Strategic planning in churches comes with lots of challenges.
While we should certainly recognize and emphasize God’s faithfulness and His provision, intentional planning does not necessarily leave God out of the picture or minimize our dependency on the Holy Spirit.
As a pastor, you may find your church is hesitant to engage in strategic planning for the church. After all, churches are organizations with a mission from God, not businesses with a bottom line, right? While it’s true that churches and businesses are different, that doesn’t mean that strategic planning is irrelevant or inappropriate for churches.
In fact, given the ever-changing landscape of our society and culture, it can be argued strategic planning for churches is more relevant now than ever before. There’s no time like the present for churches to begin engaging in strategic planning to ensure that they’re able to effectively fulfill their mission.
However, I understand there can be some hesitancy when it comes to churches embracing strategic planning. Before we dive in, let’s make sure we’re all talking about the same thing when it comes to strategic planning.
What is strategic planning?
Strategic planning is a process that churches can use to discern how and where God is bringing a unique calling or opportunity to a specific church. A plan is developed outlining how a church will invest time, organizational energy, financial resources, and leadership investment toward seeing the opportunities realized. Strategic planning helps focus our attention on the areas we feel called to make a difference, maximizing our efforts toward this unique calling.
There are lots of good reasons why strategic planning is so important for churches. For one thing, it helps us to be good stewards of the resources God has given us. It also allows us to focus our energies on the areas where we feel called to make a difference. And last but not least, it helps us to avoid duplication of effort and overlap with other ministries in our community.
Even with clarity on strategic planning and its benefits, I do recognize there are legitimate objections which should be heard and acknowledged. Below are three common objections I’ve heard from pastors, along with my thoughts on how to address them.
”We don’t need to do strategic planning because we’re following God’s leading.”
It’s true that churches should be faithful to God’s leading. This doesn’t mean strategic planning is incompatible with being led by God. In fact, I would argue that the two go hand-in-hand. Strategic planning is a way for us to discern what God is calling us to do and then develop a plan for how we’re going to do it. It helps us to focus our attention on the areas where we feel called to make a difference and to maximize our efforts toward this unique calling.
“We don’t need to do strategic planning because we already have a clear mission and vision.”
Again, while churches need to have a clear mission and vision, those things alone are not enough. I certainly advocate for clarity and believe pastors must lead with clarity and inspiration. A vision and mission provide direction but they don’t necessarily guide churches on how to achieve their goals. This is where strategic planning comes in. By engaging in strategic planning, we can take our vision and mission and turn them into tangible steps that will help us move closer toward achieving our goals.
“We can’t do strategic planning because we don’t have the time/resources.”
There’s no question church leaders are often pulled in a million different directions and may feel like they don’t have the time or resources to engage in strategic planning. However, I would argue that engaging in strategic planning can actually help you save time and resources in the long run. By taking the time upfront to develop a plan, you can avoid wasting time later on pursuing goals that may not be realistic or achievable given your available resources.
Strategic planning done effectively will reveal inefficiencies, overlapped efforts, and misalignment among staff and ministries. When these can be addressed and corrected, all of the church’s significant resources can be invested in a common direction, saving time, money, and energy along the way.
While there may be some hesitancy when it comes to church leaders embracing strategic planning, I believe that there are ways to address those concerns. Strategic planning is a tool that can help us discern God’s leading for our churches and develop a plan for how we’re going to achieve our goals. It’s an essential part of effective church leadership in today’s ever-changing world.
In closing, I believe strategic planning is a vital part of being a faithful steward of the resources God has given us. It allows churches to focus energy on the areas they feel called to make a difference and avoid duplication of effort and overlap with other ministries in our community. If you’re not currently engaged in strategic planning at your church, I encourage you to give it a try. I think you’ll be surprised at how helpful it can be!
PS I love recommending books and resources to people who are looking to explore strategic church planning for their church. Here are three you should definitely consider:
- Advanced Strategic Planning: A 21st-Century Model for Church and Ministry Leaders by Aubrey Malphurs
- Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory by Tod Bolsinger
- Pursuing God’s Will Together: A Discernment Practice for Leadership Groups by Ruth Haley Barton