By: Tim Massengale

Thus far we have explained in detail the first two aspects of the Four
Part Planning System: the Plan-Development Stage (Annual Planning
Retreat) and the Plan-Organization Stage (Departmental One-Year Plan).
But now we come to the third, and in my opinion, one of the most
important steps: The “Plan-Implementation Stage,” or where we make all
these lofty dreams, plans, and goals actually come to pass. This is
the Monthly Departmental Planning Council. Few things will have a more
positive effect upon your growth than will this simple monthly
meeting. Yet, within this meeting occurs two of the most significant
management principles: Effective group planning and consistent follow-
through.

Group planning has tremendous advantages, particularly for churches.
It helps us to understand what has been done, what is being done now,
and what should be done in the future. Group planning binds department
members together as a team. It allows them to share problems and get
helpful support in solving those problems from other team members. It
improves communication between departments and shows how the various
parts of the church organization interrelate and benefit one another.
It keeps the pastor informed as to how projects are progressing and
provides accountability to the directors responsibilities. It utilizes
the pastors time more effectively by allowing him to take care of most
administrative matters at one time rather than on a one-to-one basis.
And finally, it provides the department heads with target dates,
specific assignments to carry out, evaluation of progress, and
finalizes the what, how, when, and where of all activities on the
church calendar. In short, it’s difficult to see how that any church
of any size can function effectively without time and effort being
placed upon group planning.

“Two can accomplish more than twice as much as one, for the results
can be much better. If one falls, the other pulls him up; but if a man
falls when he is alone, he’s in trouble. And one standing alone can be
attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer;
three is even better, for a triple braided cord is not easily broken.”
(Ecclesiastes 4:9, 12, LB)

HOW OFTEN SHOULD YOU MEET

Planning is an ongoing process. There isn’t a day that goes by that
you don’t – or shouldn’t – plan. An efficient individual should not
only take a few minutes each morning to plan his day, but should keep
his week well organized also. But how often should a pastor meet with
his delegated staff?

If a church is large enough to have several full-time individuals such
as secretaries, assistants, youth director, music director, and so on,
a pastor should meet with those weekly to organize the weeks
activities. But few churches are of sufficient size to have this kind
of assistance. The majority, probably over 90%, are fortunate if the
pastor himself is full time. So, for the most part, a pastor will be
planning with a volunteer staff of department heads. Some pastors have
tried to meet with their volunteer department directors every week,
taking an off-church night, or before service time, to do so. In only
a few cases has it ever worked for long. Taking yet another week
night, on top of everything else, soon becomes burdensome. Time must
be allowed for the director to be with his or her family, as well as
time to be a soulwinner. That extra night cuts deeply into an already
busy schedule. Before service meetings are also difficult because of
limited time and continual interruptions. Then, too, the pastor’s mind
is on the service, not his departments and their needs. The bottom
line is this: weekly planning sessions rarely, if ever, work for a
volunteer staff.

Some pastors have tried to have departmental meetings only once per
quarter. Several problems arise with this approach. Meetings are too
long because too much is happening. And because of limited time,
little or no planning is done and the meeting becomes nothing more
then a calendar making session. Directors loose the “team spirit”
because too little time is spent together. Quarterly sessions can also
become a time of intense competition for limited dates, facilities,
and manpower within the church. The reasons could go on, but suffice
it to say: Quarterly departmental councils leave much to be desired.

Than what does work? The best and most successful approach has been
the Monthly Planning Council. This once per month meeting is utilized
for training, reporting, planning, and brainstorming on all facets of
the church. It’s not held so often that it becomes a burden. It’s not
held so seldom that it becomes a lengthy marathon session. The monthly
meeting on an off-service night seems to be the best answer for nearly
every situation.

WHO SHOULD COME

The Monthly Council is attended by all department heads. This could be
as many as twelve individuals. But remember, we strongly recommend
that no church have more than fourteen departments. Working with more
than this makes a pastors “span of control” (the number of directors a
single person can effectively manage) too great. Also, meetings again
go too long and accountability becomes difficult. Ten to twelve
departments is best for the average church.

Spouses are not required to come, although if they wish to attend,
they may. There is a danger, though, of getting too many people
involved in the Monthly Council. The more people there are, the longer
the discussion tends to be, and the greater difficulty you will have
in arriving at any group agreement.

The church secretary, or another appointed individual should always
come for the purpose of taking notes and minutes. Formal “reading of
minutes” and “past business – future business” is not necessary unless
you wish to do so. But it will be needful for the secretary to make
notes of calendar changes, pastoral directives, and items to “tag-in”
upon during the month.

And, of course, the pastor must be there. Departmental planning
without the pastor is practically impossible. A pastor must give the
Monthly Planning Council his highest priority. It will save him an
abundance of time and frustration later on.

ENCOURAGING FAITHFULNESS

Some pastors have complained in the past that, “monthly planning
councils don’t work.” When asked why, the answer is invariably, “I
can’t get my directors to faithfully come.”

Faithfulness is a two-way street. It must be agreed upon by the Pastor
as well as the directors. Few things will discourage directors more
than a leader who repeatedly cancels the Monthly Council at the last
minute because “something came up.” This gives a silent but very
strong message to the directors that says, “the departments and your
duties are not that important.”

Along the same lines is the Pastor who has no set date or frequency
for the planning council. He calls one “when I feel it’s needed.”
This approach almost never works. Directors will have something
already planned for that evening. They will not have their reports
ready and they are prone to forget when it is called because it never
becomes a habit.

On the directors side, there must also be a commitment of
faithfulness. If a director cannot be faithful to a once-per-month
meeting, they most likely will not be faithful in performing their
duties. There are, however, several things that a pastor can do to
encourage faithfulness. If a pastor will follow these simple steps, in
most cases his attendance problems will disappear.

  1. Set all the dates for the coming years Monthly Councils at the
    Annual Planning Retreat. Go through your calendar month by month and
    have your directors write in the Monthly Planning Council dates.
    Choose the first “Tuesday” (or some other day) of each month and mark
    it in. This allows a director to prepare in advance to be there.
  2. Stress and teach faithfulness. Train your directors in the
    importance of being faithful and dependable. This is a high priority
    in the Bible. Stress it at the end of each Council for those who
    habitually come in late. Let them know how important it is to you.
    Most people are late because they plan to be on time – therefore any
    little problem makes them late. To be on time, you must plan to be
    early.
  3. A week before your Monthly Council, have your secretary (or
    yourself) send or give a note to all department heads. Included with
    this note should be a rough-draft of the Monthly Council agenda. By
    seeing the topics concerning their department to be discussed, it
    emphasizes how important it is to be there. Time and location should
    be included also.
  4. The day before the Monthly Council, have your secretary call each
    director. She should ask them if there are any additional topics they
    wish to add to the agenda. She should also remind the directors to
    have their reports ready to hand in when they arrive.
  5. If a director is absolutely unable to attend the Monthly Council, a
    department assistant or aide should come in their place. Make this a
    hard and fast rule. Every department should be represented at the
    Monthly Council. The pastor may also wish to call the director before
    hand to discuss the agenda topics.
  6. If a director is absent, and has not contacted you before hand, you
    should contact them. Let that director know how important faithfulness
    is to you. Don’t just “let it slide.” The only excuse for someone not
    showing up to represent that department is a “last minute” emergency
    over which the director had no control.

By following these suggestions, you should see good attendance by
those involved. The effectiveness of each department will, in a large
part, be determined by that directors desire to communicate his plans
to the Pastor. Likewise, the success of the department rides upon the
Pastors desire to motivate, encourage, and maintain a proper level of
accountability with each major ministry in the church.

THE MONTHLY PLANNING COUNCIL AGENDA

At the end of this chapter is a sample Monthly Council agenda. You
will notice several topics under each department for discussion.
Where do these topics come from? They come from three sources:

  1. The Pastor. The pastor should meet briefly with the person who
    types the agenda and quickly review each department. Any items that
    need to be discussed – problems, suggestions for improvement,
    directives – should be noted as an agenda topic. Many pastors carry a
    note pad with them in their schedule book. As they see something that
    needs a director’s attention, they note it down and give it to their
    secretary. If it is not so urgent as to warrant immediate action, she
    will include it on the next Monthly Planning Council’s agenda.
  2. The Department Director. Prior to each Monthly Council, the
    secretary should contact each director to see if there are any
    subjects that need to be discussed. This is important. If the topics
    are all one sided, coming from the pastor only, the director begins to
    feel like a “gopher” (go-for this, go-for that). Any pastor who thinks
    a director should, “do as I tell them and keep their mouth shut” will
    have little success with delegation and will likely never develop a
    growing church.

As already mentioned, it is a good idea for the secretary to type a
rough-draft agenda and give it to each director a week before they
meet. Then a quick phone call or a before/after church tag-in by the
secretary will allow the director their input.

  1. The Departmental One-Year Plans. The Departmental One-Year Plans
    are the main source for agenda topics. The planning done at the
    Monthly Council should cover a three month period of time (if you are
    meeting in January, you will be discussing events and plans for
    “January, February, and March,” in February, you will be discussing
    activities for “February, March, and April,” etc.). You (or your
    secretary) should take all the plans and activities from each
    departments One-Year Plan, which fall within the three month period,
    and place them as topics upon the agenda. The benefit of such an
    approach is obvious: Each departmental activity or goal will be
    discussed three times – when it’s three months away, two months away,
    and then one month away. This allows long, intermediate, and short
    range planning. The failure of most activities can be often traced to
    poor planning. The “three-months-every-month” approach to church
    planning is extremely effective.

Also note that the suggested completion date should accompany each
discussion subject on the agenda (see example).

The secretary should approve the agenda with the pastor before typing
the final draft. Then, a final copy should be run off for each
director and be given to them at the Monthly Planning Council. The
agenda allows you to stay goal oriented and not “wander.” Any
discussion item not covered should be carried over to the next Monthly
Council.

EFFECTIVE MONTHLY MEETINGS

Brother Iverson arrives at the church at 7:50 p.m. for the monthly
council. As he pulls into the parking lot, he notices that no lights
are on. The meeting begins in ten minutes. Getting out of his pick-up
he tries the door – it’s locked. Glancing at his watch, he taps it to
make sure it’s running. It is. As he glances around the empty parking
lot he frowns.

“Maybe I missed the announcement that it’s canceled,” he thinks to
himself. “It was canceled last month. . . . or perhaps they’re meeting
somewhere else and forgot to tell me again where.”

He waits a few minutes and then glances at his watch again: 8:05.
Looking around a final time, he gets into his old pick-up and drives
off in disgust.

A minute or two later, another car swings into the church and parks.
A person emerges and strides quickly to the front door. As he unlocks
it and turns on the light, he glances at his watch. It is 8:07 p.m.
He breathes a sigh and whispers, “Well, I guess I’m not too late. But
no time to type that agenda now.” As he walks quickly down the hall
several more cars pull into the parking lot. The pastor, the driver of
the second car, is oblivious to the fact that Brother Iverson, his
Men’s Ministries Director, had already come and left.

In the above account, a number of glaring mistakes were made that will
quickly destroy any attempt to have an effective monthly council.
Unfortunately, the above happens all too often. The following are
several suggestions that will make your monthly planning successful
more productive.

  1. Where to meet. The Monthly Council is usually held at the church.
    A Sunday School room is fine. Some pastors have offices that are large
    enough. Others prefer the fellowship hall. But regardless where, it is
    best to sit around a single, long, “board-room style” table. This
    gives them a surface to write on and allows good eye contact with the
    pastor, who sits at the head. It also helps bring an attitude of
    “business” to the meeting. This is important, because otherwise your
    Monthly Council can end up going too long.

Occasionally it is good to have the Monthly Council at a restaurant
(in a private area) or in a home. This adds a different atmosphere
that will break up the “rut” that can sometimes develop. If you make
the Monthly Council’s special, you will have little problem with
attendance.

But where ever you decide to have it, make sure that it is stated
clearly in the note you send to the directors a week before the
meeting.

  1. What time to meet. Most pastors schedule the Council to begin at
    7:00 or 7:30, allowing the directors time to get home, eat and get to
    the church in time. Some pastors have found it extremely effective to
    first have dinner as a group before going into planning. If this be
    the case, 6:30 or earlier will allow time to eat. Like church
    services, meetings should always start on time. Begin promptly
    regardless who is there.
  2. What length to allow. Once the meeting begins, keep an eye on the
    clock. The Council should never go beyond two hours in length – an
    hour and a half is best. If you get “hung-up” on a topic, try to
    handle the problem afterwards. Long, drawn out meetings are the main
    complaint that directors (and pastors) have. The pastor controls the
    discussion. Don’t be afraid to exercise your God given authority to
    make decisions. Remember, most leaders have worked a full day already.
    They also have a full day ahead of them tomorrow. Try to always end on
    time.
  3. What atmosphere to encourage. You may wish to provide soft drinks
    and snacks during the meeting. This is fine. Don’t make the Council
    too formal. It is amazing how a cup of coffee and some positive
    conversation can effect the entire tone of the evening. Allow the
    atmosphere to be somewhat light with occasional humor. Directors can
    rarely meet for over an hour without the need for laughter, an
    occasional joke, and other expressions of jocularity. But in the midst
    of the fun, the pastor must not allow the discussion to stall.
    Discipline yourself to push the meeting to a specified time
    conclusion.
  4. What schedule to follow. The sample agenda has a suggested time
    schedule. You may change this however you wish, but it is always best
    to begin with group prayer. Your planning must be done under the
    direction of the Holy Ghost, else we labor in vain. Proverbs 16:9
    (RSV) says, “A man’s mind plans his way, but the Lord directs his
    steps.”

Following prayer is an excellent time to have your leadership
development training. A half hour of good leadership training will
help your leaders to grow – and their personal growth is essential,
because your departments will not grow until your department leaders
grow. An outline of suggested materials and curriculum is given in the
chapter entitled “Leadership Development.”

After your training, the remaining time should be given to group
planning. Follow the agenda. Cover the items or departments that will
require the greatest amount of mental energy near the beginning of the
meeting. This is when your best quality discussion will take place.

  1. The report comes first. As you come to each department on the
    agenda, the pastor should have the director quickly read his or her
    monthly report (a copy of the report should have already been handed
    in to the pastor when the meeting first began). The director need not
    read the entire page, but rather the main totals or results. If the
    pastor has any questions about the numbers or goals, he should bring
    them up at this time.
  2. Take care of details. Finally, as each agenda topic for that
    department is discussed, detailed planning should be done. You should
    ask the director:

a. What supplies or equipment is needed?
b. Location and needed facilities?
c. Who will be involved or attend?
d. Who will be in charge?
e. What time, how long, and what date?
f. How much will this cost?
g. Will any training be needed?
h. Will this conflict with any other department or plans?

Many other details could be covered and discussed. This is the purpose
of the Monthly Council, to implement the ideas and plans of your
Annual Planning Retreat.

  1. Always stay flexible. Proverbs 16:1 (LB) states, “We can make our
    plans, but the final outcome is in God’s hands.” For this reason, all
    directors need to understand that plans and dates must be flexible.
    When the pastor feels it is best to cancel or postpone an event, that
    director must accept the decision as the will of God. This type of
    attitude will only come through prior leadership training.
  2. Follow-through is important. During the planning discussion the
    pastor will continually be giving “directives” or requests for the
    director to follow through on an assignments or responsibilities. The
    pastor should make note in his binder (or you may assign a secretary
    to do this) of all directives or assignments that he gives. It will be
    extremely important for the pastor to check back on these directives
    and goals throughout the month at the Weekly Tag-in (explained more
    fully in the following section) and at the next Monthly Council. For
    example:

Tag-in Topics For July:

a) Sunday School Department – Bro. Brown
* Order literature for next quarter
* Reserve location for Sunday School picnic
* Revise and update substitute teacher list

b) Youth Department – Bro. McCleaver
* Visit Bro. White’s son in hospital
* Clear street meeting location with city hall
* Reserve motel for youth evangelist
* Youth soft ball night – push for visitors

The old maximum “responsibility without accountability is total
futility” is true in the fullest extent. Most delegation fails because
the pastor fails to maintain a “management check” on assignments and
responsibilities. Good follow-through by the pastor will motivate the
department leader to do the same. Failure by the pastor to check back
on the assignments he makes implies that the assignment was not very
important.

  1. Have a quick review. At the end of the meeting, the pastor (or
    secretary) should quickly read over the notes of the meeting to
    emphasize “what has been accomplished.” He should then read the list
    of tag-in topics to make sure the directors have noted these
    assignments down for themselves. By doing this, it accents the
    importance of the Monthly Council and underscores that their time that
    night has been well spent. The directors will leave the meeting
    feeling good about the work of God and their involvement in it.

The growth and success of your departments, as well as your church,
will be determined by the effectiveness of these monthly councils.
Your monthly councils will also determine whether the activities,
outreach events, and special programs of your church operate “decently
and in order” or “chaotic and confused.” Truly, the Lord’s work
deserves the our very best effort.

MONTHLY DEPARTMENTAL REPORTS

Excessive paperwork is the quickest way to kill an efficient
organization. It must be kept to an absolute minimum. Unfortunately,
some is necessary. Written reports do the following for the pastor and
department:

  1. It keeps the director “result oriented.” It is not how much a
    director “does” that is important, but how much he “gets done.” We
    don’t want to have so much activity that we forfeit productivity.
  2. It shows the director what the pastor feels is important and of
    high priority.
  3. It allows the pastor see at a glance how the department is doing
    without a lot of in-depth quizzing.
  4. It allows the director to have good communication with the pastor
    concerning needs and problems.
  5. It provides a tool for analysis of past results, which helps to set
    future projections and goals.
  6. It helps identify weak areas that need attention and improvement
  7. It forces a director to stay in-touch with his department and how
    it’s doing.
  8. It makes the director accountable to his responsibilities and
    goals, continually referring him back to his One-Year Plan.
  9. It helps build excitement by showing the great things that the Lord
    has done that past month.
  10. It allows us to look back a year later and see our progress,
    therefore inspiring us to go on to even greater victories in Christ.

At the end of this chapter is a set a sample reports. Use these
samples only as a basis to develop your own. Reports, like job
descriptions, are of little use if they are “canned.” They must be
custom written for each church and each department. Every pastor has
certain things he feels are the key responsibilities within each
department – high priority items that are critical to the church and
to its growth. These are the items that should be included on the
report. Use that department’s job description as reference to help
determine what you want to insure is completed each month.

The reports should be handed in when the directors first arrive at the
monthly council. This is the first order of business. If you do not
collect the reports at the beginning, some directors will fall into
the habit of filling out their report during the meeting. This is not
good. The director needs to participate in the planning and
discussion, not have their nose in their records and notes. Any
director that does not have their report ready to hand in, ask them to
remain after the meeting to complete it or to hand it in at the next
weekly tag-in. Stress the importance of this report, both to you and
to the director. Without some kind of record keeping we have no way to
properly evaluate our progress or identify weak areas. The reports
have four major sections. The first is numerical results. Number
totals that are important should be listed on a weekly or monthly
basis. The second section focuses upon the key priorities of the
department. How many souls saved? How many new Bible studies were
started? When is the next outreach planned? These type questions need
to be asked. People do not do what you “expect” – they do what you
“inspect.”

The third and forth section pertains to the director’s One-Year Plan.
The first part asks them what was accomplished last month from their
One-Year Plan. They then “check” if it was completed. If it was not
completed, why? Then, what is the solution to the problem? The last
part asks them what is coming up next month (again, from their One-
Year Plan or goals) and what you, as pastor, can do to help them
accomplish that goal. The pastor should take all goals and activities
from this section and note them on his weekly tag-in list.

It is critical that the pastor takes these reports very seriously. If
the pastor only glances at the report and takes it lightly, you are
telling that director that his department and responsibilities are not
important. One of the greatest of motivators is feedback on results.
When your directors hand in their report, always comment on the totals
as good or bad. As Will Rogers said, “the greatest compliment you can
pay a person is to ask him a question and then listen to his
response.” Ask for input and feedback. Upcoming assignments should
also be noted and directives given.

Always, always, always – compliment them on any goal or assignment
that went well. The greatest form of motivation is praise and
encouragement in front of one’s peers. You are working with
volunteers. The main reward they are working for is your approval and
acceptance. Everyone appreciates being appreciated.

Make sure the report is filled out in full. If any part is left blank,
ask why, then have them complete it, and turn it in at the next Weekly
Tag-in. If you will emphasize the monthly report and encourage each
director to be result oriented, you will see much more accomplished
toward the main objectives of the department, as well as growth for
the church.

IN CONCLUSION

Few management practices in the local church will benefit a pastor
more than the Monthly Planning Council. Even in the very smallest of
churches, if the pastor will meet with his key people and help them
catch his vision for growth, the fire will begin to spread from their
hearts into their hands and feet for active involvement. The power
that lies in group planning cannot be over stressed.

Solomon, a man truly blessed with wisdom, wrote “Where no counsel is,
the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety”
(Proverbs 11:14, NIV). He again wrote, “Without counsel, purposes are
disappointed: but in the multitude of counselors they are established”
(Proverbs 20:18, NIV). It was by failing to listen to his counselors –
and instead, listening to his heathen wives – that led Solomon to his
own downfall.

So by bringing the key leaders together, a pastor builds a team spirit
into his directors. He also improves communication, which is often
described as the main problem in poor management. And by helping his
directors solve their problems, the pastor motivates them to
accomplish more, and thereby see more souls born into the Kingdom of
God.

                 Monthly Planning Council Agenda
                   United Pentecostal Church
                  For the Month of October 1988

Date: Monday October 4, 1988
Leadership Development Assignment: Tape #3 – Leadership Series

Schedule
7:30 – 7:4-5 Prayer
7:45 – 8:15 Leadership Training
8:15 – 9:30 Planning & Reports

Topics For Discussion
Date

  1. Sunday School Department – Bro. Powell
  • Christmas Pageant & Attendance Drive 10-22
  • Begin Sunday Morning Teachers Training 11-23
  • Purchase New Bus 12-3
  1. Youth Department – Bro. Johnson
  • Youth Crusade to Vicksberg 10-16
  • Youth Revival with Bro. Massengale 10-28
  • Youth Trip to Sea World 11-18
  1. Outreach Department – Bro. Davies
  • New Tract Rack 10-22
  • Spirit of Freedom Promotion Service 11-9
  • Saturday Door Knocking Teams 12-27
  1. Visitor Follow-up Department – Bro. Baker
  • Follow-up Training Seminar 10-8
  • Print Visitor Packet 11-18
  1. Home Bible Study Department – Bro. Hall
  • Annual H.B.S. Seminar 11-12
  • Bible Study Promotion Night 11-28
  • Quest Survey Teams 12-30
  1. New Convert Care Department – Sis. Duncan
  • Fall New Convert Potluck 10-17
  • Visiting Backsliders 11-14
  1. Music Department – Bro. Thomas
  • New Portable Sound System 10-24
  • Annual Singspiration 11-30
  1. Men’s Ministries Department – Bro. Tullison
  • Men’s Prayer Breakfast 11-13
  • Men’s Prayer Meeting 11-28
  1. Ladies Auxiliary Department – Sis. Davis
  • Revised Church Cleaning List 10-1
  • Ladies Day – Getting Visitors 12-2

(The above material was prepared and published by Tim Massengale from
Total Church Growth. You can order the complete 2 volumne set from
Pentecostal Publishing House.)

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