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A Resolution vs a MAP

Accountability helps us keep our MAP a workable plan rather than a wish list or something to make the leadership happy.

By Tim Sitterley, Regional Director US West.

As I sit down to write this, we are two weeks into the new year. This is the point when many New Year’s resolutions start to wear thin. Often that resolution to eat healthier in 2024 doesn’t make it past the second Taco Tuesday of the month. Personally, I don’t like the term New Year’s resolutions. I prefer to call them “casual promises to myself that I am under no legal obligation to fulfill.”

Unfortunately, we too often tend to look at our Ministry Action Plans the same way. They looked good on paper in 2023, but now we are asking ourselves “What were we thinking?”

For those reading this who are unfamiliar with what a Ministry Action Plan (MAP) is, our lead pastors in GCI are required to submit a MAP outlining goals, objectives and strategies for the coming year. This MAP is the culmination of input from MAPs submitted by their congregation’s Avenue champions, as well as their personal goals for the coming twelve months. Where resolutions often address shortcomings or wishful thinking, MAPs are based on the reality of what is, i.e. strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and necessary changes.

The temptation when creating a MAP is to produce a document to keep denominational leadership happy. I’m not immune to that temptation. As a regional director I’m required to submit a MAP for my region, and I know what to write to make those above me happy. But I also understand that one of the values of a MAP is the accountability it provides. Just like a resolution to lose weight, there are clear metrics to determine if I’m actually living up to the goals outlined in my MAP.

Utilizing the element of accountability is one of the first steps in breathing life into your MAP. It will become evident quite quickly if your goals and strategies are unrealistic. Almost every element of your MAP should have tangible and measurable metrics attached. Very early in the year you will begin to recognize areas that may need to be adjusted, and timelines that need revision. If you treat your MAP as a written accountability partner, you will find yourself and your ministry team moving forward.

Which brings up the point that your MAP needs to be an organic, breathing document. There will always be curve balls thrown at your ministry, and the MAP will serve two functions. First, are the areas of the MAP affected by those curve balls still relevant and doable? And second, are the necessary adjustments in keeping with the overall direction of the document? Nobody could have predicted the impact COVID had on our congregations. But even with the changes necessitated by the pandemic, many of the elements of team and Avenue development were able to continue.

Finally, is your MAP accessible and accepted by your ministry team? Or did you submit a document to keep denominational leadership happy, but those working with you are still operating under the same old guidelines?

Buy-in to a Ministry Action Plan is essential if the document is going to survive the year. Are the goals and objectives accepted by your Avenue champions? Do you have an agreement from your finance team? And perhaps the most important question: are your members onboard with the goals, strategies, and objectives outlined in your MAP?

There may be a place for a personal plan that goes beyond what you are comfortable with sharing. I have a much more detailed MAP that I work from than the MAP I submitted to my regional superintendent. Many of those details are relevant only to me, and they have more of a “resolution” feel to them. There is nothing wrong with that.

But at the congregational level, the MAP you submitted should be a center pole that everything else hangs from. Without that, the integration necessary for your Avenue champions and their team to function properly will be absent. And it will be harder to maintain financial support if your membership feels excluded from the overall direction you are leading with your team.

I have a friend who told me he never shares his New Year’s resolutions with anyone (particularly his wife). That way he never has to be accountable to anyone when he inevitably fails to live up to those resolutions. Accountability is not a bad thing. Since we began requiring MAPs from our pastors, there have been several times where I’ve been able to offer suggestions or provide the occasional “nudge” necessary to move the MAP forward.

And if you are reading this, and you’re not someone required to create and submit a MAP, I would still suggest you consider the exercise anyway. It may not be a “ministry” action plan, but there is no reason you can’t turn your New Year’s resolutions into a roadmap, rather than just a list.

If your resolution is to learn to play an instrument in 2024, write down a pathway to achieve that goal. Include specifics like cost and time management to make it happen, and who in your life needs to be involved. Set some timeline goals, so you don’t hit next December and realize it’s too late. And then share your document with a friend or family member. Just don’t be surprised when they call you out in June to see where you are at.

And if you are a GCI pastor, don’t be surprised if your regional director calls you in June to celebrate your progress on your MAP…or maybe to offer a gentle “nudge.”

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