30 Nov 2018

Strategic Planning for 2019

Nathan Camp

How will your church or ministry make the most out of next year? Nathan Camp, our VP of Strategy, sat down with StartCHURCH CEO, Scott Ritzheimer to learn how he strategically plans for StartCHURCH. In this interview, Scott shares valuable steps for nonprofits to take to see ultimate growth in 2019. What follows is a transcript of that conversation. We hope you enjoy! If you prefer to listen to this conversation, please listen below.

Nathan: Welcome to today’s podcast, where we are talking about a very important topic, “How to Plan Strategically for 2019.” The truth is, whether you are a pastor, a ministry leader, or leading a non-profit, this is the time of year when thinking about next year is critical. Many leaders are asking, “How can I plan strategically to make the most out of next year?” Well, stay tuned, because that is what today’s podcast is all about. 

Welcome, everybody, to today’s podcast! We are very excited. My name is Nathan Camp, I’m the Vice President of Strategy here at StartCHURCH, and I am so excited to have, in the studio with me today, our very own C.E.O., Scott Ritzheimer. Scott, thanks for joining us today!

Scott: Thanks for having me, Nathan!

Nathan: We are very excited! Many of our listeners, Scott, are here, at this time of year, and they’re looking to do some strategic planning, and we thought we’d bring you into the studio as you’re helping lead our organization, and we thought, “Well, let’s get Scott to come in and talk to us about the process we go through, but for many listeners, they might not have heard your voice before, and so I’d love for you to introduce yourself, tell us a little bit about your family, how long you have been with StartCHURCH, and just kind of catch our listeners up to speed.

Scott: Very cool, I am thrilled to be here! My wife and I met at a school of ministry out in Kansas City a good 12 years ago now. We have always had ministry as a big part of our heart, and serving pastors and ministry leaders is really just the center of what it is that makes us tick. We have been in Georgia for about 12 years now, and have been at StartCHURCH basically that whole time. It will be my twelfth year anniversary here at StartCHURCH in January.

Nathan: Wow, that’s great! Like I said, we are really excited, this is a big time of year for different pastors, and what I want to talk about today, Scott, is strategic thinking, which is a little bit different than just dreaming, and pie in the sky, which you have to have time for as well, but as the CEO here, how do you think strategically at this time of the year? What does that mean to you, and how do you start fleshing it out?

Scott: You know, everyone has a dream, some of us have more dreams than others, and for me, strategy is that wonderful place where dreams get to transform into reality. The Biblical expression is, “faith without works is dead,” and for me, dreams without execution, really, are dead. So, how do you do that? How do you translate this grand vision, this calling that God has placed on you in ministry, how do you take that and turn it into something that’s tangible? How do you invite people into that process? And that’s what strategy is. That’s what strategic planning is for me.

"Strategy is that wonderful place where dreams transform into reality. In the Bible, it says, “Faith without works is dead,” and for me, dreams without execution are dead."

Nathan: So, it’s really, you’re taking, sort of the dreams and visions that you have and fleshing it out? Giving yourself a plan, or something like that?

Scott: Absolutely. The story I like is the story of Pharaoh and Joseph. You know, Pharaoh has this dream, and Joseph comes in and says, “This is what this dream means, and this is how we execute it.,” and basically at that time, a whole nation is saved. So there was seven years of propsperity, and seven years of famine, but they were ready for it, because the strategy was in place.

Nathan: That’s great. So, when you are sitting down to think strategically, what is the goal? Do you do it you granularly? Do you do it in segments? Talk to me about what the first round of strategic thinking might produce.

Scott: Yeah, I think strategic thinking and planning always has to start with getting back on that dream. I think it always has to start big, I think we have to take a step away from everything that is going on, and just get back in touch with that grandiose vision; that thing that really stretches us to change, and to grow. From there, you kind of work your way down to more and more granular, and hopefully you end up with, “Okay, this is what we have to do next.

Nathan: Now, I think there is a big distance between a lot of people who have a great idea, even a God idea, but they don’t flesh it out. Why do you think this is so hard? It seems like a missing component. Why do you think it’s so hard for so many? 

Scott: I think the thing that is hard about it, and we will talk about this more a little later, is that you have to say no to something. And what strategic planning really requires, is a clarity, and a focus, and we aren’t naturally bent toward focus, especially as visionaries! You know, it’s like we are just going for it! We see a hill and we are going to take it, and we see another hill, and we are going to take it too, and the reality of it is is that you can only take one hill at a time. I think that’s what makes it difficult for us is really picking that one thing that is most important. 

Nathan: Pastors, ministry leaders, non-profit leaders: we are very redecant to let something go, right? Everything becomes a sacred hill, a sacred cow the moment it’s started, I can see that saying no can be hard. Is that kind of what strategic thinking allows you to do? You, as a leader, leading the organization here, what does it allow you to do when you come out of a time of strategic thinking? What does that empower you to do?

Scott: Steve Jobs says this great quote, and I am going to butcher it, but I’ll give you just the sum of it, and basically it says, “A yes is a thousand no’s.” So, everytime we say yes to one thing, we are saying a thousand no’s. What I think strategic thinking and planning allows us to do is pick the right yes. It’s so much easier to say no to something, when I am doing it so I can say yes to something. It’s so much easier, and kore life-giving, and fruitful to walk to something, than it is to walk away from something.

"Everytime we say yes to one thing, we are saying a thousand no’s. What I think strategic thinking and planning allows us to do is pick the right yes."

Nathan: That’s very good. So, Scott, let’s talk about now: if somebody sits down with you and says, “I’m not a good strategic planner, what’s the process you would take yourself through to strategically plan?

Scott: That’s a great question. Here at StartCHURCH, we have a four part process that we go through, and I have the great pleasure of doing this with a team, but it works just as well to do it alone. 

  • Step One: Take a moment to dream again
  • Step Two: Write down your great ideas
  • Step Three: Create your ‘stop doing’ list
  • Step Four: Check in weekly

Nathan: So, let’s break those down a little. Let’s start with Step One: Take a moment to dream again. What does that mean? 

Scott: So, we have all been there. In the early days of starting, and some folks are in this stage right now, but you’re in the process where everything is a dream, and it’s so exciting. But the reality is, for all of us, we get out of that phase eventually. And what happens is, the whirlwind comes in, and we have to do this, and hit that deadline, and preach the message on Sunday, and there are all these competing demands, and we just start to lose sight of that vision. The only way that I have found to do step one consistently is to take a break and step back. Sometimes it’s five minutes, sometimes it’s a day; for us as the leadership team, we do an annual offsite where we spend three days really taking a step back from the busy-ness of the world and the busy-ness of StartCHURCH, and say, “What is the dream?”

Nathan: So for us, where are we at? For some of our listeners who are new to StartCHURCH, where are we at as a company? As you are taking time for us to dream again as an organization, will you paint a picture of where StartCHURCH is?

Scott: We’ve got this vision, and for us, it’s a grand vision, and it’s one that really excites us as a team! Our goal is to help 51% of all church plants. We love to get involved in the process, get down in the trenches with you, and take this really complicated process, and make it as simple as we possibly can. 

Nathan: Scott, some people that are here, they’re not church plants, they’re all in the dream mode and everything is in front of them, we’ve got a lot of churches who have hit their first set of goals. Describe for us, what do you do then? And for us as an organization, I know we have been able to hit some of our early goals, by God’s grace, so what do you do then? 

Scott: I think for me, it is always about saying, “From where we are today, what does the future look like?” Starting with the dream and saying hey, we did it, but now what is the next step? What is the next hill? What is the next thing we can do? How can we make a difference? How do we stay in that start-up mode? At StartCHURCH, we always joke, we say we are like the 15, 16, 17 year start-up. For us, it’s always the idea of, “What can we start?” I think that keeps it fresh and keeps it exciting, and it keeps us all engaged.

Nathan: So, you said to actually take some time away, you mentioned an off-site. So, what I hear you saying is: Pastors, at the beginning of the year, or maybe even the end of the year, need to set aside time to take a moment and say, “Where has God worked?” and “What is the next thing God wants me to do?” So, when you do that, what’s the next thing you do? So, you begin to look at your goals and new hills, and what do i do now that I’ve got some ideas with my next battles?

Scott: This is the most exciting part for me because this is where the ideas really start flowing. You’ll find, you get back into it, and it seems a little rough, and you’re a little lethargic, and you’re a little like, “eh, I don’t know”, and you get a couple ideas out there, and the juices just start flowing. So, what I’ve found is important is that you’ve got to capture that, right? So, write down the ideas. It’s not the time to burst the bubble or to say, “Is it now that we do this or later that we do this? What are all the things that can go wrong?” That’s not where we are at in the process. Where we are in the process, is we are saying, let’s get everything down on paper. Let’s get everything we can do. It doesn’t matter if we can do it, or can’t do it, but everything we want to do, and everything we think is interesting, let’s just get all of it down. So, we make this giant list of things and say, “Hey, what can we do? Where can we go?” And that is just a really fun process. 

Nathan: That’s what Habbakuk says, right? It says to write down the vision, so that those who see it can run with it. So you have this list of things you can do, and I know I was in some of these meetings, so we created a big list, and I know you were able to narrow it down. So I am assuming we go through a process from what we could do, to what we should do, why don’t you give us some insight as to what StartCHURCH came up with recently?

Scott: Jim Collins says, “Good is the enemy of great.” The problem we have at StartCHURCH isn’t coming up with good ideas, the problem we have at StartCHURCH is picking the great ideas. And so the things that we have really narrowed it down to and the biggest impact we can make on the church is in the area of (1) Bookkeeping: doing that nationwide. We have a bookkeeping service that launched a couple years ago, and we are ready to go through the roof on our Bookkeeping service, so that’s very exciting. We are looking at (2) rolling out a new website, we are looking at (3) investing in our Spanish Division, that is specifically serving Spanish ministries across the United States. And finally, we are going into (4) digitial media production overload, and we are wanting to produce as much content as we can and get that into the hands of church planters to really empower and equip them. 

Nathan: I’ve heard you say about these things, what it is is really offering these values that pastors need. They need somebody helping with their finances, they don’t want to be trained in finances, they want somebody to partner with them, so our Bookkeeping service is doing that. I know you want to get a new website, to make it easuer for people to find the answers that they need. Full Spanish, that is just awesome! We are going nationwide with our Spanish Division. We help Spanish speaking churches and ministries and non-profits. Then media production. I hear you say a lot about how we can get information to people that in a way that is easy, so instead of reading a lot, people are watching videos. So, i understand that we are going to be creating a studio, and releasing a bunch of videos this year. That is awesome!

Scott: Yeah, it’s exciting! Pastors are the center of what we do, and ultimately, nobody gets into starting a church to get 501(c)(3) status. Our goal is to think about all the things pastors have to do, that they weren’t called to do. Nobody is called to get 501(c)(3) status, they’re called to focus on the ministry. They’re called to preach, and teach, and evangelize, and our goal is to take as many of those things as we possibly can off of their plate. We found in these areas is where we can make the biggest impact the fastest, really getting pastors and ministry leaders focused on what they’ve been called to do. 

Nathan: So, I’m sitting here, and I’m tying it back to what you said earlier. You can’t say yes to everything, one yes is a thousand no’s, but I see a couple of great, big “yes’s” here. So, what does that mean for us, from a “no” standpoint? 

Scott: Well, to get the full picture, I think we kind of have to step into step three. Step three is to create the stop doing list. The stop doing list is another idea borrowed from Jim Collins in his book, Good to Great. What the stop doing list is, what are those things  that served us well up to this point, or maybe even didn’t serve us well up to this point, but are no longer in the best interest of where we are going as an organization? What I would recommend that we do is we go through and write down everything we are doing right now, that may or may not be what we need to do to move us to the next place; the things that we have done in the past that aren’t necessarily the greatest ideas. Just because we do it now, doesn’t mean it’s the greatest thing for us to do next. So, we start working through this as as organization, just saying, “What are the things we are doing now that are sapping the most energy?” We all have those things that we go into it, and it just sucks the life out of you. Or, where are  the places we are working the hardest, but we just aren’t getting the impact that we’re looking for? This year, a really big one came up. This year, we were looking at our conferences, and saying conferences have served us well, it’s been an amazing thing where we have been able to get in front of pastors and get face to face with them, and help the to dream again. But, the reality of it is, conferences in the StartCHURCH world just isn’t growing, and it’s not allowing us to expand our impact. In fact, we are having to work harder and harder, and it’s more difficult in the pastor’s busy schedule to get a full day out to go and spend on legal compliance, or whatever it may be. So, what we have found as an organization, is we can take advantage of these technologies, and we can take advantage of going nationwide, and actually partner with more people for a longer period of time. And so, we have had to make the bold call, the tough decision of saying, we are going to wind down conferences this year so that we can step, with all of our strength, into these new areas for 2019.

Nathan: That’s a bold move. Do you think a lot of organizations are like that? They’ve got one or two things that they need to make a bold decision about, in order to say yes to the great things?

Scottie: Yeah, I think for all of us, we all have this pile of good things we are doing right now; we have good meetings, we have good events, we preach good messages! Unfortunately, a lot of those are getting in the way of the great things we could be doing.  Some of those we get into by default, we didn’t choose to do them, we just happen to do them, because that’s what we’ve always done. Some of them were really, really important in the past. Conferences were a central component of what we did as an organization, but as we’ve found, we have been able to grow in other areas, and conferences are playing a smaller and smaller role in our ability to serve pastors and ministry leaders. Each year, coming back to this, and looking at the stop doing list, really gives you an opportunity to re-asses, “Is this what we need to do moving forward?”, without making it something that you shouldn’t have done going backward. We celebrate conferences, we are so glad we did them, and we are so proud of the impact we were able to make through them, but at the same token, we need to look forward and say, “Is this really what we need to be doing moving forward?”

"We all have this pile of good things we are doing right now. We have good meetings, we have good events, we preach good messages! Unfortunately, a lot of those are getting in the way of the great things we could be doing."

Nathan: Right, and you’re saying we will reach more people, there is a finite amount of people that can take off time and physically go to a location, but if we create the digital media, and opportunities for them to be able to experience the same sort of help, we can help tens of thousands, versus just a couple of thousand. 

Scott: I think this translates exactly to the church, and for the pastors and leaders that are listening now, it’s not all about numbers, and it’s not all about quantity, quantity, quantity, but the reality of it is, if we can have a meeting that is life transforming for 10 people, or we can have a meeting that is life transforming for 100 people, then all of us want the 100. So, we don’t have to sacrifice the quality for quantity, but what we are looking at in the strategic planning process is how can we get both? Where are those places that we are the best? That we can walk in and say, “At a high level, for a high number of people, where can we make an impact?”

"It’s not all about numbers, and it’s not all about quantity, quantity, quantity. But the reality is if we can choose between having a meeting that is life changing for 10 people, or we having a meeting that is life changing for 100 people, then all of us want the 100."

Nathan: That’s great. I know that we as a whole team, and as a company, have al looked at this and said, “Wow, this is bold, but it is so exciting!” I think we are more excited about 2019 than we have ever been before for a year’s starting, because we are making those kinds of steps. The first thing you said to do is take a moment to dream. Then you said write down all your ideas, get them all out there and go from what you could do, to what you should do, and then create a stop doing list. Then, you said check in weekly. What do you do, and how do you do that?

Scott: Here’s where the rubber meets the road. For a lot of visionaries, and the starter type, we know it’s easy to start. In Proverbs it says, a bonanza at the beginning is no sign of a success in the end. The reality of it is, whatever decisions we make, we have got to stick with them, and that’s where it gets difficult, especially for the senior leaders and pastors that are out there saying they want to start something new, but you also have to finish what you started out to do. So, what I’ve found is doing yearly goals is good, and doing quarterly goals is amazing, but the real magic happens whenever we have a weekly cadence where we are checking in each week and saying, “What did we do last week to move us toward our goals? What are we going to do this week to move toward our goals? What’s getting in the way?” You can do that as an individual, but when you do it as a team, there’s a magic that comes from that. It’s tough, and there are weeks that you just don’t want to show up, and there are weeks when things don’t go well, but at the end of the day, if you can get into the habit of saying each week, we are going to meet together and talk about these specific goals that we have set out for this quarter and this year, you’ll see a night and day difference in your ability to execute on those great ideas that you came up with.

Nathan: You actually bring it more to pass, I’ve heard people say if you go to the gym with no plan, you walk around, and walk out. You go to the gym with a plan, and you get stuff done; that’s what it sounds like you’re saying here. Scott, I know that some people are hearing this and they want to do it, but honestly, there’s maybe a little fear there, or a little tension. What would you say to somebody who says, “ I know I need to do this, I’m a little nervous about the process.”? What is some final advice you would give to them?

Scott: Again, it’s to trust the process. So, walk through each of these steps, they’re in the order that they’re in on purpose. And, trust in God to really be with you and communicate to and through you in the process. I think where the apprehension comes from goes back to the fear of the unknown. The reality of it is, God knows, and God has called you, and He says if He has called you to do it, He will give you what you need to do it. We just have to partner with him in the process. I think if we do it prayerfully and trust in the goodness of God, and we’re willing to make mistakes, the reality of it is sometimes we do miss it, but that’s okay. I would rather miss it and go strong, than to keep doing what we have always done, and end up missing it anyways, because we didn’t even try. 

"Apprehension comes from the fear of the unknown. But God knows, and He's called you. And if He has called you to do something, He will give you what you need to do it. We just have to partner with Him in the process."

Nathan: Well, that has been some good stuff. Scott, thanks so much for being with us today. I want to thank the listeners, too, for being with us today. We hope that this podcast encouraged you, we believe in you. We believe what god has got for you in 2019. If we can be a resource or of service to you at all, feel free to give us a call. Check out our website, StartCHURCH.com. We believe 2019 is going to be your best year ever. Thanks so much for joining us today.

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Raul Rivera

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