A Coach Approach to Annual Planning
If leaders or their staff get a pit in their stomach when it comes time for annual planning, coaching can help turn it into a productive and team-building experience.

Written By Robert E Logan

Christian Coaching Pioneer, Strategic Ministry Catalyst, Resource Developer, Empowering Consultant : Logan Leadership

Annual planning sessions can be frustrating. They can tend to fall on the extremes of a free-for-all or dictatorial marching orders. Neither approach gets good results or creates a healthy working environment. Coaches can help this situation by working with the leader ahead of time or even facilitating the planning session.

Ministry Alignment

a coach approach to planning meetings

The purpose of annual planning is to align sermon series, studies, and events for the coming year with the mission and vision of the church. However, that purpose is often lost to filling slots with whatever programs have become traditional for the congregation. Those traditions aren’t always on-mission, and can lead to the dilution of needed energy and resources. You can read my post on how this affects pastors HERE.

5 Things to Do When Coaching Annual Planning Meetings

When you or those you coach lead planning meetings, here are some essential how-tos if you want those meetings to be successful. Following these five simple steps ensures that not only does your meeting accomplish what you intend it to accomplish, but also that everyone involved is on the same page about what it’s supposed to accomplish. 

1. Have a clear purpose

Decide on the purpose of the meeting before you plan it. Is the purpose to inform? To decide? To discuss? What do you hope to walk away with from the meeting? Your purpose for the meeting informs your agenda. Keep in mind that if significant changes will be made in New Year, it may require a few planning meetings. 

Coaching Questions

  • What are the main objectives you need to accomplish in planning the next year? (For example, brainstorm, decide, inform, etc.)
  • Considering your team and their rhythms, how many meetings do you need to accomplish your planning objectives?
  • What needs to be discussed at each meeting?

2. Share the agenda

Communicate that agenda clearly to all participants. Plan a written agenda ahead of time and give it to the people who will be there. This allows them to mentally prepare for what the meeting is and is not about. If there’s something they need to do or read beforehand, make it clear that they are expected to do it.

Coaching Questions

  • How will you ensure the right people are in the room?
  • What pre-work would facilitate a more focused meeting?
  • How can you incorporate that into the agenda you send out?

3. Prioritize

When you structure a meeting agenda with more than one item on it, always put the items in order of importance. By putting the most important items first, you ensure that you don’t run out of time to deal with those issues.

Coaching Questions

  • What are the essentials you need to accomplish at this meeting?
  • What are the most important items that require focused attention?

4. Create time boundaries

When you write up the meeting agenda, put an estimate next to each item for how long you expect it to take. Rabbit trails often lead to frustration. Instead, honor the topics and the people in attendance by setting appropriate and clear boundaries around the time spent in the meetings.

Coaching Questions

  • What questions or pushback might people have?
  • What can you do to prepare for each agenda item to help the discussion progress smoothly?
  • Looking at your agenda, how long do you realistically think each item will take?

5. People first

People always come first. Allow time for relationally connection at the beginning of the meeting. Check in to see how people are, hear updates from team members, and pray for one another. When people are seen and heard they thrive. Taking this time to connect relationally provides you valuable information as to the health and capacity of the team.

Coaching Questions

  • What recent personal events should be noted or celebrated?
  • What recent ministry events should be noted or celebrated?
  • How can you work to build relational rapport and equity amongst your team?


Managing Meetings Skills Builder- Ultimately, meetings will be successful if the people involved feel that they have been of value. This booklet highlights some of the approaches that can increase the value of your meetings, if adopted and regularly practiced.

Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

Photo by Jason Goodman on Unsplash

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