Don’t underestimate system delays

Planning efforts often fail, and one important reason is that leaders underestimate the time it takes for causes to produce effects. Your planning process may discern, for instance, that your mission calls you to invite more people than your current space will hold. But if you build a bigger sanctuary, you will produce dust, noise, and disruption for a long time before producing any seating space. If you add a second service you’ll immediately double your capacity–but in the process lose some people for whom “seeing everyone” or “feeling intimate” is a priority. If you add a service with a different worship style, your first result may be a dispute about God’s attitude toward snare drums on the one hand and pipe organs on the other.

In general: the first sign of success in planning is that people get less happy. Planning teams, staff leaders, and governing boards need to temper their enthusiasm–widespread these days–for “measurable results,” for a simple reason: if all goes well, the score will go down before it rises.