Strategic Planning for Churches and Non-Profits

Many don’t understand the need for strategic planning in some organizations, especially churches.  A common feeling is that if we just pray for it “God will provide”.  Now I would never want to take anything away from the power of prayer and God’s ability to bless any ministry or organization.  But I also believe that God placed us on this earth to be good stewards of what he has bestowed upon us.  And it’s our responsibility to serve him and make the most out of those gifts.

Churches and non-profits need strategic plans just like any business does.  The differences between a church’s strategic plan is two-fold:

  • A different lexicon – we speak differently in churches.  We aren’t talking about profit, we are talking about winning souls.  We aren’t selling “products”.
  • A different structure – church strategy involves professional staff members, volunteer leaders and members.  This is very different from a corporate entity utilizing paid employees to reach a target customer to sell specific products and services.

I see five key components of a church strategy:

  1. Core Principles and Beliefs – these are the things that you cannot compromise.  Yes, this is your theology.  But it goes even deeper than that. They are at the root of everything you stand for.
  2. Mission – this is what you do. It’s current and real, not aspirational.  For churches, I believe this has already been prescribed for us in scripture.  But putting it into your own words is not a bad idea.
  3. Vision – this is where you want to be.  3-5 years is a good standard, but some prefer shorter.  I would not attempt a vision any farther out than this.  This is aspirational, but not unattainable.
  4. Values – these are the things that set you apart.  These define who you are and what is important to you.  For example, in my home church, these are things like “community”, “authenticity” and “diversity”.
  5. Strategies – These are the specific steps, activities, programs, etc. that you are going to put into place based on what you have discovered in the first four.  Goals should be SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Aligned with your values, Realistic and Time-Bound).

Each of these items builds on the other.  They also get more specific to your organization as you work down the list. For example, core beliefs will not vary that much by a church.  Mission will also be pretty similar from church to church. Vision will be a little more varied, based on where you are and your current state. Values will certainly be (and should be) distinctive for you. And strategies will certainly be tailored to each organization.

So why is it important for a church to set a strategy?  Tony Morgan of the Unstuck Group gives these seven “frustrations” of doing church without a strategy.  I believe this applies to any type of organization.,

  1. The loudest person in the room the license to decide what happens.
  2. True leaders will leave if there is no plan or strategy.
  3. It requires more meetings (to discuss minutia).
  4. You are setting the stage for a split.
  5. You never have the opportunity to celebrate a win.
  6. You don’t have the opportunity to unite in prayer around something.
  7. People won’t give if there is no vision (especially true with millennials).

If you are interested in learning more about how to do this in your church or organization, please contact me and I’ll help you get started.