s love and sovereignty over his church and the lives of his children and his call to you to come to him, to love him with all you are, to love others, and to go make disciples.
The church is not a service club or a business that can be led and managed only using skills and principles. The church is special in God’s creation and Christ is the head of the church. Christ is to lead your congregation and you are his servant-leader.