The Congregational Development Corner: Plan for Success


The Congregational Development Corner: 10 for 10 (10 steps for 10 percent growth)

During the 2016 Annual Conference session, action steps for congregational growth were shared during a Fruitfulness in Evangelism panel discussion, moderated by Rev. Jay Hanson, director of Congregational Development. Five clergy – Rev. Antonie Walker, Rev. Leigh Ann Raynor, Rev. Hale Bishop, Rev. Matt Hearn, and Rev. Jim Cowart – each shared two key tools for evangelism and growth and together gave clergy and lay attendees 10 action steps for 10 percent growth. 

In the next several Advocate issues Congregational Development will share articles to give you and your congregation practical steps for church growth and development. 

Plan for Success

By Rev. Hale Bishop

I fondly remember the words of one of my favorite seminary professors, “It is a disservice to the Gospel to preach without the expectations that lives will change.” If we expect lives to change when the Gospel is preached, we must have a plan to move beyond that moment toward teaching people to live as Christians. If we have no plan for success once the message is shared, there is a tremendous let down. The same is true for church growth. We must have more than a desire; there must be planning in place for new persons who come to the church.The following is an example of a successful ministry plan that could be used to provide steps to personal growth:

  1. Create a personal mission statement. Make your goals BIG!
  2. Choose your gurus. Look for guidance, mentors, and advice.
  3. Plan your strategy, plan your path, and set a timeline for completion of each step.
This plan, or one like it, can be applied to nearly anything we are looking to do. When you begin a new fitness club, they try to get the message to you that you need to be in shape. Once you believe that, they look to set you up with a trainer to give you advice and guide you successfully towards your perfect goal. Then, they set a path and a timeline for completing your steps toward reaching your goal. 

We can use the same process when we are looking for church growth. Without a detailed plan, it is easy to begin with a great push. Things seem to go great at first; everyone is excited and inspired. The problem arises when we go to our congregations, searching for their “buy-in.” The momentum is lost without a comprehensive plan in place to see all participants through to those final goals. This same cycle happens in all areas of life.

As churches, pastors, and laity, we must have a plan that we can all fully commit ourselves to in order to see it work. Important things in life often require that we have a plan and work our plan if we expect to succeed. However, this plan for success also needs a warning label, of sorts. If you and your congregation are on a path to successful ministry, you must be ready when you do succeed. 

Consider this: you are planning a trip to the beach and you figure the cost and select the dates. You save your money and make the trip only to find out that you have no bathing suit. Well, now you are in a bit of a pickle! If we have only planned to arrive at our destination but didn’t consider what to do when we get there, is that true success? 

So here are some steps for planning for success:
  • We need to understand as church members that it is not about “me.” In his commentary on Amos, David Guzik says, “it is always wrong to measure worship by how it pleases us.” We need to understand that worship is for God and it is not about ME!
  • As we understand that worship is about praising God and bringing others into the kingdom we understand that we must facilitate newcomers in worship. Let visitors have your chair/pew. Be willing to deal with overcrowded situations with cheer. Help set up chairs if necessary, find and foster visitors.
  • We must have an understanding of the core values of our church. What are we about? Can these values be easily articulated to visitors and outsiders to the church?
  • Will we go beyond the cursory invite to church? If an invitation is extended, take the next logical step and offer to pick them up. At the very least, plan to meet them at the door and introduce them to others. Think about how we introduce people and foster them in our civic clubs and other functions. Do we do this at church as well?
If we are going to make church growth and the spreading of the Gospel a priority, we must be ready for new guests, new members, and new opportunities. What would happen if your church suddenly had a 25 percent increase on Sunday morning? Think Easter Sunday! Remember all that goes into preparations for a large crowd. Are we ready for this?

If we are not ready for the success of our plan, then our plan is not complete. To arrive at our destination with no idea what to do once we are there doesn’t make much sense.

Hale Bishop serves as senior pastor at Park Avenue UMC in Valdosta. Contact him at

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