Start Your Year with Success in Mind

And three other ways to plan better for the new year.

With the New Year here, church and organizational leaders should be thinking about making 2024 the best it can be. Of course, the best-made plans can be thwarted, as we saw in 2020. But even then, if plans are made the right way, with the right intentions, a strategic pivot can be made if need be and those plans can still find success. Let’s look at some key ingredients to right-way planning. 

Stay Mission-Focused

Too often, leaders go into a new year with a completely blank canvas mindset. The new year, for them, is the reset they feel like they need. Healthy churches and organizations don’t need annual resets unless they never previously decided who they are and what they are to be about. Mission is a powerful driver of strategy success. When articulated clearly and continuously, it will keep teams on track and make progress toward targeted outcomes.

Don’t Overwhelm

It’s easy to let our ideas of what could be next year become too much to handle when we’re back in the thick of the day-to-day. Every church leader knows Sunday is coming again quickly, and there are things that have to get done. Creating a burdensome list of goals for the new year is a common mistake. When we treat our organizational planning like a trip to the local buffet restaurant, it’s easy to fill our plates with things that we don’t really need or maybe even don’t want. The danger in having too many goals is that when (not if) some of them fall off pace or are not reached at all, morale and momentum suffer.

Be Specific and Strategic

If we’re not to have too many goals, how then do we choose? By first determining what the primary strategic drivers are in the organization’s key functionality. In the church, our scriptural mission mandate is the Great Commission to make and mature disciples of Jesus. The key functionality is discipleship. So our strategic goals should align around improving the primary areas of discipleship. That may result in goals around areas of ministry such as the Sunday worship experience, small groups improvement, more engaged volunteers, and gospel advancement in the city. Working toward incremental improvement in those four things would have a noticeable impact on the health and well-being of the church. Done year after year, this will result in significant advancement toward bigger, vision-oriented goals.

Start with Success in Mind

If we don’t know what the destination is, how will we know if we’ve reached it? Too many goals are left with ambiguous terms like “growth,” “improvement,” and “increase,” but fall short of defining those terms. Subjective success may be fine for some, but it’s not a win at the organizational level. Valid organizational strategies should be clear and measurable. Only then can we track progress as the year goes on. This allows for adjustments to be made month after month. Otherwise you may find yourself, a year from now, looking back and trying to decide what improvement was really made. 

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