Some Christians believe there is no need to plan. If it is God's will, the doors will open, resources will fall into place, and everything will work out perfectly. But in the Bible, God makes plans and so do God's people.
God provided Moses with a vision and the details for the tabernacle but Moses provided the plan and he managed the project. Moses and the tabernacle building committee had to assign people to gather the resources, make a place where the work could be done, and manage the team and tasks. God didn't give every detail but He provided enough for them to get started on the project and they used this knowledge to develop the longer-term plan.
Counting the cost
Others question planning because plans never seem to work out perfectly. But Jesus tells us to "count the cost" of our obedience to Him. Jesus asks us to think about the future because He wants us to engage our wills. He wants us to serve Him not because it is easy, or is where life takes us, but because we are making a choice to obey the vision He has given us. Jesus also tells us that we will have troubles. Even the best planner will not be able to avoid troubles. We plan because we have an enemy who wants to destroy us. Plans can prevent us from being blown off-course by our enemy - but we should never hold to our plans when God clearly shows us to change course!
Asking what God wants
Many missionaries have never been taught about strategic planning. Many wait for opportunities to appear and then choose whichever seems best. Sometimes these opportunities are divine appointments and have wonderful and unexpected results, but sometimes they turn out to be bad decisions and cause pain to our ministries. Because opportunities don't last, sometimes people feel pressured by time and don't stop to ask God what He wants.
How to run a Revelation-Based Planning session
One of the ways to develop a plan is to have a Revelation-Based Planning (RBP) session. The outcome of a Revelation-Based Planning session is direction and vision from God. After receiving the vision, the team can then evaluate activities and strategies for achieving this vision and make sure everything they are doing is in alignment for God's current call for their field, team, ministry, business, or project.
1. The planning process begins with a core team meeting to pray and ask God who should be involved. The process will take longer with more people but it is good to include many voices. RBP can be done with as few as two and as many as 20 participants. Next the leaders will need to find a gifted facilitator. This person will need to put aside their feelings and opinions and lead the session, collect comments, and prayerfully review the comments to discern what God is saying to the group. Ideally, this person should have an apostolic or prophetic gift. Finally, the leaders will need to book time and a location for the group to meet. It is best to use a large, comfortable room and have whiteboards/paper available for writing comments for everyone to see.
2. When the session day finally arrives the team should begin with prayer and worship. Then the facilitator should begin by asking: "What is God saying to us? What is God saying about us?" These questions may take several hours to answer. After everyone has shared, review the answers aloud. Ask: "Do we believe God has given us these answers?" If everyone agrees, end the session and ask the facilitator and key leaders to meet and pray over the results. Ask the participants to continue praying for the leaders. The leaders should review all the comments and look for themes. The goal is to organize the comments to see the "why, what, when, how".
- Why does God want us to do this? What is the motivation?
- What does God want us to be? What does He want accomplished?
- When does God want this to be accomplished? What is His timing?
- How does God want us to do this? What are some of the "rules"?
3. Once patterns emerge, the leaders and facilitator will create a summary of vision (the why) and then create a list of actions (who or what) and share it with the group the next morning. Ask the group if they agree with the results: "Is it clear that God is involved? Are the "why" and "hows" supported by the Bible? Is the Holy Spirit bringing unity, wisdom, and love?" If so, begin the next step of asking the group to begin planning how to bring the vision to life. Many groups find it helpful to break each "what" into smaller goals and then ask participants to form small working groups. In small groups the participants discuss the goals, divide the work, create a plan, and write out next steps and due dates. Remember that plans are useful but circumstances and resources change, so the team needs to remain flexible about tasks but focused on the vision.
4. Using the results of the process, the team now has a framework to evaluate business, ministry, or project opportunities. This also helps bring unity to the team as everyone can see the Lord's leading for the field or team. Be aware that not every process will look the same and every team may have different results. The important thing is to base the process on prayer and judge the results according to God's Word.
For additional reading on the Biblical basis for planning, click here: http://www.christianitytoday.com/pastors/2007/july...