You've probably done it again, made some new year's resolutions: lose a little weight, eat a little better, exercise a little more. It's time to do the same for your church. But before you launch into the generic church resolutions (add more people, gain more contributions, improve Bible classes, etc.) here's a quick tool that will give you a better perspective on what you might ought to give priority to.
This effective exercise was developed by Tom Paterson after whom the Paterson Center, a strategic planning training group, was named. It's called the 4 Helpful Lists; this exercise will help you identify the things you need to do to prioritize them over all the things you could do. You can use this little jewel at almost anytime: to set new year's resolutions, to evaluate an event or program, or just to get better perspective on what is happening.
Get your paper out and draw 5 columns. Starting from the left and working right you'll answer these four questions leaving the last column for perspectives gained.
Column 1: What's Right? We're somehow wired to focus on what's wrong rather than what's right. Get a positive jump and try to come up with as much as you can that's right about the situation, event, or current state. My rule of thumb is try to populate the what's right column with more bullet points than any of the other columns. As you plan your goal is to optimize what is right.
Column 2: What's Wrong? Now go to the what's wrong. Be specific and look for causes. Don't just put "people did not attend." Look for possible causes as to why they did not attend: "people did not attend because I did not give them enough advance notice to get this event on their calendars." Your goal is to eliminate what is wrong.
Column 3: What's Missing? This is perhaps the most difficult question to answer because we often do not see what is missing but we sure do feel it. Step back to gain some perspective altitude on what you're reviewing. Here's a few questions to help you get to what is missing. What kind of questions did people ask? Where did we (those organizing) feel a bit lost? Was there an obvious "oops" moment? The goal is to add what is missing.
Column 4: What's Confused? Isn't that a great question! What's confused? What didn't make sense? What did people not understand? How was clarity lost? The goal is to clarify to what is confused.
Column 5: Perspective Learnings. This is the goldmine moment of this exercise. You've been working at ground level with these four questions. Now spring up to the 5,000 foot level. Look across the column and ask yourself, "what am I learning about this?" My rule of thumb here is to force myself to identify at least four of these learning points. Here's some examples: We're scratching an itch our people feel. This is a good idea but we're not ready to implement it yet. To be done well this activity needs someone who will be responsible for it over the next year.
Making New Year's resolutions is good and helpful. I pray these Four Helpful Lists will help you put a plan to your resolutions.