When we started the work of planting Grace Hills, we developed a timeline to established what we hoped to be doing for the first six months – our “pre-launch” process. It looked like this (except it included July and August – couldn’t find that version):

Grace Hills Timeline

Lately, we’ve grown and I’ve been quite excited about what God is up to. But when someone asks me what our vision is, I struggle to answer. This isn’t because I don’t have a vision. I can very quickly and in a passionate voice tell you the people we hope to reach, how we hope to reach them, and what we aim to do for the kingdom. But in terms of actual growth – numerical, physical, and otherwise – I have a hard time articulating specifics about the future. I think part of the reason is that I haven’t had a timeline. I risked moving away from the entrepreneurial spirit that drove me week after week in the good ole’ days.

So last week, during a coaching session (which have been absolutely indispensable as we have moved forward), Danny asked me what my timeline looked like now? What timeline? That was just a launch thing. Then it hit me… there was tremendous synergy and excitement during those six months because we were aiming for the last dot on that timeline – LAUNCH! There is incredible power in building momentum toward what is “next.” So if we can’t articulate what is next, we’re probably in trouble already.

We worked through what should be some faith-based but realistic expectations about our growth. If our attendance has grown by an average of 100 in the last eight months (141 to 243), and that growth continues at that pace, we will be out of space at the theater by April or May of 2015. So it’s time to prepare. At the end of the coaching hour, I had scribbled away a full page of notes about all that we want to implement and accomplish in the next twelve months…

  • Implement our “next steps” series of one-time classes introducing people to Maturity, Ministry, and Mission.
  • Formalize a team of advisors with both spiritual- and business-savvy to offer input and, more importantly, prayer for our future.
  • Double the number of small groups we currently have by “spontaneous generation.”
  • Take the church through a fall campaign to go deeper and put down “roots,” which we hope to do in 2015 in a physical sense.
  • Take an offering of money, but also commitments, on the Sunday before Thanksgiving to prepare us for our next space.
  • Secure a new location by January and start the work of preparing it for weekly services.
  • Launch into the new location on Easter of 2015.
  • Watch Journey Church in Siloam Springs launch on Easter as well (our daughter church led by our Planting Resident, Michael Smith).

Will it all happen, just as we’ve charted out? Who knows? We faithfully proclaim the gospel and leave the results to the Holy Spirit, so while we prep the soil, plant the seeds, and water the crops, it’s God alone who gives real growth. But I’d rather count on a wisely-derived estimate than nothing at all, believing that God wants to bless us in this way. And I’d rather make adjustments as we go than arrive at that place where we need to do something by tomorrow but can’t possibly pull it off in time.

I’m excited about what the future holds for Grace Hills. I’m even more excited about what’s happening in the Kingdom of God at large. While many churches are struggling, some of whom are suffering from the self-inflicted disease of inward focus and others who have abandoned a biblical gospel for a cultural one, I also see a wave of healthy churches being planted and others being revitalized. I’m optimistic.

If you’re a Pastor, let me ask you, what’s your timeline? What do you want to accomplish in the next year and how are you leading your people through the process? Share below. Share elsewhere. Or just go get pen and paper and get started!

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