Annual planning is sometimes called programming. Programming is usually thought of as planning for a 1–3 year period. When a church decides how much of its objectives to accomplish in one year (annual goals), and how to get it done (strategies or actions), then it is involved in programming. Programming is planning in detail what a church believes that God wants it to do during that time period. It involves setting goals in the light of objectives, selecting the best strategies to reach the goals, and planning actions to carry out the strategies.
These three terms are basic to annual planning and need to be understood:
1. Goals – The goals are based on the church’s objectives, and are specific,
measurable, dated, written, and accomplishable.
2. Strategy – A pattern of actions to reach a goal. It tells how a church intends to reach that goal. A strategy brings actions together in such a way that they complement and support one another. A strategy is not just any way to reach a goal––it is the best way. It is a plan calculated to reach a goal with a minimum expenditure of resources.
3. Basic actions – Events or activities necessary to carry out a strategy. If a strategy is planned to increase the church members’ individual usefulness through a leadership training plan, a survey to discover potential leaders would be a basic action of the strategy.
A cute way of presenting annual planning is based on SNAPS:
Acknowledge work being done
Steps to meet needs
Good annual planning can bring many benefits to a church. It enables a church to build progress into church activities. The church selects the needed activities to move ahead in a linear fashion, instead of going in the same well-worn circle. It builds unity into the church programs so that the church can truly be the body of Christ, and not an unrelated collection of more or less good activities that take place at the same building. The programs can be correlated, and competition between them can be lessened. It develops church leaders. As the leaders take part in the planning process, they develop skill in planning and this is one of the most significant functions of leadership. It helps a church to decide in advance the best use of church resources such as money, facilities, time, and human energy.
Annual audit of all programs
A basic part of annual planning is an evaluation or “audit” of each program group. This type of planning would provide for an annual evaluation of every organization and group in the church. This evaluation would be based on the expectations and goals articulated by the persons who will be responsible for the performance of the organization.
The audit would have several parts. Each program would:
1. Submit a written objective that would give its reason for being in that particular church
2. Relate its objective to the overall objective of the church
3. Define its goals for the coming year
4. Provide complete programming for the accomplishing of the goals
5. Submit all this information to a special committee or planning group to be used in correlating the entire church program
The annual planning process
The church staff and the church council should do annual planning. The church council is composed of the directors of all the various departments or ministries of the church. The programs would do the audit discussed above and send their plans to the church council. An annual planning conference with the pastor and this group can be a very worthwhile endeavor. At a planning conference like this, there would be a looking back at the progress made toward the goals for the past year, a critical evaluation of the present situation which would take note of the strengths and weaknesses of the church and its ministries, a fresh look at the basic objectives to see if they are still on target, and then a setting of goals for the next year.
A basic outline that this planning group could follow would include the following:
1. Review of the church’s statement of objectives. This is the basic purpose or reason for being. All planning should start here.
2. Review of the church’s long-range plans as they relate to this next year. What goals were set that needs to be met? What actions were planned that should be carried out? Is the church still on target and progressing as the long-range planning group forecast?
3. Write on the calendar all previously committed dates from long-range plans or revivals and other projects that may have been scheduled several years in advance.
4. Write on the calendar any dates of known programs that will have significance for the church and any dates for every-year kinds of major church projects (Vacation Bible School, Stewardship Promotion Month, etc.). The church needs to limit these annual programs.
5. Now evaluate the present situation in the church. The group might seek to answer such questions as:
- What are the basic needs in our church today?
- What are the basic needs in our community that the church should be meeting?
- What are the priority needs from the preceding two questions?
- How can the church best meet those needs?
This step is the key to meaningful annual planning. This step, carefully carried out, will ensure that annual planning is more than a repetition of past years.
6. The group can now write goals for the year that will reflect the church’s objectives, the long-range plans, and the present needs.
7. Actions or strategies can be suggested for each of the goals.
8. The time for the actions, especially when it involves major church projects, can now be scheduled on the church calendar.
9. The plans that were suggested by each program organization to this church-planning group now need to be carefully considered. This was the annual audit that was suggested earlier.
10. The group will need to work out any duplication, overlap, and conflicts between all these different suggested activities. Some effort will need to be given to producing a calendar that has balance, with special projects being scattered throughout the year.
11. Report the proposed calendar to the church for adoption.