7 Steps to Keep Your Ministry from Derailing

By Tim Downey February 16, 2015

I teach a class at Moody Bible Institute called Ministry Planning. It’s all about—you guessed it—ministry planning. One of the very first things I do each semester is to convince students that planning is indeed prescribed by God (Prov. 12:5, 15:22, 16:3, 20:18; 1 Chron. 28:12; Ps. 20:4; Eph. 1:3–10). I’ll let you read those passages on your own if you question the validity of planning for ministry. Just consider it a great devotional for today!

Planning is essential to ministry success. If our ministries aren’t intentionally aiming for a target, we will wind up doing whatever seems reasonable at the time. Our trajectory will look more like a wandering fly than a focused arrow. Without a plan, you’ll spend too much money, waste time, and burn out your volunteers. If you still need a motivation to plan, how about keeping your job? I have seen more youth pastors fired over lack of organization and follow through than I can count.

While the steps are quite simple, the process can be a bit daunting at first. Let’s take it step by step:

1) Gather key people. Bring parents, staff, volunteers, and students together to pray and seek God’s direction and plan for the ministry. Be patient and be persistent. Ask questions like: Why do we do this? What difference does it really make? Who is being impacted by it? Be honest.

2) Discover your mission. What has God called this ministry to be about? If it is part of a church, then the church’s mission should be reflected in the mission of the particular ministry. Otherwise, the ministry falls out of alignment with the church, developing the “silo effect.”

3) Choose priorities. What are the top three or four things you must address for the ministry to stay on target with it’s mission and remain biblical, culturally relevant, sustainable, and redemptive?

4) Set goals. Make SMART goals that assist in accomplishing your priorities: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-bound).

5) Make action plans. What are the specific tasks that must be accomplished to attain each goal?

6) Fill in the calendar. Insert deadlines for every task that must be accomplished to attain the goals, achieve the objectives, and stay on mission.

7) Make a budget. What are the financial resources you will need to put into motion those things that God has led your ministry to do this year? Sometimes the budget realities will require you to move back a few steps to find creative, economical ways to accomplish your goals.

As I mentioned, the task of planning can be a bit overwhelming at first, but once you have done it, you will have the trajectory and momentum to achieve the goals God has directed your ministry toward. Falling in step with God’s plans means that you have one of the most powerful tools in ministry: knowing when to say yes and when to say no.

CC Image courtesy Douglas County History Research Center on Flickr.

About the Author

Tim Downey

Tim Downey is an Associate Professor of Youth Ministry, specializing in the areas of discipleship and leadership at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois. For 30 years, Tim has served the Christian community as a youth pastor, missionary, college professor, and international speaker. He and his wife, Kaye, have three daughters and one granddaughter. Tim…  Read More