Your church will be more productive and work more harmoniously if the entire leadership participates in the 2009 planning process. At the beginning of 2009, the head elder needs to prepare a church activity program for the next 12 months of the year. The pastor, who usually receives the denominational calendar from the conference/mission office, should share the calendar with the head elder, providing guidance and goals for the year’s activities.
Once the elder has the calendar in hand, church leadership should begin planning, taking into consideration the dates that the pastor, administrators, and department leaders will be present at the church. From this point on, the calendar may be called the ecclesiastical calendar. It should include special dates in the denominational calendar: visits from guest speakers; conferences/camp meetings; communion services (one service per trimester is ideal); Sunday-evening evangelistic meetings; weeks of prayer; prayer meetings on Wednesday nights; church committee meetings; and the names of the people responsible for special programs.
Everything should be done “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12). Below are some steps that occur between the planning and execution of the calendar.
DEFINITION OF CHURCH MISSION
The strategy starts with defining the church’s mission. Texts such as Matthew 28:19, 20; 24:14; and Revelation 14:6, 7 help to clarify that the church’s mission is to proclaim the Gospel. In fulfilling this mission, church leadership needs to develop strategies that involve planning, organization, training, and member participation to reach the local community.
DEFINITION OF GOALS
To reach the church’s goals, the elders and the pastor should work together to establish local objectives, organize the ecclesiastical calendar, prepare church committee agendas, give attention to baptismal candidates, visit members under discipline, and solve conflict situations. The pastor should also provide elders with material from the conference/mission office for organizing church evangelistic campaigns; offering training for new leaders and Bible instructors; preparing missionary twosomes; and establishing small groups and new churches.
DEFINITION OF PROCEDURES
To avoid conflicts between departments and leaders, elders need to understand the rules that govern procedures for both the world church and the local church. It is important that each church department leader knows the procedures that are expected from his or her area. That is why leaders need to be familiar with the Church Manual and with the guidelines for each area (Elder’s Guide, Deacons’ Guide, Sabbath School Guide, etc.). Ellen G. White warns church leadership of the danger of paying too much attention to small matters that might draw them away from the church’s mission focus (Church Leadership, p. 102).
DEFINITION AND APPLICATION OF THE CHURCH PROGRAM
Every church program needs to be clearly defined and repeated as many times as possible for the leaders and the congregation. Having an ecclesiastical calendar helps to establish programs in advance, giving each church department time to plan and organize, thus avoiding conflicts with programs that come up at the last minute. It is important to follow certain steps during the process of developing the calendar:
(1) Before the ecclesiastical year starts or at its beginning, the pastor and head elder should meet to prepare the calendar’s frame, considering first the pastor’s preaching schedule and the denominational program brought from the last pastoral council.
(2) The head elder and other elders should meet to evaluate the calendar and to make suggestions.
(3) The head elder and the pastor should then have another meeting to finalize the program.
(4) The pastor should take the calendar’s frame to the church committee for final consideration (eventual changes and approvals). Following that, a final copy of the calendar is distributed to each department leader and posted on the church’s bulletin board.
(5) Once the church calendar is ready, church leadership may prepare the budget and vote it in the church committee meeting, and eventually with the entire church during an administrative meeting.
(6) The next step is to act, delivering the training, motivation, execution, supervision, and evaluation promised in the church calendar.
Good Christian leaders are conscientious about the church’s mission, executing projects with objectivity and prayer. The leader and team inform the church regarding the content of the church program to evangelize their community. Leaders pray with the team, asking God to help them work efficiently. “The cause of God demands [leaders] who can see quickly and act instantaneously at the right time and with power” (Gospel Workers, p. 133).
Even while conducting the church within the biblical patterns, Christian leaders should be satisfied with mere technical and leadership abilities; they need to be completely dependent upon God and empty of self and from feelings of superiority, independence, and presumption. In all circumstances, our leadership role model is the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paulo Pinheiro is the editor for Elder’s Digest in Brazil.