Aligning Your Ministry Around Vision

The original call audio can be accessed here.


In introducing Dan Reiland and the topic of the call, Warren Schuh observed that while churches need to have a clear sense of vision or at least a statement about their vision, nothing seems to happen until everything they are doing becomes focused around that and aligned to it. A lot of churches never get there - the vision just stays a statement and that’s all. So how do you get ministries and staff aligned and going in the same direction? And use the Ministry Action Plan or MAP in the process?


Dan Reiland Warren, your introduction was perfect. I want to open our time with a question, “Which is easier as a pastor - dreaming up vision or developing strategy?”

I have worked with lot of leaders for a long time but rarely are both skills packaged together. Dreaming vision is more about idea, direction, and future. Developing strategy is more about plan, steps and now. These are are sequentially matched - idea vs plan, direction vs steps and future vs now.


I can’t tell you which one is more difficult but I can tell you that by far the most common reason for failure in a local church is lack of strategy. Churches are pretty good at doing the dream part but if we are willing to set aside the skill level and quality of the leader (that’s a big aside!) and be academic and observational for a moment, I have three observations.

Pastors don’t have a problem coming up with a dream but typically they have a problem coming up with a strategy that makes the dream come true. Second, when they do have a plan, they often do not stick to it. Third, often when they do have a plan, they do not break it down into simple, clear, concise, and measurable bite size pieces. We used the language of goals in the 80’s, initiatives in the 90’s and now in the 2000‘s we call it stuff or pieces. I call it “stuff to get done.”


This is where the MAP comes in...the Ministry Action Plan is what really helps things become reality.


Now, I don’t actually believe that 12 Stone can become all it can be because we have reached our goals. Let me explain that statement a little bit. A MAP is not “one more thing for staff to do.” We really believe the staff will become better leaders, better people and better Christians by practicing new skills or practicing known skills at a new level while going after goals. The real secret of a MAP is development. This process helps them gets better. It is a developmental process and not a managerial process.


Warren Schuh: Dan, I appreciate the way you think and operate in developing people around you and that is different mindset for most churches. We tend to think about getting things done - you are always thinking about developing people who get things done.


Dan Reiland Let me give you the three areas of the MAP - it’s framework - and then the three critical questions that a MAP answers.

The three components we use are Core Responsibilities, New Territory Goals and Leadership Development Focus. All three work together in concert with each other.

The key question for Core Responsibilities is “Are you doing the right things?” Our core responsibilities are the equivalent of many people’s job descriptions. I have never liked the big fat narratives in a job description because no one pays any attention to them. Our core responsibilities look like a series of six or seven or eight or nine bullets with maybe three headings and they are very clear and concise.

New Territory goals are what we are going after in a specific season of the year. The key question is “Does it advance the organization?” Is your church a better church? Is the church advancing, moving toward the mission or the vision you have?

The key question for the third area of Leadership Development Focus is “Can you practice it?” meaning, are you a better leader because of the focus?

There is a highly integrated connection between all three components, particularly the new territory goals and leadership development focus.

Here’s the assumption. If it is a new territory goal, it means it is something you have not done before. If you haven’t done it before, we’re going to assume that it is because you couldn’t. Why would you not do something you could?

The leadership development focus is about practicing leadership. How do you become a better leader? How do we help you, coach you, how do you develop yourself to become a better leader so that you can achieve that goal?


Bill Nicoson: You have said in previous times with us that you you are not trying to change people but to make them better. Sometimes we think we have to change people...that’s not how it works.


Dan Reiland Yes, a better leader is the essence. There is a high correlation of practicing real goals in the organization and becoming a better leader by practicing it against achieving those goals. And we can measure that asking “Are you achieving these goals that were previously never met?”

We actually believe and we build the MAP to leverage people’s leadership best. A leader will be less busy and more strategic, less cluttered and have more margin, and be less distracted and more productive by using a MAP. We are intense about going after that kind of thing.

Let’s talk a little about the purpose and value of a MAP. If you don’t understand the “under the hood “ stuff, then all we end up doing is making a “To Do” list and that is not remotely developmental.

The purpose and value of a MAP is that it does these things:

It enhances communication...all organizations struggle with communication.

It clarifies responsibilities. Everyone sees all the other MAPS of staff (they are never more than two pages in length)

It increases our accountability to each other....everyone knows if you are doing what you said you were going to do.

It strengthens our strategic implementation....we are helping each other do what we say we are going to do.

It increases alignment as a team to the vision...the whole idea is alignment to the vision, staying philosophically together.

It increases progress and productivity.

It increases personal growth as a spiritual leader...and that is the most important thing for us.

Let’s talk about what MAPS are not. They are not designed for containment or control. They help prevent chaos or everyone doing their own thing. If you talk to us about a dream you have for another church, we will help you plant that church. But while you are here at 12 Stone, you are working on our vision. MAPS help align everyone to our vision.

A MAP is not a substitute for leadership or intuition. In the middle of the battle, you don’t run for your MAP, you ask God for guidance and you lead. You don’t go read your MAP. MAPS are not a structure we serve but a tool that serves us. It is not unchangeable but it is well thought through.

Finally, MAPS are not to be merely human, mechanical, mundane or safe but they carry the voice of the Holy Spirit and a sense of God’s power. When we have the team build their MAPS, we say go talk to God about what you believe He can do through you this next year.

So, let’s get real practical about a MAP. Go to my blog and there are lots of sample MAPS. Once you see one, what I am talking about will make more sense.

New Territory Goals- Are you doing the right things?

One of the shifts we have made is that we now limit New Territory goals to three. They must be high achievement, break through, big ideas. There are not dramatic but strategic. They are substantive. They are not static but make progress-you move the ball down the field.

This is hard for people with big egos and lots of ideas because it does not reflect everything they do-not all 37 things they are doing! We get that, but we want three big goals....big breakthrough things for this season...so that when you are running out of time, you will know the big rocks to move because you wrote them and your supervisor or team leader approved them. Sometimes, it is also good to let the small rocks just lay for a moment. The big rocks are the ones that count.


Warren Schuh: Newer and younger people in ministry tend to do these big, grandiose statements in the beginning and after a while when you have more experience, you get a better sense of what is real. Do you have an example of those two extremes?


Dan Reiland Sure. We had a wonderful middle school leader who was really fired up.”We will fill up the stadium with middle school students! (The stadium held 50,000 people) I said, “You are in a room now that holds 100 students...fill Room 329 first and then we will talk about 50,000 and the stadium.” I was more like “Grow your group from 50 to 100 and keep multiplying and then we can talk about the stadium.” New Territory goals are specific.

The strategic part and the real value is connecting all the MAPS so that they are going after your vision together. Are we all going together to achieve this mission the way it is understood in your church?

It takes thinking, time, effort, and to be blunt, a lot of guys don”t really want to do that.

It needs a conductor...someone to bring together all the musicians and get them on the same page. Someone has to stand up and lead and conduct and say “Let’s go play the same song.”

Question from a pastor on the call: “It is hard, especially for volunteers. What happens if you have a volunteer who doesn’t want to pony up on a MAP?


Dan Reiland I use MAPS primarily with paid staff but if you use it with volunteers, it has to be really scaled down and simple. I would ask them “Why would you not want to do this?” Most of the time they want to but they can’t for whatever reason- not enough time, don’t have the skill and then it becomes a developmental problem. They are not resisting the plan or strategy, it’s a matter of developing them as leaders. So you go along side them and help them achieve what they want to do.

For the small number for whom it is an attitude problem, then you back up and work on the relationship. Forget the strategy and vision, you have to repair the relationship. If you agree on the vision and the relationship is good, then it is a matter of development.

I would never have a MAP for everyone but rather use it only for top volunteers and leaders. And I would never have a MAP longer than one page for a volunteer leader. It could be just one goal-”Recruit X more volunteers” or “Become a better recruiter” and that would be a development issue.

We do MAPs three times a year. We used to do one year and found it was too long. Then we went to a summer MAP and nine month MAP and that was great. I wanted to break it down further into the five segments for our church. Our leaders said no way, but we knew were onto something. So now we do three seasons...three zones...three rhythms of the year: June-August, September-January, and February-May. You can use anything you want but this works for us. The focus on Leadership Development is the “guts” of using a MAP and we are always tweaking them. At first, people don’t like to do them but they never would not want them, it would be chaos without them.

This is not about developing your life skills and discipline like exercise or date nights to improve your marriage. This is about developing people as leaders. What are one or two specific things that they can work on to become a better leader?

It could be personal or professional- “Become a better recruiter” or “Learn how to better hear the voice of God as a leader.”


Question from a Pastor: What if it takes longer than one segment to achieve the goal?


Dan Reiland You write it down again. In a developmental shop, you are not bound by the tool or calendars. When you are really about developing the people, you are not hung up on the numbers.

For example, it’s not about failing to get 6,000 people in small groups if that was your goal. It means you did not quite get the team developed and rather than focus on the number, you focus on better developing the team. If the focus is the number, that’s just more bricks, and less straw. But if you pour in on people, and keep pouring in, they will figure out how to get the 6,000. If you lead a shop that is more bricks, less straw, you will never get where you want to go. But if you pour into people, you will get there.

You will handle things differently if you have a volunteer or paid staff but you are still after the same thing.

If the 24th time, they come back with the same New Territory goal, then that is a different conversation. We say never stop learning. Make lots of mistakes but don’t make the same mistake twice. If you so, you are not learning and that is not acceptable.


Warren Schuh: It seems like the New Territory goals are the alignment piece. That’s where in the MAP you look for alignment. A New Territory goal is a hill I want to take but is it in alignment with where the church is headed? The core responsibilities and leadership follow the New Territory alignment?


Dan Reiland Yes. This is when the discussion happens with a supervisor or team leader who can adjust the goals. Some are too lofty, too big. Sometimes, they are sandbagging. The team leader has an eye for this. And then sometimes you get a wild hair goal that has nothing to do with anything and it is rejected.


Question from a Pastor: Do New Territory goals become core responsibilities over time or are they meant to be seasonal?


Dan Reiland Great question. Sometimes when something is new, it will start...we introduce it as a New Territory goal and then end up as a Core Responsibility.


Question from Carol Childress: Everything you have talked about is on the presumption that the church has great clarity of vision. If a church’s vision is fuzzy, how do you get clarity so you can use the MAP?


Dan Reiland If the vision or a relationship is broken, a MAP won’t work. If the three-vision, relationships, and MAP- are not clear or people do not buy into them, it won’t work. If the vision or relationships are broken, set the MAP aside and get with your board and staff and get it settled. It cannot be fuzzy or generic. Cast vision and inspire...just process and talk...and process and talk until you have buy in.

Are people vision casters, vision creators, or vision carriers? The way you know they have bought in is that they are carrying the vision out. They are inviting people to church.

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