You're in a staff meeting and your senior pastor mentions that he has an idea. Immediately, you start getting concerned (and then feel guilty for being concerned).

You've been down this road before. He comes up with a great idea that you fully support; however, you know there’s a ton of work required to make it happen. Oh, and this is in addition to your team's day-to-day responsibilities, plus he wants it implemented ASAP.

The initial feeling of panic makes sense — it comes from experience. You've tried implementing new events or programs before, and it was a mad dash at the last minute to get everything done. It worked, but your team was exhausted, and a few things fell through the cracks.

Don’t you wish you could make that feeling of dread go away? Wouldn't it be nice to hear your pastor’s vision and actually be able to get excited about the possibilities with him? Wouldn't your staff appreciate not having to work a ton of overtime the week before a new program is due to launch?

Thankfully, that’s possible — seriously, I've seen it work. Here are two keys to consider in this process:


You have to be able to lead up. Meaning, you have to manage your senior pastor's expectations and help him understand why you can't implement an idea tomorrow. You also need to provide him with a realistic timeline that isn't too far out into the future, so you need to keep that line of communication open.

You also have to lead your staff. That means making sure they understand the vision first, then coordinating the tasks required to achieve the goal.

Create and manage a plan

What I’m referring to here is a structured approach to managing the work required to make this vision a reality. I’m talking about project management. Now, this term isn’t used much in ministry, so I’ll provide some background.

A project is a short-term endeavor; it has a defined beginning and a defined end. Examples include conducting a conference at your church, launching a new ministry program, and planting a new campus.

Project management is the process of:

  • Identifying the tasks needed to complete the project
  • Determining who is responsible for each task and how long each task will take to complete
  • Managing the process of ensuring each task is completed to deliver a project on time and within budget

Now, I realize that all sounds very "corporate-y," so here’s how this looks in ministry:

Pastor's vision: Launch a small groups program

1. Discuss the goals and desired outcomes of this new program with your pastor. He likely has a clear vision of what the outcome looks like, but it’s your responsibility to pull that information out of his head so you can implement it correctly.

2. Identify key items needed to launch the new program. This may include guidelines for selecting small group leaders, the number of groups you want running initially, a new page on your church website for small group sign-up and more.

3. Document the tasks required to deliver each of the key items in a project plan. The plan should include details such as how many days each task will take to complete, who is responsible for each task and what tasks have to be completed before the next task can start. This is where you should start to see when you could realistically launch the new program.

4. Manage the project plan. This includes checking in with team members regarding their assigned tasks, updating the project plan and reporting progress to your pastor.

5. Complete the project and launch the program.

6. Celebrate a successful launch. So many leaders skip this step because they’re already thinking about the next project. Your team needs to take a breath and celebrate the win, so please take the time to appreciate their work and what they accomplished.

7. Conduct a lessons learned session. Don’t move onto the next project and forget what made the last one successful (or repeat the same mistakes). Talk about what went well and what you can improve next time. Document those lessons learned and pull that documentation out as you start planning the next project.

Now, that was a high-level overview of project management. My main goal for now is to help you see how project management can be a useful ministry tool.

The next time your senior pastor announces a new idea, consider using project management principles to help your team implement the vision. You’ll save yourself rework and last-minute scrambling, while bringing to life a great vision for your church.