Doing Planning Differently

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What if you focused on making already-planned ministry events better rather than creating new events? Olu Brown offers three planning strategies for Doing Church Differently™ and returning to simplicity.


At Impact Church, we trademarked the term Doing Church Differently™. Currently, we are saying Doing Planning Differently because there is little that is the same compared to our plans before COVID-19. When the pandemic started, everything shifted. I could see there was a need for planning with a focus on simplicity. Our church programs and ministries had become too complex and complicated. Leaders often weren’t stepping back and looking at the efficacy of their programs and ministries while asking critical questions that included: Why are we hosting this annual event? Does this program reach people for Jesus Christ or divert the church’s resources to fruitless areas? Does this investment speak to why we exist as a church or ministry?  

In their book, Simple Church: Returning to God’s Process for Making Disciples, authors Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger make a similar observation, shared years before COVID-19. “Simple is in. Complexity is out. Out of style at least. Ironically people are hungry for simple because the world has become much more complex.… The result is a complicated world with complex and busy lives. And, in the midst of complexity, people want to find simplicity.”   

The shift was literally to get simple again and take the complexity out of church. The only way this could be accomplished was by planning differently. Here are three ways to accomplish planning differently to return to simplicity.  

Planning strategy 1: Less is better.  

Live by the philosophy that less is better. In our culture, consumerism is a major driving force. Even when we have more, we want more for the sake of more. Have you ever planned for the upcoming year and said, “Our ministry and program calendars aren’t full. This is great?” You likely said, “Our ministry and program calendars aren’t full. Let’s pack them with as many events as possible.” When we don’t assess or appreciate what we already have, we have a tendency to do too much, wasting precious resources in the process.  

Allow me to offer a suggestion. What if you sat with your ministry leaders and agreed not to add any new ministry events to the calendar and instead assess what you are already doing? Lean into what you have planned and make it even better.   

Planning strategy 2: God first and not self  

Most churches settle for good plans and not God plans. There is a big difference. Good means these ideas and ministries have merit. Because a number of people in the church think it is a good idea, other leaders align with the idea and commit time, talents, and treasure to the effort. After the idea or ministry is launched, there is little to no evaluation of the merits and metrics of the idea or ministry, and it becomes a never-ending annual event with a lifetime approval certification.  

God plans are ideas and ministries that seem impossible. These are ideas and ministries that come through prayer and inspiration from the Holy Spirit. These plans speak life and bear fruit. On the surface, these ideas seem impossible because accomplishing these tasks will take God. Good ideas happen with our own human abilities, but God ideas only happen through the power of God. Good ideas give us glory, while God ideas give God glory. In this new normal, ask yourself and your team if you are focused on good plans that serve the church or God plans that bless humanity? There is a difference, and I hope you never settle for good when you can have God.  

Planning strategy 3: Community focus 

Plan with your community in mind, because churches that are healthy and vital are always looking outward to see ways to partner with the community. Some churches slip into decline because they refuse to connect with their communities, and as their communities change and evolve, the church remains static and becomes disconnected from the community. As time passes, the community grows, becoming more diverse while the church remains homogeneous in cultural, ethnic, and theological make-up.  

The strategy for community planning is simple: get to know your community. As you focus on planning with the community in mind, the relationship and conversations may not happen immediately, but over time they will evolve. Your church will no longer be an outsider in the community, but will be a central part of your community.  

A sure way to know if you and your church are connected to the community is found during times of celebration and tragedy. If you have to introduce yourself and your church in the midst of a community celebration or tragedy, you and your church aren’t fully connected to the community. A sign of relationship with your community is found when you don’t have to introduce yourself, and the conversation or meeting simply begins with, “Hello. It’s great to see and hear you.”  

These three strategic planning options are foolproof ways to take the complexity out of church and get simple again. At the church where I serve, when our plans don’t align with our major focus areas, we give ourselves permission to say no and eliminate any misalignment. Even with our four areas of focus, we are constantly looking for opportunities to make adjustments and continue to refine the process. What if you did the same?  


This material is adapted from A New Kind of Venture Leader (Market Square Book, 2021) by Olu Brown. The book is available at Cokesbury and Amazon. 

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About Author

Headshot of Olu Brown

Olu Brown (olubrown.com) is an author, coach, consultant, and speaker. He was founding pastor of Impact Church Atlanta (impactdcd.org), one of the fastest growing United Methodist churches in the country.


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