The church always seems to find itself on the wrong side of the bell curve. Admittedly it’s not easy, being adaptable and relevant without losing your base is no small feet. But, it is the tightrope we are required to walk. Our message is one that must be shared and cannot be hidden. It deserves the best and our best efforts to share it.

In the era of disruption of industries, the church is not immune. And just like in the business world the playing field has been leveled.

“No longer does having a large building or budget means you will have the most potential for impact or growth. The nimble church wins.”

Whoever chooses to lean into innovation rather than preservation will see the change they want to see. This does not happen by chance but by fundamental planning practices that encourage your leadership to be creative.

2 Questions to ask when doing major church planning

1. Have we done this before?
There’s nothing wrong with doing something again but you should take time review any notes and feedback from the last time you ran this initiative. Don’t have any? – start now here’s a free google doc. So often churches unknowingly repeat unsuccessful services and events partially due to not checking feedback or not having feedback.

If you’ve never done this before, then be sure to make clear objectives and goals for defining your success. Part of the balance that makes this a challenge is that as a church we are doing “good word”. We ought to be doing bible studies and small groups and it’s hard to imagine us not doing them. We need to weigh the current gains to potential gain. In short, repeating is not bad, but repeating for repeating sake is detrimental to your church’s future.

2. Is this our comfort zone?

Most church planning happens with the same people in the room or the same senior leaders. If you look at how other industries crack the mold they do so at the base level and interact with actual end users. By surveying the people that may be considered to be on the fringes, you can gain a lot of insight as to the real resistances that block the engagement you want to see from your congregation and community. Working out of your comfort zone is the harder of the two questions. This is where you can potentially lose or alienate your core. Don’t leave your comfort zone if you have not yet defined your current vision and ethos. Make sure your church knows it and that your leaders are ambassadors of it.

“Only when you know who you are as an organization and church can you begin exploring out of the box.”

You need to have the trust of your church family that you won’t go weird on them. They will be more inclined to follow you if you have set pillars that govern the foundation and core functions. I great way to moving beyond your comfort zone it to invite people who typically aren’t in these types of meetings. Another way is doing an anonymous staff survey. Your staff knows the complexities of your ministry and hopefully, have a heart for your community. Not every staff member is in all the meetings and you might be surprised at what the bookkeeper comes up with. Look in unexpected places to find your answer and you’re sure to be stretching your comfort zone without losing your base.

A large portion of churchgoers continue to attend because they know what they’re getting week in and week out. It’s can be nerve-racking to mess with that formula. But I believe that steps towards openness can lead to greater potential growth or engagement depending on your objectives. There is no perfect formula and no one knows your church better than you. By trying to preserve the present to you risk not seeing the life change we all want for our communities.