STRATEGIC PLANNING FOR
We live in an era
of strategic planning, not only for businesses but also for churches and
organizations. But exactly what is strategic planning from a Christian
context and how
should it be conducted? Let’s explore the basics by laying a conceptual blueprint that is
easy to understand and use.
WHAT IS STRATEGIC PLANNING?
is used interchangeable with such familiar terms as long-range planning, vision
formulation, mission statement, and environmental analysis. All of these
concepts have a common denominator: they focus on how a particular organization
is distinct and unique.
What kind of
church or Christian organization do we ideally want to be? How are we different
from other churches or other Christian organizations? Why do we exist? What do
we most want to accomplish? Strategic planning answers these questions.
HOW IS STRATEGIC PLANNING CONDUCTED?
The Right Questions:
- Why do we exist? That
is, what needs in the community would not be met if our
church/organization were not around?
- What are we like now,
and how do we want to be different several years from now?
- What do we do best?
What are our unique and special strengths, capabilities, and
- What resources
(human, financial, facilities) are at our disposal? In what ways are our
resources limited and constrained?
- Why do people come to
our church rather than to another?
- To what kinds of
people and groups are we best prepared to minister? What are their
- What principles and
ideals do we believe in most strongly?
- In what new
directions do we most want to grow?
- What is the
"personality" of our church/organization--the internal culture
- What are the most
fervent dreams and hopes of key leader
The Right People:
the following questions to select the members of your church or organization
who are best suited to be strategic planners. These are members who:
- Focus on the
"forest" (whole organization) more than the "trees"
- Seem to have a real
passion for envisioning future possibilities (rather than seeing only
past failures or current limitations)?
- Have the best
in-depth insight into how the organization really works and functions.
- Are more interested
in ends (the whats and whys) than in means (the hows)?
- Are most committed to
what you are striving ultimately to accomplish?
The Right Way:
should be thought of as a dialogue proves that percolates throughout the
following questions can guide strategists as they seek to formulate a realistic
- In what formal ways
should we seek input and perspective from our members? This should
include meetings, surveys, and perhaps retreats.
- In what informal ways
should we dialogue? Avenues to be considered include small-group
get-togethers, home visits, and breakfasts or luncheons with key members.
- What assumptions are
leaders making about the church or organization that members might not
necessarily share? What assumptions have been made concerning
availability of resources? The needs of members? The commitment of
members? The spiritual maturity of members?
- To what extent do
paid staff members seem to be on the same wavelength as volunteers
regarding the church’s mission, goals, and priorities?
A STRATEGIC PLANNING TEMPLATE
perspective and insights yielded by the dialogue/percolation process can be
shaped into a cohesive, strategic document using the following information
- the specific people
and groups we serve
- the specific needs we
- our highest
- what we do best
- how we are unique and
- how we want to change
over the next several years
- the contributions we
want to make over the next several years.
IMPLEMENTING YOUR STRATEGY
- The strategic plan
and vision must fit the organization’s personality and life-style
like a glove.
- The plan must be
realistic and workable from the standpoint of leadership, resources, and
- To be successful, the
strategic plan must be clearly understood and enthusiastically embraced
by the members.
- The plan will not
succeed over time unless it is backed by exceptionally strong
administrative and team-building skills by the staff and especially the
senior pastor or leader.
- The success of the
plan’s implementation hinges on a continuous free-flowing dialogue
process between staff, lay leaders, and members.
- No dynamic strategic
plan can succeed in a passive organization.
- Above all else,
successful strategy formulation requires active, hands-on leadership and
KEEPING LEADERS ON TRACK
In the final
analysis, leaders make or break strategic planning. The following questions
will help leaders keep long-term success clearly in view.
- Whose plan are we
developing? The organization’s? or our own personal plan? How can
we tell the difference?
- Do we have enough
administrative infrastructure (lay leaders, systems and procedures,
training capacity, available resources, and so forth) to make
implementing our strategic plan reasonable?
- To what extent have
members of the strategy team and key leaders of the church developed
rapport with one another? Is the leadership team sufficiently unified to
effectively lead the organization through the many uncertainties and
challenges of the strategic plan?
- What should we do if
it appears that the strategic plan is not working?
STRATEGIC PLANNING AS A LIFESTYLE
All plans will
need changing, fine-tuning, and revising. The real legacy of strategic planning
is the interactive communication process used to derive and adjust the plan.
and dreams is an unbeatable way to build relationships and nurture bonding
between members of the organization. People can work together toward a common
end, transforming one another in the process. Strategic planning isn’t a
cure-all, but it can make a decisive difference in the future of your church or