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Mapping Out Your Church Plant Vision

Tony Portell

Tony Portell

Pastor, Life Church Indianapolis
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A number of years ago I started an energy management business which we eventually franchised nationally and internationally. Before launching this new venture, I met with several businesspeople to ask their advice. When I shared my grand ideas, they kept asking to see my business plan. I told them my plan was three simple steps: 

  1. Open my business
  2. Get customers
  3. Sell stuff and make a boatload of money!

It took me a while, but eventually, I realized that I might need a plan with a few more details.

It was painful and laborious thinking through issues like market analysis (boring), management and organizational structure (yawn), marketing strategies (super boring), cash flow projections (might be important), and other stuff I wanted to ignore. I just wanted to print business cards and start selling.

Eventually, I did finish a viable business plan which became a valuable tool to communicate our goals, values, and focus. This lesson stayed with me five years later when I had left the business, was serving as an associate pastor in a local church, and was anticipating planting a church.  

The goals were different, but the idea of mapping out the vision and working through details gave us a plan to follow. We called it our Vision Map. It became our declaration of the mission God gave us.

A Church Started with a Journal
To start I bought a journal that I kept with me all the time. Across the tops of the pages, I wrote titles like missions, youth ministry, outreach, sermon ideas, worship, and so on. I would make a note every time I saw or read something that inspired me in these areas.  

It was not a treatise on every area of church ministry, but just a few thoughts on our future culture. For example, under the Worship page, I wrote, “Worship should move from complex to simple. The further we move into God’s presence, the less people should have to look at a screen to worship.”

Develop your Vision Map
My journal became the basis for an almost 50-page document we followed for the first few years of the church. Having a few thoughts on each area of ministry gave some direction around which to build a culture. Then, I used it to train our core team so we had a plan and common goals.

I am reminded of the prophet Habbakuk who wrote, “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it.” Habakkuk 2:2

We followed our map closely and hit our goals for growth and leadership development. We came within ten percent of our projected attendance and giving goals. The ministries that we launched had clear directions and our culture continued even as we grew and added new people every week.

Today, we use a template of this plan in our Residency Program. Our students develop their own church planting or ministry plan over a 12-week period. Then they present them to their classmates. We have even been able to launch a number of these ministries!

Every now and then, I will look back over that original document to celebrate what God has done and to remind myself to stay true to those values, which are just as valid today as when they were penned 15 years ago.

Grab your journal and continue to dream!

Free Online Vision Course

Discern the specific vision and purpose for your church that fits your unique culture and style with these lessons on developing vision and creating your 3 year plan.

About the Author

Tony Portell is the pastor of Life Church Indianapolis, a Vineyard Church with two campuses.  He also serves on the Department of Mental Health’s Crisis Response Team and as a Fire Department Chaplain. He holds degrees in counseling and pastoral studies. Tony is an entrepreneur having started and franchised businesses nationally and internationally, a mission organization and four churches.  He is married to Lori and they have two children and two grandchildren.

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