A Simple Planning Process

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Lovett H. Weems, Jr., outlines a simple planning process that churches can use to identify issues and concerns and develop realistic plans to address them. Key to the success of this process is narrowing the focus to the five concerns most critical to the congregation’s future and coming up with one or two action steps for each.


Several years ago I came across this simple planning process that has been used successfully by a number of groups. You can determine if some or all of the process may fit some of your planning needs.

Day One — Key Issues

Participants in the planning process are asked to begin with this question: What are the key words and issues that come to mind that will affect our organization positively or negatively? Don’t elaborate.

This exercise will produce a multitude of topics, far too many for any serious engagement. Therefore, the next task in the first day is to reach consensus on the five key issues being faced by the organization. The first steps in this narrowing process will be relatively easy, using such techniques as grouping similar words and topics.

Before the day is over, the work will get much harder as the deliberation moves to making judgments about what areas are most crucial for the future. It is essential to narrow the list of issues to no more than five.

Day Two — Developing a Plan

It is one thing to identify the key issues but another to develop realistic plans to address the issues. This is the purpose of the next phase of this planning process. The work of the group turns back to brainstorming to begin this next stage.

Participants are asked the following question: What actions should we take that we have not been taking so far (or major modifications of current actions) that will improve each of the five issues we have identified? List three actions for each of the five issues.

It is one thing to identify the key issues but another to develop realistic plans to address the issues.

Again, for each of the five topic areas there will be many more actions than can be accomplished. Identify for the whole group all the suggested actions for the five areas. After eliminating duplicate or similar entries, begin the process for each of the five subject areas of coming up with the ONE OR TWO most important actions to be taken that will make a significant difference for the future.

The remainder of the planning time is spent in developing a strategic action plan for the five areas. The group identifies specific steps needed to accomplish the few but crucial actions required to make progress on what you have identified as the most important issues facing the organization.

The process is simple. The end product is relatively simple with great care being taken to limit the number of topics and actions that are attempted.


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About Author

Dr. Lovett H. Weems, Jr.

Lovett H. Weems, Jr., is senior consultant at the Lewis Center for Church Leadership, professor of church leadership at Wesley Theological Seminary, and author of several books on leadership.


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