When churches begin to explore strategic planning in considering their future I generally see two ideas when it comes to who should be involved:
- Involve everyone.
- Involve only the leaders at the top.
Neither are correct.
Yes, a church is a community, and strategic planning should be a community-wide effort. However, simply including people in the process because of their involvement or participation in the life of the church is not enough.
At the same time, simply because someone is in a senior role as a pastor or board member doesn’t mean they should automatically be involved in the process either.
You need to consider other factors as well, such as their experience, expertise, and willingness to engage in honest conversations about the future of your church.
Let’s take a closer look at who should be involved in your church’s strategic planning process.
People with different roles and skillsets
One of the most important factors to consider when choosing who to involve in your church’s strategic planning process is perspective diversity. You need people with different roles and skillsets so that all aspects of the process are covered.
The most crucial factor here is including people who are knowledgeable when it comes to the work of the church but are able to see outside their own lane of responsibility. For example, if you want to include the youth pastor to make sure we consider the impact of strategic planning on families and students, the youth pastor must be able to contribute to the conversation beyond the perspective of considering only the impact on high school students.
You also want to make sure you include both big picture and detail thinkers. Yes we are entering a process to imagine the future and we want new ideas. But the process also involves connecting those big ideas with some small steps forward to generate concrete action toward achieving the outcomes and objectives.
In general, you want to make sure the breadth of your church’s ministry is represented among the group involved in strategic planning while not necessarily being tied to the idea that the people responsible to oversee those areas must be included.
People who are willing to engage in honest conversations
Another important factor to consider is whether or not the people you’re involving are willing to engage in honest conversations about the future of your church.
This can be a tough pill for some people to swallow, but it’s essential for the success of the strategic planning process. Only by being honest about the challenges facing your church can you develop a plan that will address those challenges head-on.
As the leader, you’ll need to gather data on significant metrics to make sure you are talking about facts not feelings when considering the current reality of the state of your church.
Here are some metrics you will want to include:
- Attendance – How many people are coming to your church and how is that number changing over time?
- Giving – What are the trends in overall giving as well as the number of new donors?
- Age demographics – Are certain generations over- or under-represented in your congregation?
- Community demographics – Does your congregation reflect the community where your church is located?
- Ministry engagement – Are the ministries you offer engaging people to help them take next steps in following Jesus?
People with fresh perspectives
It’s also important to include people with fresh perspectives in your church’s strategic planning process. These are people who may not have been involved in previous planning efforts and who can therefore offer a new perspective on things.
They may see things that others have missed and help raise important questions that need to be addressed during the planning process.
Allowing for different perspectives can be difficult, especially if it means changing the way things have always been done. But if your church is serious about creating a successful strategy, then it’s important to be open to new ideas and ways of doing things. Only by thinking outside the box will you be able to develop a truly innovative and effective strategy.
Generally, we’re not looking to wipe the slate clean and start over when we begin a strategic planning process. But it is important to have people involved who are willing to ask hard questions around the value of legacy ministries. Status quo is not a great outcome when it comes to strategic planning.
People who are passionate about your church
Finally, you should only involve people who are passionate about your church’s mission and vision in the strategic planning process. These are people who truly believe in what your church is doing and want to see it succeed.
Their passion will be evident in everything they do during the strategic planning process and will help motivate others to do their best work as well.
Strategic planning is not when we need to give equal time to the naysayers and the critics. Yes we want to welcome honest critique and evaluation, but the goal is not to criticize what we are currently doing.
Involve people who are excited about what’s happening in your church, fired up about the future, and will contribute great ideas toward what is possible!
Choosing who to involve in your church’s strategic planning process is an important task that should not be taken lightly. There are many factors to consider beyond simply organizational position. You need to think about diversity, skill sets, honesty, fresh perspectives, and passion when selecting participants for your church’s strategic planning process.
By taking all of these factors into consideration, you can be sure that you have chosen the best possible team to help develop a plan for your church’s future success.