Andy Stanley and others ask a very pertinent question in their book:  7 Practices of Effective Ministry.  “How do you know…if your church is winning?”  Ministry Toolkits asks the question:  What is a ‘win’ in your church?  How do you measure success?  Do you know what your ‘win’ is?

Every year you prepare a budget.  How do you determine how many resources to allocate to an existing ministry?  People.  Money.  Space.  All of these are resources.  Are you allocating resources to ministries that are ineffective?

You have to determine your win.  Recently a young man was training to run his first 5K.  The young man said “I will not win the race.”  His father said:  “Yes, you will win.  Your win is not to come in  first.  Your win is to finish the 5K.”

As you go about ‘doing church’, you must determine your win.  We call that ‘vision’.  That is the first step in strategic planning.

What is Strategic Planning?

The word ‘strategic’ refers to something that is important or essential in relation to a plan of action or objective.  If you want better results you must think strategically.  That might mean major change or minor adjustments.  The adjustments and change must have clear direction and purpose.  If there were no limits, what do you feel God is leading you to do?

planning session

Simply put, strategic planning determines where a church is going over the next year or more, how it’s going to get there and how it’ll know if it got there or not.

The focus of a strategic plan is usually on the entire church, while the focus of a business plan is usually on a particular product, service or program.  Strategic planning may ultimately get to particular programs or ministries but that is not where it begins.

There are a variety of perspectives, models and approaches used in strategic planning. The way that a strategic plan is developed depends on the nature of the church’s leadership, culture of the church, complexity of the church’s environment, size of the church, expertise of planners, etc. For example, there are a variety of strategic planning models, including goals-based, issues-based, organic, scenario (some would assert that scenario planning is more of a technique than model), etc.

Ministry Toolkits’ process begins with a health assessment.  This assessment usually identifies if there is a need for further planning.

Ministry Toolkits’ Strategic Planning Process

  • focus on the church’s mission (and vision and/or values), goals to work toward the mission,
  • evaluation of skills/resources,
  • getting accurate information,
  • agreeing on priorities and specific objectives,
  • developing realistic action steps or strategies to achieve the goals, and
  • action planning (who will do what and by when).

The results of strategic planning is productive change.  Ministry Toolkits uses a Managing and Balancing Complex Change tool to help churches visualize this process.

Some plans are designed for one year, many for three years, and some for five to ten years into the future. Some plans are five to eight pages long, while others can be considerably longer.  Size and scope of the plan is determined by the level of need and commitment.  Plans are just that.  Plans.  A big plan can be resized.  If a church discovers that it needs a bigger, more comprehensive plan, that is also possible.

Development of the strategic plan greatly helps to clarify the church’s plans and ensure that key leaders and church members are all “on the same page”. Far more important than the strategic plan document, is the strategic planning process itself.  Involvement of leaders and members in the planning process promotes buy in of the plan.

For more specific details about Strategic Planning, see How to Accomplish Strategic Planning.

 Benefits of Strategic Planning

Strategic planning serves a variety of purposes in churches, including to:

  1. Clearly define the purpose of the church and to establish realistic goals and objectives consistent with that mission in a defined time frame within the church’s capacity for implementation.
  2. Communicate those goals and objectives to the church’s members.
  3. Develop a sense of ownership of the plan.
  4. Ensure the most effective use is made of the church’s resources by focusing the resources on the key priorities.
  5. Provide a base from which progress can be measured and establish a mechanism for informed change when needed.
  6. Listen to everyone’s opinions in order to build consensus about where the church is going
  7. Provides clearer focus for the church, thereby producing more efficiency and effectiveness.
  8. Bridges staff/employees and the church leaders.
  9. Builds strong teams in the leadership and in the staff/employees.
  10. Provides the glue that keeps the leadership together.
  11. Produces great satisfaction and meaning among planners, especially around a common vision.
  12. Increases productivity from increased efficiency and effectiveness.
  13. Solves major problems in the church.

Do You Need A Consultant or Facilitator to Help You With Planning?

You may want to consider using a facilitator from outside of your church if:

  1. Your church has not conducted strategic planning before.
  2. For a variety of reasons, previous strategic planning was not deemed to be successful.
  3. There appears to be a wide range of ideas and/or concerns among church members about strategic planning and current church issues to be addressed in the plan.
  4. There is no one in the church who members feel has sufficient facilitation skills.
  5. No one in the church feels committed to facilitating strategic planning for the church.
  6. Leaders believe that an inside facilitator will either inhibit participation from others or will not have the opportunity to fully participate in planning themselves.
  7. Leaders want an objective voice, i.e., someone who is not likely to have strong predispositions about the church’s strategic issues and ideas.

Handy Tool to Guarantee Plans Are Implemented

It’s one thing to develop a plan. It’s another to actually implement the plan. Far too many plans sit untouched on shelves. A low-cost, straightforward approach to plan implement is to use Leadership Coaching provided by Ministry Toolkits.  For more information about Leadership Coaching, Contact Us.

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