Five Keys for Charting your Ministry MAP

Have you taken your summer APR yet?

As another ministry year approaches, it’s wise for every leader to get away for what we in Sonlife circles call your APR… the Annual Planning Retreat. You’ll need two to three days to prayerfully reflect on this past year and seek the Lord for wisdom and direction as a new season of ministry approaches. Members of the Sonlife Team do their APR each year, and coach other ministry leaders to do the same. Your APR is where you chart out your Ministry Action Plan, your leadership MAP, for the coming year. An effective MAP helps you to clearly identify where you’re at and chart the path forward to where you hope to be.

Through the years, I’ve coached many leaders and consulted with many ministries in Strategic Planning sessions, and the ministry MAP is my go-to tool for these settings. Here are five keys for charting your ministry MAP.


Do you have a clearly defined mission statement? Everything you’re working on with your MAP should lead you to accomplishing your mission. Don’t take your mission statement for granted. Ruthlessly evaluate everything in your ministry – your programs, your budget, your personnel, your perceived successes – against your mission. Let me use Sonlife as an example here. When I took on the leadership role with Sonlife in 2013, our mission statement was: 

Equipping emerging leaders in relational disciple-making according to the Son’s life. 

Within a few years, we dropped the word emerging because it seemed to leave out existing  leaders who needed the equipping we offer. We simplified our mission statement to read: 

Equipping leaders in relational disciple-making according to the Son’s life. 

Though Sonlife started as a youth ministry training organization more than forty years ago, over time we expanded to offer our disciple-making training to the whole church. Then, in 2021, we made the strategic and intentional decision to return to a primary focus on youth ministry. When we did this, we didn’t change our mission statement. We just reflected this in our vision of transforming the culture of youth ministry in North America, restoring it to the disciple-making heart of Jesus. On our recent Exec Team retreat though, we began to wrestle with the idea of reflecting our primary focus in our mission statement as well.

Equipping youth leaders in relational disciple-making according to the Son’s life.

We’ve not settled on the exact language yet… youth leader, youth ministry leader, youth worker… but we do want our mission to reflect our primary focus on youth ministry and making disciples among the next generation.

When we evaluate our ministry – our programs, our budget, our initiatives, our staff – everything must be measured against the mission. How is everything we do as a ministry and everyone who we have serving on the Sonlife team helping us to equip youth leaders in relational disciple-making according to the Son’s life?


Your Mission Aligned Priorities are the “big rocks” you must remain focused on to accomplish your mission. These are not goals. These are priorities. If you’re going to be effective, you need to limit your priorities to maximize your impact. Because of these, I generally recommend having no more than 4-8 Mission Aligned Priorities. To keep it simple, I usually coach youth pastors to begin with these five Mission Aligned Priorities. They come right out of our Sonlife training on the life of Christ.


  1. Personal Health & Growth
  2. Winning the Lost
  3. Building the Believer
  4. Equipping the Worker
  5. Multiplying Disciple-Makers

We begin with you as a leader. How are you doing with God? How’s your marriage? How are you doing as a parent? Are you growing as a disciple, a disciple-maker, and a disciple-making leader? From there, we move on to your ministry role. A disciple-making ministry will balance Winning, Building, Equipping & Multiplying priorities for overall disciple-making effectiveness.


It’s not enough to merely state your priorities. You must be clear. What would you consider a “win” in that Mission Aligned Priority? Your definition of each Mission Aligned Priority is not your goals. This will help you more specifically evaluate where you’re currently at, and it will also shape your ministry’s goals as you begin to chart the course. 

Let me give you an example from my consulting experience. Several years ago, I sat down with a church staff to lead them through the strategic planning process. One of their Mission Aligned Priorities was Evangelism. Not surprising. When I asked them to define the win in the area of evangelism, the response was something like, “We want to reach people with the gospel and see them put their faith in Christ for salvation.” That’s a great definition, right? Simple, clear, mission-oriented. But I wasn’t satisfied. My disciple-making bias is about to show 🙂  I asked, “So, would you then be satisfied if the only person in the church who is sharing Christ is the pastor, and if the only proclamation of the gospel is coming from the pulpit? You could be a dynamic evangelist, preaching the gospel on Sunday mornings, and seeing many spiritually lost people coming into a relationship with God. Would you be satisfied with that? Or do you want all the believers in the church sharing Christ with their neighbors, friends, co-workers and classmates?” Everyone looked at each other, first sheepishly, and then excitedly. “Yes! That’s what we want!” 

That church leadership team changed their definition for the Mission Aligned Priority of Evangelism. It now read: 

To equip and encourage our church body to invest in relationships with the spiritually lost and invite them into a saving relationship with Christ.

Can you see how this change in their “win” would dramatically change the evaluation of their Evangelism priority? Instead of asking, “How many people trusted Christ this past year,” they would now be asking, “How many of our people invested in relationships with the lost and invited them into a relationship with Christ?” That’s a HUGE difference!


The SWOT analysis is a simple evaluation tool I was trained in by Sonlife as a young youth pastor. I love to do the SWOT analysis on a dry erase board, but a simple sheet of paper will do. Draw an intersecting line across the middle of the page, down the middle vertically, and across the middle horizontally, giving you four quadrants. In the top left quadrant, put an S for Strengths. In the top right quadrant, put a W for Weaknesses. In the bottom left quadrant, put an O for Opportunities. And in the bottom right quadrant, put a T for Threats.

Across the top of the white board or page, write your first Mission Aligned Priority and its definition. Then, begin to prayerfully evaluate. 

STRENGTHS: What’s going well? What are you doing that’s working? Who is a real strength, a real asset, with this Mission Aligned Priority? What resources do you have at your disposal that you’re utilizing, and they’re working for you? 

WEAKNESSES: What’s not working? Where are your shortfalls? Is your facility a weakness? Are you under-resourced? Do you have personnel problems? Are their needed skills that are lacking?

OPPORTUNITIES: Are there resources or relationships that you could tap into but haven’t yet? Are there new ideas, programs, or projects you could look to implement that could move the ball forward? This is where some brainstorming can take place. Don’t be afraid to put an idea on the board. Dare to dream.

THREATS: What are your potential blind spots? Are there any potential problems that you can foresee? What are the personnel issues that could creep up on you and need addressed? Are there areas where you recognize your leadership and gifting could be insufficient, and you don’t know where the help will come from?

As you SWOT out each Mission Aligned Priority, don’t worry about getting it done perfectly before you move on to the next one. You will find that evaluating one area will help spark some thought on other areas. Give your SWOT analysis ample time. This will be critical as you begin to think about the goals you want to plot out on your MAP.


Now that you have your Mission Aligned Priorities identified, defined, and analyzed with the SWOT process, it’s time to look forward. With each of your 4-8 Mission Aligned Priorities, you should set both FAITH GOALS and WORK GOALS for the next year. A more complete process will go beyond one year and look at goals for the next 3-5 years. Let me explain.

FAITH GOALS: These are goals you prayerfully set that will require God to show up if they are to be reached. They are often numeric in some way. As an example, a youth ministry might set a WINNING THE LOST goal of seeing 20 students trust Christ as their Savior in the coming year, or maybe seeing 20% of their believing students share Christ with at least one person in the next year, or even seeing a 10% conversion growth rate over the next year. These are all FAITH GOALS because you cannot control the outcome. They all require God to show up and work in students lives to see each of these goals reached.

WORK GOALS: Work goals then are those things you can do to see your Faith Goals reached. You do have control over whether the work gets done. You can plan for it. You can put it on the calendar. You can put it in the budget. You can carry out the plan. Using the examples above, if your FAITH GOAL is to see 20 students trust Christ as their Savior in the next year, you can set as a WORK GOAL to plan and execute a monthly outreach where lost students can be brought to hear the gospel. If your FAITH GOAL is to see 20% of your believing students share Christ with at least one spiritually lost friend, you can set as a WORK GOAL to bring your students to XJ, REMIX, or ReVerb where they will be equipped to share their faith. You can set as a WORK GOAL to have your students download the Life In 6 Words app by Dare 2 Share. 

Your FAITH GOALS and your WORK GOALS work together to help you live out your priorities and accomplish your mission. Your WORK GOALS support your FAITH GOALS and help to bring them to fruition. Never set a FAITH GOAL without also attaching one or two WORK GOALS to it.

When you’ve done this with each of your Mission Aligned Priorities, your disciple-making MAP is ready to be shared. First, share it with other key stakeholders in your ministry. They can help to refine the MAP before you communicate it broadly. You want their buy-in. Then, once your MAP has been refined and finalized, begin to share it with your leaders and students. Cast vision. Chart the course. And most importantly, stick to the MAP. You’ve prayerfully sought God’s wisdom and direction with the development of the MAP. It’s His ministry. He can redirect. But don’t be lazy. Along with your Annual Planning Retreat, your APR, your also need a PRD. Yes, a PRD. A Prayer & Reflection Day. This is your time each month to pull out the MAP. Look at where you’re at. What progress have you made over the previous month? What priorities do you need to focus on in the coming month? You have a MAP. You’ve charted out the course. Now use it! Follow this blueprint, and you will become a more intentional disciple-making leader.