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August 16th, 2010

by Craig Groeschel

65 comments (+ Add)

The Death of the Five-Year Plan

When I started in ministry two decades ago, everyone I knew made five-year plans. While planning is wise and biblical, I’m changing how I plan.

Instead of planning for specific buildings, campuses, staff roles, and outreach, I’m planning to be prepared for opportunities that I can’t name today. We are creating margin and planning to respond quickly to ideas that we don’t yet have.

Speed, agility, flexibility, and financial margin are far better than a detailed road map.

We are in the ready position. Instead of asking God to bless our carefully crafted plans, we’re trying to be prepared to move when He speaks and guides.

When people ask me what we’ll be doing in five years, I laugh. I have no idea. But I’m certain it will be more fun and more impactful than anything I could plan today.

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  1. 1GBD
    Aug 16, 2010 at 5:40 am

    “We are in the ready position” - love this! Sometimes when people don’t plan they call it “being Spirit led”… but they neglect being prepared for anything!

  2. Aug 16, 2010 at 6:20 am

    I love the freedom that is evident in your leadership… it is contagious and inspiring. Greater things are yet to come.

  3. Aug 16, 2010 at 6:23 am

    I agree. 5 or 10-year plans are so yesterday. However, it’s not that unusual. Most churches don’t have 5-year plans. The difference with LifeChurch, though, is that they have a strong vision, strategy and values. And, they have a plan. It’s just not 5-years long.

    Without that foundation, many churches are left lacking alignment and pulling in multiple directions or they just wallow in complacency, ignorant of the fact that their ministry impact is waning.

  4. 4AaronS
    Aug 16, 2010 at 7:02 am

    What I am taking away most from this is the idea of not only being in the “ready position” and open to God’s plan for my life, but being prepared for what God has planned by having financial margin, time margin, etc.

    I know that personally I might be able to _tell_ myself that I am ready for what God has prepared for me, but when it comes down to it I am not prepared with the appropriate margin to take on all those amazing plans He has for me and my family.

    It is good to be reminded how important that is.

  5. Aug 16, 2010 at 7:11 am

    Love This!!! I can almost hear God Chuckle when I tell him MY “concrete” plans or when I try to “know everything about everything”…like it has ever been mine to resolve. It would be like my 7 yr old baby girl telling me that she knows how to figure out the Stock Market and that she will be in charge of all family investments. That is funny…I’m sure we would be a major stock holder of Toys R US. We are all so silly most of the time! I’m just hoping he will use me today and if I am here tomorrow, 5, 10, 20 yrs that my life will please him no matter what.

  6. Aug 16, 2010 at 7:26 am

    Good call. I feel we can over plan and miss opportunities right in front of us because we are spread to thin. Margin, margin, margin.

    Great post.

  7. Aug 16, 2010 at 7:43 am

    Love this way of doing things. It goes against everything we learn and I think that is why I like it so much. It also fits into no mold and allows God to do His thing. God - rarely if ever - did the same thing the same way with people in Scripture and so that is another thing that makes this so appealing.

    Good thoughts!

  8. Aug 16, 2010 at 7:59 am

    Love this!

    Our staff team is also reading ReWork from the 37Signals guys:

    “Plans let the past drive the future…

    The timing of long-range plans is screwed up too. You have the most information when you’re doing something, not before you’ve done it. Yet when do you write a plan? Usually it’s before you’ve even begun. That’s the WORST time to make a big decision!”

  9. Aug 16, 2010 at 8:01 am

    I agree there is wisdom in planning. Having a plan doesn’t mean you are locked into a certain course of action. It’s your plan, you can change it anytime you want to. I love the “ready Position” word picture. It’s very vivid. I would probably aim for a strategic plan that resulted in a “highly-steerable-trajectory”

  10. Aug 16, 2010 at 8:04 am

    “I shall prepare myself and someday my chance will come.” - Abraham Lincoln

    Craig, the wisdom in Abe is the same wisdom that is guiding you - the wisdom of God. Thanks for sharing this!

  11. 11Ken Mason
    Aug 16, 2010 at 8:06 am

    I like the agility inherent in this model.. I’m wondering about a couple things. 1. building the same sensitiity in your followers 2. interaction with outside organizations that don’t speak this language - like establishing a lease or a relationship with a bank.

  12. Aug 16, 2010 at 8:13 am

    I think this kind of thinking frees us from the guilt of NOT having a 5 year plan (supposedly like everyone else did during the past 2 decades). I’ve never had one, because it just seemed inane to me…but because others had one, I felt like I should, too. Here’s the conclusion of the matter: be led by the Spirit, have a vision and enjoy the ride.

  13. 13MF
    Aug 16, 2010 at 8:15 am

    Just awesome..!

  14. 14Dave
    Aug 16, 2010 at 8:18 am

    Could this have something to do with momentum? When starting/creating a movement plans are necessary to create alignment and “get the right people in the right seats on the bus” once the bus is rolling is not the time to make medium or long range plans, but a wise driver will make course corrections as they appear. Lifechurch is now in a place where new initiatives can be launched that are not core to survival of an organization that is still establishing momentum?

  15. 15Steve Scalici
    Aug 16, 2010 at 8:21 am

    Great post. I used to have 3, 5, and 10 year plans. That’s what all the leadership gurus said to do. However, at 36 years old, I have never had a 10 year period (or a 5 year period or a 3 year period) go as planned. There are too many variables. In addition, I have found leaving room for the Holy Spirit to move is much more exciting. While things have worked out well (and actually much better than my own silly plans), it was in spite of MY plans, not because of them.

  16. Aug 16, 2010 at 8:25 am

    I love the freedom this gives to thinking “out of the box”. God definitely does things in such supernatural ways many times, so the idea to be ready at any time to respond to the moving of His Spirit is beautiful. This is certainly doing something few people do to reach the people and do things few people get to reach and do.

  17. Aug 16, 2010 at 8:29 am

    Wow, this is actually very relieving. Took some self-added pressure off my shoulders! Thanks Craig!

  18. Aug 16, 2010 at 8:33 am

    Church leaders we need to share this with everyone we know.

  19. Aug 16, 2010 at 8:41 am

    Great post, Craig. It kind of reminds me of the leadership principle: “When the opportunity presents itself, it’s too late to prepare.” Or as Bishop TD Jakes would say, “Get ready, Get ready, Get Ready, Get Ready ….”

  20. Aug 16, 2010 at 8:43 am


    I love what LifeChurch has done in leading the way with a powerful vision and strong missional values alongside of a flexibility and entrepreneurial spirit that allows you to be prepared for the next wave of the Spirit. Many thanks to you and your team for laying a solid path and blazing new trails!


  21. Aug 16, 2010 at 8:45 am

    True. We have been doing all our economy in Communist time based on five year plans in the Czech Republic and the “fruit” of this system we still reap twenty years after Communism is gone! :-)

    I am natural planner, but if somebody would tell me five years ago where our church would be today, I would have not dream it a bit. So, values and culture creation is actually far more important than specific goals and plans.

    (And this is what I am learning from great churches as yours.)

  22. 22Robyn
    Aug 16, 2010 at 8:58 am

    In job interviews, I used to be asked all of the time what my five year plan was. I could never give a good answer because my plans changed quickly…and for the better. What’s funny is my number one strength is Futurist. To me, this means not necessarily planning for the future, but being able to ask “what if,” and being prepared to move when God makes “what if” happen. God laid on my mind and heart months ago the possibility of adding another service at our campus by September. Well, “what if” is happening, we are adding an 8:30 on August 29, and we are ready! Five year plan? Can’t grasp it. What if? Ready for when God moves!

  23. Aug 16, 2010 at 9:00 am

    i’m an xp chasing this same thought..
    thanks CG

  24. Aug 16, 2010 at 9:10 am

    I’m one to plan things out, but have learned to be flexible in my plans too. I really like the idea of being in the ready position!

  25. 25Ben Dueck
    Aug 16, 2010 at 9:12 am

    This is a great post. Interestingly enough, my wife has just been working through a three part series about chucking the five-year plan on her blog:
    I know adding this link makes it seem like I’m trying to generate traffic, but I just thought it was so coincidental that I had to share!

  26. Aug 16, 2010 at 9:33 am

    A spirit of expectation on God’s leading. LOVE IT. That’s awesome. It doesn’t mean you don’t know what God has in store it just means that you seek God’s will above all things and trust HIm above ideas and plans. Beautiful. Awesome.

  27. Aug 16, 2010 at 10:20 am

    This ties in perfect to a sermon I heard this weekend about the parable of the talents. It’s not about the money, but rather about if we are willing to invest ourselves. We’ve been given an opportunity by God to use our gifts, prayers and time in the world to bring about change. We can seize this opportunity or we can bury it away like the last servant did in the parable. I pray that we as a body of believer all take the risk and invest our gifts so that we can respond to calling that God has for each of us.

  28. Aug 16, 2010 at 10:30 am

    Great post and love the idea. Practically though, how do you create this margin? There has to be a plan for not having a plan…what are some things Life Church does?

  29. 29@anjiHeartChrist
    Aug 16, 2010 at 10:59 am

    We were discussing our five and ten year plans at Courageous Church yesterday…what a timely post! We know, too, that no matter the time frame, we will be in the “ready” position! My husband and I have realized that we often times went to God with our plans and asked Him to bless them. We are now asking, “God, what are your plans? Please bless us in order to live out YOUR plans.”

  30. Aug 16, 2010 at 11:02 am

    I’m guessing this implies you should never ask someone, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” again. In any situation. If you don’t know where you’re going to be, how can you ask someone else to figure out if they’ll be there, too?

  31. Aug 16, 2010 at 11:07 am

    Timely. We are on the threshold of a new “visioning” process that will serve our mission and, ultimately, our TEAMS. But we’re spending a lot more time trying to quantify discipleship—not real estate. How can we create cultures, not just tasks? Great post, Craig.

  32. Aug 16, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    We need a “Like” button that we can click!

  33. Aug 16, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    Great reminder. I try to take the approach of literally living in God’s will for me today, with no thought to tomorrow. I tend to worry, so not thinking beyond today helps me not worry about tomorrow. But your foresight to create margin to be ready for God’s call is a great vision to reconcile our need to plan versus not presuming upon God’s will for the next day.

  34. Aug 16, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    At what point did you reject the “long range planning” idea and embrace the more fluid approach you talk about here? Was it just recently, or are you just now writing about it? I’m curious as to how this mentality, which I believe is much more in line with a life that requires faith, seems to be embraced more readily by people our age (mid 30s to mid 40s). Thanks for this concise insight…

  35. Aug 16, 2010 at 3:54 pm

    This is something we will always battle, but is a clear biblical principle. (James 4:13 - 15) “If it is the Lords will we will live and do this OR that.”

  36. Aug 16, 2010 at 9:15 pm

    When people ask me that question I laugh too… for the same reason. GREAT post!

    Terrace Crawford

  37. Aug 16, 2010 at 9:45 pm

    Great wisdom in this. Glad to know Im not the only one that doesnt like long term plans :)

  38. Aug 17, 2010 at 6:59 am

    [...] that would be best for my family right now.  Its a good house, one that will suit us well for the next five years or so… its hard to even consider what comes after the oldest three are in college… all [...]

  39. Aug 18, 2010 at 3:10 am

    Great thoughts!

    I had this pop up several months ago. I literally said, “um”. That about summed up my five year plan.

    I think the death of the five year/ten year/twenty year plan is interesting to the extent that five or ten years ago they were the norm. I believe that it speaks to the age that we’re living in. Who stays in the same job or even the same company for their entire career these days? Luckily, we have the same boss no matter who signs the paycheck…I think that is why my five year plan is “um”…I don’t have a five year plan, but I know who does!

  40. Aug 18, 2010 at 10:42 pm

    This is why I love working for you boss. Several times recently there have been conversations at work where someone said “forever” and we had to amend it and say “LifeChurch forever.” You just never know what God will do. It’s fun to be so nimble.

  41. 42Jimmy Hankins
    Aug 18, 2010 at 11:43 pm

    I remember visiting your church in 2001 and there was a model for a 70,000 seat auditorium and a McDonald’s like counter, if I remember correctly.
    Nearly ten years of later and NOW you’re not gonna have a plan? You people need to stop failing so successfully. (grin)

  42. Aug 19, 2010 at 7:59 am

    I love Craig’s comment because it models a daily dependence on God and a readiness to respond to His promptings. The Scriptures stress the importance of paying close attention to what God has said and done so that we can learn about what He wants and how He works.

    After many years of guiding people, I’ve learned the truth of Eph. 2:10, that He has prepared each one of us for this day and He has prepared this day for each one of us. As we pay attention to His Word, His ways, and align with them. we will discover His particular purpose for us each day.

    God has spoken clearly about His particular purpose for each of us by how He’s made us and what He’s brought into our lives, and how He’s used us over the years. As we pay close attention to His patterns and align with them, we will discover and live out our particular purpose each day.

    Long-term planning has value but is no substitute to cultivating a heart that pays attention to and aligns with God’s daily promptings and workings.

  43. 44barb hendrickson
    Aug 19, 2010 at 8:49 pm

    Your comments remind me of Henry Blackabys in Experiencing God. “See where God is moving, and join Him.” We are always to be aware and join Him…..not Him join us. This is why we love your leadership, Craig.


  44. Aug 20, 2010 at 11:40 am

    [...] there! If you are new here, you might want to subscribe to the RSS feed for the latest updates.Craig Groeschel: When I started in ministry two decades ago, everyone I knew made five-year plans. While planning [...]

  45. Aug 20, 2010 at 6:05 pm

    [...] to be Prepared Pastor Craig Groeschel posted a blog a couple days back titled, “The Death of the 5 Year Plan.” The premise of it is: planning to be prepared, rather than simply preparing for what you’ve [...]

  46. Aug 24, 2010 at 9:38 am

    I LOVED it!!!
    It’s so amazing the FREEDOM we have living in the God’s DEPENDENCE!!

    I have translated your text to put in my blog in Portuguese, ok?

    God keep blessing you so much!!

  47. Aug 24, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    plans are good to get us moving but they are just that plans.i used to be in the building contacting business as any carpenter will tell you what is on paper doesn’t always translate into the field. Jesus is the master of redirect we are to plan but i have found that we must remain fluid and open to the changes the Holy Spirit wants to bring.

  48. Aug 24, 2010 at 3:48 pm

    It’s true. Plans can restrict you from the bigger picture. Our team just looks 18-24 months ahead, focusing on our vision, mission and core values. Thank God for innovative ministries that make us think!

  49. 50Jason Seay
    Aug 25, 2010 at 11:56 am

    Imagine the impact Christians could have on the world if we lived our lives this way.

    All too often we tell God our plans and ask for his blessing. More often than not, we go ahead with our plans even if it isn’t God’s will. We put the comfort and security of “plans” in front of God.

    Exodus 20:3 You shall put no other gods before me.

  50. Aug 27, 2010 at 8:38 am

    [...] “Detours to the destination” - loved this from Steven Furtick. - Craig Groeschel on planning - wow, never thought to re-shift thinking this way. - Challenging post from Tim Stevens on ‘failing [...]

  51. Aug 27, 2010 at 10:44 am

    love this Craig. mission with a detailed plan tends to undermine engagement from others (which is ironic because part of the plan often involves more engagement from people). But when we depend on God and work less from a top down model of ministry, it allows for collaboration of the very people we hope would engage because then they share the responsibility (as a disciple) to help shape the future with you. Im guessing you’re finding that it means that we must lead differently, shifting more problem solving, and possibility to the people who live out their faith together. thoughts?

  52. Sep 1, 2010 at 6:52 pm

    [...] range is more about fantasizing that planning. (See Craig Groeshel’s little post entitled, Death of the Five-year Plan.) Nevertheless, the far-far-away horizon may impact decisions related to life-stage decisions, major [...]

  53. Sep 2, 2010 at 11:07 am

    [...] was inspired by Craig Groeschel‘s post, The Death of the Five-Year Plan. “Instead of planning for specific buildings, campuses, staff roles, and outreach, I’m [...]

  54. Sep 7, 2010 at 6:22 pm

  55. Nov 29, 2010 at 7:02 pm

    How do I effectively plan for tomorrow’s opportunities? We are currently meeting in an old (120 yr. old) traditional church and are looking to move to several other venues. Where to start, where to start? The vision: Develop 3-5 Network Churches in teh metro and then, Lord willing, combine for

  56. Jan 1, 2011 at 11:08 pm

    [...] are excellent posts, but on the surface they contradict. This year Craig Groeschel posted on the Death of the 5 Year Plan, yet vision mavens like Jim Collins still talk about 20-year BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals). [...]

  57. 58Errol Lawrence
    Jan 11, 2011 at 10:04 am

    If I may say two things in response to the rhetoric for or against planning here we go.
    1.I do not believe that planning limits the work of the Holy Spirit

    2.I do believe that we must plan because the Holy Spirit does not inspire ignorance.

    Having said that I would agree that we must plan because as the old adage goes “If we fail to plan we plan to fail.”

  58. 59Jerry Casey
    Jan 11, 2011 at 7:04 pm

    Plan, but evaluate the plan and change when necessary. This gives flexibilty.

  59. 60David Beck
    Jan 24, 2011 at 11:18 am

    Love this post! I am currently preaching a series on being a Fit and Ready church. I think I have given up trying to construct a vision from the conventional methods. It felt contrived and man-made (probably because it was). I have gravitated toward readiness, prayer, and listening for the story God seems to be wanting to tell through our church. Having you give voice to similar convictions helps me feel more “okay” with the whole thing.

  60. Jan 24, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    [...] 2010, Craig Groeschel posted on the Death of the 5 Year Plan, yet vision mavens like Jim Collins still talk about 20-year BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals). [...]

  61. Jan 26, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    [...] of opinion about what good vision and strategy look likeIn 2010, Craig Groeschel posted on the Death of the 5 Year Plan, yet vision mavens like Jim Collins still talk about 20-year BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals). To [...]

  62. 63Rev. Christopher A. Seward Sr.
    Jan 29, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    I think what opponents of a 3-year plan (today, a 3-year plan is more reasonable than a 5-year plan) is that these plans are not meant to sit static for the 3-year period. They should be living documents that change. The long term goals are meant to be a guide, not a chiseled-in-stone contract. A plan should be updated at the least yearly. Anyone who has has a long-term plan and tried to stick to it throughout its term knows that the plan will become obsolete rather quickly. However, much like taking a trip in your car to a place you’ve never been before without a map, without a plan, your visions will fail.
    Humbly In His Service

  63. May 16, 2011 at 3:54 pm

    Just read a verse the other morning that fits both my life and your post, Craig:

    We make plans, but God has the last word. - Proverbs 16:1

  64. Feb 13, 2012 at 1:02 am

    [...] are excellent posts, but on the surface they contradict. This year Craig Groeschel posted on the Death of the 5 Year Plan, yet vision mavens like Jim Collins still talk about 20-year BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals). [...]