Have you ever gone to a conference where you learned some good stuff that you knew could make a difference to your congregation? And then you come home, and life happens and before you know it you find the notes from the conference six months later.
Part of the reason why this happens is because we may not know the first steps to take in implementing the new idea. And while we’re considering it, the copier breaks unexpectedly, and we get distracted until the idea is a distant memory.
But there is a way to implement ideas that guarantees forward movement: action maps.
What is an action map?
An action map is a checklist for the steps or tasks you need to complete to achieve the goals you have set. It is designed to turn your ideas into reality by guiding your every step. It does this by turning your vision into actionable steps.
As a bonus, it is a great tool to help you stay focused and motivated. You see, a well-crafted action map can do more than just give you clear direction. It also helps you track your progress, helps you prioritize what’s important when, and it can serve as a regular reminder to always keep entrusting all our work to God.
Seven steps to craft your own action map
- Have clear, SMART goals. By this point you probably have heard of SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-based). If you haven’t, simply search the web. You will find many detailed articles. The important part for us is that you do have some SMART goals you want to achieve.
- Figure out the steps. Get the team together and break down each of the SMART goals into the steps needed to achieve them. Think of ALL the steps. A good example of this are recipes for baking, they all begin by telling you to pre-heat the oven. Then you can grease the pan. That’s the level of detail you want of the steps. As you break the steps down, figure out who in your team will be the responsible party for getting each step done.
- Prioritize and give deadlines. Going back to the baking example, you don’t need the oven until you have put all the ingredients together, but to maximize the time, the first thing you do is pre-heat the oven since that takes more time. As you consider your own list of steps, prioritize the order they need to be in and give them deadlines. This will help keep you on the critical path to success.
- Set regular milestones. You want to have regular check in points when certain things will be done. Set these on your calendar! Doing this is an accountability trick that will get you to get stuff moving even if you are busy. These check ins are very important for two reasons: first, checking in lets you know that you are making progress toward your goal. Second, the mini goals give you a great sense of achievement and that keeps you motivated. (Pro tip: two weeks is a perfect time for these regular check ins.)
- Identify needed resources. Now that you that the smaller steps and deadlines, this is a perfect time to check and see what resources you will need for each. Do this before you start so that you are not surprised along the way.
- Visualize your plan. Many of us are visual learners so when you come up with your plan, make it visual so that you and the team can all be on the same page. Flowcharts or Gantt charts are some of the more popular ways to do this. Another great feature of this is that the whole plan is in one place.
- Monitor, evaluate, update. Once you start, the plan is only as good as how you use it. So, use your regular check ins to monitor the work being done, evaluate if it’s going according to plan (it often won’t!), and then update the plan to be based on reality.
Invite God into the work
In all of this, make sure that you are continually inviting God to be a part of your work. A very easy way to do this is to make sure you pray your way into the check in points. Make it as regular as asking “how are things going”? Having God in this work is what gives it life.
This process is the same if you don’t have team members. It just makes deciding who will handle what an easier decision. And I would say that especially if you are doing this work alone that you keep your check in appointment and that you are constantly inviting God to help.
So, the next time you have a great idea to implement in your congregation, draft an action map and get it done (with God’s help!).