Buckets and Holes Planning

August 9, 2010 — 5 Comments

Planning is honestly one of my favorite times of the year. We do serious planning (5 days, 9-noon) three times a year: August, December, May.  Love it.

To use Stephen Covey’s metaphor, we spend the entire year climbing furiously up the ladder – planning is a time to make sure our ladder is leaning against the right wall.

We start our week long staff planning this morning. So here’s some planning-themed inspiration to help you get ready.

The most practical advice I’ve heard in the past few years came from Tim Henderson who leads the Cru ministry at Penn State (Tim and his team put out incredible resources under the name Centerfield Productions).


I call it Buckets and Holes. I’m sure Tim Henderson has a more official name for it than that.

Here’s how Tim puts it: “How do we spend what we have to solve our problems, meet our goals, and increase what we have for next year and its problems?”


Here’s the (abbreviated) idea in two parts (the second one, for me, was the new insight).  For your ministry, for this year:

  1. What are the holes/problems (this step is common for most strategic planning)?
  2. What are the buckets we have to draw from?  What do we currently have that we can use to solve those problems?

Fleshed out, here’s what that looks like for us this year:

  1. Hole: our leadership numbers at our weekly training time have plateaued over the past few years.  If we want to reach the entire campus, we need more equipped laborers.
  2. Buckets: Our weekly meeting is not a problem to be solved.  It’s a giant bucket of cash.  We’ve got great momentum and incredible student leaders attending who love Jesus.  So we plan to use our weekly meeting to address our Laborer Hole.  A few other buckets we plan to use: we have a lot of great students leading Bible studies; we have a lot of students who choose to live in the dorms to have a ministry.

The Goal = To turn your holes into buckets. In 2011, we hope to be able to see that laborers is no longer a problem but a bucket that we can draw from to address the inevitable holes of 2011.

So we spend an entire hour during planning filling out two big post-it posters on what our Holes and Buckets are.  We narrow it down to 3-4 Holes we will tackle this Fall and then start playing connect the dots, connecting Buckets with Holes.


There’s actually 4 steps to the entire process and this PDF from Tim Henderson shows a very clear overview of the full process (right click to download):

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Some Bonus Planning Quotes to get you fired up about planning!

Simple, clear purpose and principles give rise to complex and intelligent behavior. Complex rules and regulations give rise to simple and stupid behavior. – Dee Hock

You’ve got to think about the big things while you’re doing small things, so that all the small things go in the right direction. — Alvin Toffler

The best way to get a good idea is to get lots of ideas. — Linus Pauling

photo courtesy of rubyblossom via flickr

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