Unfiltered: Real Church Planting Conversations

Let's get planning

Episode Summary

When planting a church, a strategic plan is a wise first approach to solidify and implement the church's vision. In this episode, let's talk about the different approaches church planters can use to help build a successful strategic plan with their team that will last.

Episode Notes

When planting a church, a strategic plan is a wise first approach to solidify and implement the church's vision. In this episode, let's talk about the different approaches church planters can use to help build a successful strategic plan with their team that will last. 

0:23 Lee Stepheson introduces the episode topic and asks Danny Parmelee if he used strategic planning during his church planting time. 

1:17 Danny shares how through this process, he learned that planning was another passion of his. 

2:08 Lee asks Danny what the most valuable part about strategic planning is through a formalized process? 

2:50 Danny says going through a formalized process helps the church planter not just think of ideas, but it is "having that clarity of saying, OK, here's where we're at, here's where we want to go, how are we going to do it?"

4:06  Lee talks about his first experience with the StratOp process and how he has been certified to help other churches.

6:34 There are two strategic planning processes Lee shares he is familiar with: the StratOp and the Auxano process. He suggests Auxano for newer churches. 

8:32 When do you do strategic planning when planting a church? 

9:48 Lee thinks since everything is so young in the prelaunch phase of a church, it's best to wait at least a year or two before getting a professional consultant to do any strategic planning with your team. 

11:33 Danny Parmelee confesses that when he was a part of the church planting process, he naively tried to do the planning independently. He shares the importance of buy-in from the people meant to be a part of that phase. 

14:39 Lee suggests you start planning for seven years and work your way back. It is going to take baby steps. 

16:31 Danny asks Lee how committed a pastor and team should be to sticking with the plan. 

17:37  Lee encourages the listeners to stick to the plan as best as possible and suggests that a good consultant will work alongside someone for an entire year. 

Episode Transcription

Lee Stephenson: Hey everyone, welcome to the Unfiltered podcast. My name is Lee Stevenson and I have the joy of serving as the executive director of Church Planting with Converge.

Danny Parmelee: And I'm Danny Parmelee, I oversee church planting for Converge MidAmerica.

Lee Stephenson: And today we're going to be talking about within our podcast, kind of the idea of strategic planning. I know as I've talked with, and done some coaching with different church planters over the years that this seems to be kind of a more heightened sense of importance to think about when it comes to how do we think through the vision and even the implementation of the vision? Danny, your time that you were at Epichos? Did you guys ever give serious thought to strategic planning? If so, what did you do? or How did you do it?

Danny Parmelee: Yeah, now I'll preface it a little bit by saying that I love strategy. And would have probably even said that strategic planning was kind of a passion area of mine, but definitely struggled with it in the beginning. And I think partly due to the nature of like, when you're doing strategic planning, it's kind of just you as the church planter, and you're trying to do it with volunteers. And so the implementation side of, you know, following the strategic plan, once it's kind of laid out is difficult. But we did do a formal process, we used StratOp, which I know that you're certified in and you know, I will love for you to speak to some of that. That was helpful for us. But that was also at a time when we did have a number of paid staff, we did you know, hire an outside consultant to come in and to walk through which that was super helpful, maybe not so much for church planters that, you know, in the very beginning are going to have the money to be able to do that. And also even the people resources, the staff to kind of follow through. But that was really, really a helpful process for us.

Lee Stephenson: When you say it's a helpful process, what was you know, if you were to rewind a little bit, what was the most helpful part of actually going through a formalized process?

Danny Parmelee: Yeah. So because I love, just and I think that a lot of church planters do too, just sitting around, coming up with ideas, tossing things around here, there, those things can just die as, "Hey, remember that one time when we talked about this." But when you have a formal process, you begin to kind of identify what the issues are. And then to really narrow down on what it is you're going to do and kind of the timeline and who's responsible. So I think that those are the biggest things in strategic planning, instead of like, Oh, we need some sort of magic bullet. Sometimes it's, it's just having that clarity of saying, okay, here's where we're at, here's where we want to go, how are we going to do it? Who's going to do it? And then you have an actual printed document so that you can refer back to it and say, Okay, well, hey, we said we were going to do this, did we actually do that? Or who's the one that's responsible for carrying that out?

Lee Stephenson: Fantastic. Yeah, I think you hit a key point when it comes to thinking through strategic planning that in the in the lifecycle of a church plant early on, even though it may be important, it may be difficult to actually have the resources, the funding, and I would even call the people resources to do a strategic planning Well, from an formalized process.

Danny Parmelee: What about you? Yeah, for your church plants? And especially because I mean, I mean, you have a professional background in this. And so how did that go for you both, you know, first Harvest and second Harvest type of thing. And, you know, I know that sometimes as church planters and if you have a professional background, you're like, "Oh, this is what this is going to look like." And then, "wait, that's right. I've got just volunteers at this point."

Lee Stephenson: Yeah, great, great question. I, I was first introduced to the StratOp process about four years into our first church plant. And I had a I had a good friend that actually had just gotten certified. And so he was looking to get some practice hours of doing it onto his resume and stuff like that. And so he actually called and said, Hey, I'll do this for free. If if you just let me kind of walk through this three day process with your team, and I went free, you're talking my language, let's give it a shot. And yeah, I had no real idea what to expect. And I can tell you first foremost, like by the time we were done with day three, I loved it. I just, I love the clarity. I love the conversation it created with our team. I felt like it took our team's understanding of the vision and what it's going to actually take for us to move into the future, and it put us all on the same page. And I've heard it said, if you can get every person on your team rowing in the same direction, there's there's like, nowhere you can't go. And that's what I saw is the power of the formalized strategic planning process is, it really helps solidify and get everybody rowing in the same direction. Or it helps people realize, you know what, this is not what I thought it was. And, maybe it's my time to exit. And so it creates some of that opportunity. I, I loved it so much that I kind of filed way in my mind that if I ever had the opportunity to get certified to do this, I would love to do it. And it wasn't that much longer. When I we actually made the transition to the Converge circle that about the time I completed the first year here, we decided to go ahead and go through the certification. And so Converge, three of us from the executive team actually went to the StratOp certification process and got certified. And I'm so thankful to be able to have that skill set and to be able to help churches with that. Since then, I've also gone through the Auxano certifications. And so they have two levels of certifications, the church unique and God dream certifications that I've now completed as well. And so both of those are really, really good. I would say, for a young church, some of the Auxano stuff, I think is actually better than the overarching StatOp process because it's more church centric, and its approach and the language that it uses than just a straight StratOp. Now for me at this point, I've kind of meshed the two, I've taken some of the best principles that came out of the StratOp that aren't necessarily copyrighted, along with what I can use from the Auxano and kind of put those things together to be able to help churches kind of move forward.

Danny Parmelee: That's, that's great. Hey, real quick you said that you had that done for you for free the StratOp now, at least back when we were doing it, having someone do a StratOp professionally is usually upwards $35 - $40,000, which, you know, it's pocket change for church planter, is probably and who knows what, it's probably more than that now, but speak a little bit too, because that's not going to be a possibility for them to kind of shell out that that amount of stuff. What would you suggest and you also mentioned Auxana, which if people don't recognize that, they may at least recognize the name Will Mancini, who, you know, wrote those books, but there's a, you know, a whole training that goes along with it. What would you suggest, for a church planter who is even in, you know, do they do strategic planning in a pre launch phase or do you say, "hey, you know, you're gonna come up with your own ideas, that's your perspectives. Don't do strategic planning until x date," you know, or x after launch or before launch or that type of thing?

Lee Stephenson: Great, great question. I, in my mind, and kind of depends a little bit on the strategic mind of the church planter, the lead guy, are they a strategist? Do they think that way? Or do they is that a difficult skill set for them to obtain or to actually carry out? I would say if there's a background where they think strategically, and they like the challenge of strategy, my encouragement, pre launch, would be grab a couple quick key books, read the books, do your best to implement some of those strategies. But I would say by year two, I would definitely look at bringing somebody in, that's an outside perspective outside voice to actually go through with positional leadership at that point, and kind of create a working strategic plan. The challenge, I think, and you kind of alluded to this early on, you just don't have the people or they don't have the time availability to actually go through a long drawn out, you know, strategic planning process, let alone they just haven't been around long enough to allow the vision and who we are culturally to sink into them. And so they may come in, and they could hijack the culture. Right and in doing so, hijack that vision and so I, I would be very cautious as a young church planter, going through too much of a formalized process with an outside perspective early on, I I would encourage you to look at maybe waiting to year or two before you begin the implementation process. But book wise, if you want to kind of self educate, there's kind of three books I would highly encourage people to read. One is read both of Will Mancini's books. So "The God Dreams" and "Church Unique". I do feel like sometimes if you try to implement exactly what the book is talking about it may in the long term be a little detrimental. It's more think big picture and principles, don't try to go through all the steps by yourself. That's, that's why there's certified people and trainers to kind of, you know, go through that. And then another book is called traction, that just talks about kind of the entrepreneurial, operational systems that will help any type of entrepreneur, let alone it'll help a church planter, it's a secular book, think through what really is important and what's not important. And I would say, it's a more simplistic understanding of kind of some of the principles that are brought up by Jim Collins in "Good to Great." And and I think it's a, I think it's a layman's understanding of strategic planning, and it would really help a church planter begin to at least put key components together, even in the pre launch phase.

Danny Parmelee: That's great. I do remember, you know, part of the frustration for me in the beginning is that I would kind of come up with a plan and think I'm saving everyone else time from having to think through all this stuff. And you know, probably some pride and ego in there, like, I've got this taken care of you don't know, you don't know what you're talking about. And then I would unveil the strategic plan to them. And they're like, what is this and so the importance of buy in, is so needed in the strategic planning process, but like you said, you don't know who to invite to the table, and they're not full time. And so to expect them to implement it. So that is kind of the catch 22. So I don't know if you have any advice for church planters in that kind of weird phase where it's like, everything is having to come from you. And yet at the same time, you're trying to build, buy in, you know, so it's not one where you're having them speak into everything, but it's also not you just going into, you know, closed room and coming out with the plan.

Lee Stephenson: Exactly, absolutely. And I do think what you alluded to is it is an important thing not to skip over, it's the people resource of implementing a strategic plan is, is really a requirement. If you don't have that, there's only so much that the lead pastor, you know, the church planter can do on their own. And it's easy to get overwhelmed with the to do list of, we got five major things or for instance, that we need to work on in the next six months. And they're major. And so if you don't have help, doing the heavy lifting, you're going to bog yourself down, and eventually nothing gets done. Or best best case scenario, you're mediocre at best. Because you're trying to be all things to all people. And the way that this, you know, the strategic plan is is implemented. I highly encouraged like when a church goes through the implementation of the strategic plan, that for instance, the lead pastor actually doesn't have any of the responsibility to make sure these things are carried out that the team members are the ones that are delegated the responsibility. Now, the lead pastor may sit on a team, and will share their voice and make sure things stay in the right direction. But when it actually comes to the responsibility implementation, that's where the power of the team actually comes into play.

Danny Parmelee: Yeah, that's really, really great. Awesome, well, what other what other things? You know, maybe for for guys that this is brand new give what is kind of strategic planning, especially I'm thinking even timing wise. So you go through a business one, it might be like, hey, let's look at 18 months and five years in church planters, especially, you know, COVID, or post COVID type of scenario like we just need to get through next month. What do you suggest for some of those timing things? Like how far are you really looking out when you're doing strategic planning as a church planter?

Lee Stephenson: Yeah, great, great question. That's where I think some of the Will Mancini materials are actually a little stronger than a StratOp is thinking through the future of kind of where are we focused on and, and the way that that operates is really kind of four levels. One is kind of what we call the beyond the horizon goal. So let's say seven years, where do we hope to be like when it comes to influence what kind of church do we hope to be known as when it comes to our community and that kind of setting a high level seven year trajectory. Beyond seven years, it's going to get lost, and most likely it's going to be changed. And so it's highly encouraged like don't think any further out than seven years. Because you don't know, like, we may have another pandemic, we may have another housing crisis, like, you can't predict certain things. And so think about seven years, and then you begin to break it down. Okay, If this is our hope in seven years, where do we need to be at by year three. And then you kind of highlight four key aspects of, hey, these things need to be evident by year three, in order for this to be a reality at year seven, and then you reverse engineer at another layer and go Okay, in one year from now, where do we need to be in order to see momentum moving us forward? And then now that you have clarity around that one year kind of perspective, then you break it down into quarterly chunks? So it's kind of like, hey, in the next 90 days, what do we need to accomplish? Then after that, the next 90 days, you know, and so you build out your first year. And so the nice thing is that it's kind of the "What about Bob", now you have baby steps to kind of move towards your you know, your end goal and your end result?

Danny Parmelee: Awesome. How many? How many church planning podcasts we'll look to? What about Bob as their inspiration for how to plant a church? I think that should be the Podcast title.

Lee Stephenson: So much comes from that movie. So much comes from "What about Bob", it's amazing how practical it is to everyday living.

Danny Parmelee: That's great. But one more one more question for you. With kind of with timing, how much do you stay married to it? And how much do you allow for flexibility, but also not being so flexible that you're just, you know, flavor of the month type of pastor and like, hey, let's do this, hey, let's do this, like pivot pivot pivot, that was the favorite word, you know, for the pandemic, but how do you utilize the strategic plan in a way that it also doesn't limit you if all of a sudden God is truly leading in another direction?

Lee Stephenson: Yeah. And that, to me, that's the power of a good kind of consultant or strategic planner that works with you through the formal system is they don't just walk you through, say, Hey, we had a weekend retreat, and we nailed it to the wall, and we got it. Here you go. Good luck. A good strategic planner will actually operate and work with you over the first year on how to best begin to implement it. And I think the key thing is you got to have a champion that kind of owns the process that works side by side as well with that consultant, on helping them think through how to best implement it. And I really encourage like, stick to the plan, unless you have a major event. You know, a global pandemic, just stick to the plan, operate the plan. And you got to know yourself. Like if you're a visionary leader, the chances are every 90 days, you want to re invent the vision anyways. And you're just gonna, you're gonna burn people out if that's your, your pattern. And so it's like, slow down, you worked hard to create the plan for a reason, trust the fact that the Holy Spirit's in that process, and just just do the plan. And honestly, it should be more freeing in the long run, if you just kind of walk, walk the plan as necessary.

Danny Parmelee: It's great, good stuff.

Lee Stephenson: Yeah. And I think it's good to let our our listeners know that even as Converge churches, there are a number of people all over the country that have gone through different layers of this certification process. And many of them will do it at a low cost for Converge churches. And I would say even, like, I know from the national team here, we'll do it. And we just asked for a basic donation to go towards the district and church planting efforts at the district. And honestly, it's significantly cheaper than what you'll find if you go out and just hire, you know, Joe off the street to come in and do your strategic plan as well. So I think that's a helpful resource, just to know that it's out there. And and again, there are a number of people in all the districts that have actually gone through some layer of the certification process.

Danny Parmelee: That's great. And you were referring to Mr. schmo? Right. Joe Schmoe.

Lee Stephenson: Joe Schmo. You got it.

Danny Parmelee: Yeah, I've heard of him. I've heard of him.

Lee Stephenson: Well, Danny, thanks, man is fun conversation. Just talking about strategic planning. Honestly, we could talk about this for hours. I just encourage people do a little bit of reading, do a little bit of research and contact us if you have questions about how to best go about this as well. Thanks for tuning in everyone to the Unfiltered podcast where we are just working to keep it real. Until next time, keep it real.