We live in an era of strategic planning, not only for businesses but also for churches and
other Christian 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.


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.


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 competencies?
    • 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 expressed needs?
    • 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 or climate?
    • What are the most fervent dreams and hopes of key leader

The Right People:

Use 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" (specialized functions)?
    • 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:

Strategic planning should be thought of as a dialogue proves that percolates throughout the organization. The following questions can guide strategists as they seek to formulate a realistic plan.

    • 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?


The information, perspective and insights yielded by the dialogue/percolation process can be shaped into a cohesive, strategic document using the following information categories:

    • the specific people and groups we serve
    • the specific needs we meet.
    • our highest priorities
    • what we do best
    • how we are unique and distinctive
    • how we want to change over the next several years
    • the contributions we want to make over the next several years.


    • 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 communication.
    • 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 aggressive team-building.







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?


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.

Discussing ideals 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 Christian organization.