The second lockdown can bring with it a healthy dose of introspection. With more time at home, there should be more space to think. At least you’re not being interrupted every two seconds with another request, so take the opportunity to not just work in the ministry, but work on it as well.

Working in the ministry is what you do all the time. Pastoral visits, sermon preparation, team meetings. Working in the ministry is vital, nothing happens without that, but it’s not the most important ministry you’ll do. What’s more important is working on it. It’s working on the system of how your church functions, making sure it is fit for purpose and ready come the new year. Get this right and the whole church becomes more effective. Here’s seven things to think about:

 1.     Your mission

Your mission is why you do what you do. It’s the most important thing, because it’s the foundation on which everything else is built. That mission should be something memorable, a rallying cry for your church.

Your mission statement must speak the language of who you’re called to reach, and it must be reflective of who you are as a church. Fundamentally though, it must reflect the heart of the gospel. Get this right and you’ll have the basis for church health in 2021.

 2.     Your discipleship pathway

We’ve always thought of discipleship as a course, and once you complete the course, you’re a disciple, right? Wrong.

Discipleship is an ongoing process. We all still need to be continually discipled, whether you’ve been a Jesus follower for five minutes or five decades. A ‘Discipleship Pathway’ is a framework that turns your whole church into what it should be…a means for making ongoing, passionate and fully-devoted followers of Jesus. By creating a ‘Pathway’ of 3-5 simple goals, you give people next steps they can take to deepen their walk with Christ.

This becomes the best way for helping you audit your church programmes. How are they helping disciple people? You want each programme to do just one step in the pathway and you’ll see how each programme now has a sense of purpose. Don’t be afraid to cut something too – lockdown gives you a fantastic opportunity to do this.

 3.     Your values

Your values are how you do what you do. Most churches use values as a list of things they like: “We value worship”, “we value community”, “we value Integrity”.

This, however, doesn’t help your church at all. How can your church live out worship, live out community, live out integrity? You need to rephrase this list to give your church something tangible. Instead of passive words, create actionable phrases that help people, whether they are inside the four walls of church, on a Zoom meeting or out a work. These phrases become the sayings that encourage your congregation to live out the mission God has placed on your church.

 4.     Your growth strategy

Your growth strategy is simply identifying the programmes that will help you reach more people with the gospel; it’s your evangelism strategy. Once you’ve identified the top three programmes, invest your finance and resources in them to enable them to be effective.

Every year your church naturally loses a percentage of the congregation, either through natural movement because of jobs, or disgruntled congregants wanting to find a new church. Thinking though your strategy for reaching new people (not just Christians) is imperative.

 5.     Your vision plan

Your vision plan is more crucial than ever. In a lockdown where people don’t know where they’re going or what they’re doing, there is a greater need than ever for a church that is passionately moving towards the mission God has for it.

Set one thing you can achieve as a church over the next three to five years and ask your church to use their time, money and prayers to help you achieve it. The mission should never be “stuff” (numbers, buildings etc) but rather, focus your church on the people you’re called to reach. The “stuff” is just a plan to help you get there.

 6.     Your finance strategy

Now is a great time to start looking at how you budget as a church. Many churches will have signed off the budget for 2021, but the process of how you’d like to budget in principle can be done now, ready for next year.

How you budget links to your financial principles, and as such, its best to think of your finance strategy in terms of percentages, that way it’s not based around actual amounts, so it will scale up or down as your church changes.

Set some minimums and maximums to guide you. What would be your maximum amount for spending on staffing or on debt repayment? What would be the minimum amount you’d give away or save for growth? Create a pie chart of your ideal budget and then try to get there over the next five years.

Great vision needs a great budget to help you get there.

 7.     Your online strategy

In 2020 every church was launched into the online sphere, but what’s your plan moving forward? What’s going to happen when in-person gatherings are back?

Online Church is here to stay, so you’ll need to carefully think through how you’re going to use it, whether as a “shop window” strategy, an alternative to in-person services for those who are unable to attend in-person, or will it be a combination of both?

Don’t leave your online strategy to drift before you hit 2021.

Take one step further

This year has shaken to the core how we thought church should operate, so now you’ve already started to change, take that one step further in 2021. This second lockdown gives you the perfect opportunity to make real changes that will help your church be healthier and more effective for the long run.

Chris Bright is the Co-Founder of thinking.church, a company that offers facilitation services to help churches think through their mission, vision and strategy. You can book a free consultation call with Chris by going to bookme.name/thinkingchurch

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