It’s officially October, which means that 2016 is circling the drain.
Time to start thinking about 2017.
Why plan for the next year in October?
Let’s be honest. The Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year season is not very conducive for realistically planning the coming year. The holidays are a blur of busyness, and January ends up catching us by surprise yet again.
Wouldn’t it be better to have a plan for the next year finished early so that you can enjoy the holidays AND be ready for action in January?
For this reason, I agree with Brian Howard that October is the best time to evaluate the past year and plan for the next one.
Howard is a Network Director for Acts 29 and Executive Director of Context Coaching Inc., which he created to train pastors and leaders. I’ve greatly benefitted from his entire blog, but here I would like to link to four of his step-by-step guides to planning for the next year.
This guide is applicable to everyone.
Howard suggests beginning by rating various areas of your life (i.e. spiritual life, finances, marriage, health, career, etc.) on a scale of 1-10.
You then choose 4-5 categories to prioritize for the upcoming year.
Next after writing a clear vision statement for EACH priority, write down specific steps and actions for living out your vision statements.
Finally, the only steps left are actually living your life plan.
I highly suggest that everyone click the link above and create your own life plan for 2017.
This 5-step plan, written by Barry Rager, focuses on setting a united vision and plan for the whole family. During premarital counseling, my wife and I have begun requiring the couples to complete individual life plans before marriage and this family plan after their wedding.
Rager urges families to begin with a clearly written vision statement of how the family aims to look and act (side note: individual life plans certainly make this step easier).
He then encourages developing a strategic focus and identifying vital areas.
Once you’ve identified the priorities, write down action steps for how to live out your family’s vision.
Don’t neglect the fifth and final step: evaluate and review. Life happens, so we frequently need accountability and, sometimes, a shift in priorities. Regularly evaluating ourselves and each other keeps the family focused.
This 6-step plan is for ministry leaders.
Depending on the type and size of the ministry you lead, you may not need to go as in depth as he suggests; however, I strongly encourage every ministry leader to prayerfully work through Howard’s guide.
First, he urges defining the ministry (an action that too many ministries overlook). The questions that Howard poses are golden, such as: Why does this ministry even exist? and What is the biblical basis for this ministry? Whether you write a full page in answer to these questions or not, EVERY ministry leader should ask them on a regular basis.
He then says to describe the present, diagnose current problems, design a plan, and write out the details of the progress. As with the life and family plans, this means identifying key areas of focus and taking the time to write out specific actions to do.
Of course, don’t forget evaluate as you go throughout the year and to focus upon your own personal development.
This one is for pastors and elders of the church. Howard doesn’t call it the church plan, but since it is 7 questions that effectively follow the pattern of life, family, and ministry plans, I’m dubbing the church plan here.
Instead of 7 steps, the church plan is 7 questions that help formulate a vision plan for the church.
The seven questions are as follows:
- Why do we exist?
- Who do we serve?
- What do we prioritize?
- How will we know if we are successful?
- What will our future look like?
- What are our top 3-5 goals in the next 12-18 months?
- What is most important right now?
You’ll notice if you’ve already read all four plans that Howard isn’t reinventing the wheel with these guides.
Each one involves evaluating the present, identifying a few priorities, being specific about how to achieve those priorities, and regularly evaluating your progress.
Even though it looks like common sense on paper, I’m incredibly thankful for men like Howard who are biblically and practically training up pastors and leaders in the church.
To read more from Brian Howard, go to his blog: contextcoaching.org