Is Strategic Planning Actually Biblical?

  • “I don’t plan; it gets in the way of the Holy Spirit.”
  • “I rely on the Spirit to give me direction, why should I plan?”
  • “God is blessing our church now, so why is planning necessary?”

During my career, I’ve heard plenty of reasons why pastors don’t plan, or at least not in a formal way. But are they correct? Is it in their best interest not to plan?

Biblical support for planning

If you care to address these questions, you do well to consider Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no vision the people perish.” I realize theologians will argue that this verse has nothing to do with strategic planning. However, I’ve experienced many instances where a lack of planning has left the church and its leaders faltering.

Declining church attendance

A 2014 Barna report on church growth trends revealed that church attendance has declined nationwide for more than a decade. At least part of that decline is due to a lack of planning on the part of pastors.

In a recent article on church health, Tom Rainer estimated that 9 out of 10 churches are either growing at a slower pace than their communities or they are not growing at all. As an antidote he offers 4 ways to address this problem:

  • Create a plan
  • Create buy-in from the congregation
  • Create a culture of disciple making
  • Stay faithful to the plan

Write it down

Then there are pastors who’ve told me, “I have a plan, but it’s not formal. It’s pretty much in my head.” But if it’s in the pastor’s head, it may be difficult to build consensus around it. That brings me to another verse in Habakuk 2:2, “And the Lord answered me, write the vision, make it plain on tablets, so they may run who read it.”

Engage others in the plan

I don’t think it’s just about vision, particularly if those who read it are to run by it. Effective plans also include goals, strategies and action plans developed by church leadership. That group includes lay leaders, pastors and staff. As Proverbs 15:2 reminds us, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisors they succeed.”  If the plan is primarily the pastor’s, it misses the opportunity to motivate church members to engage their talents and experience.

Planning equals good stewardship

Ultimately, pastors have a stewardship responsibility for the health and wellbeing of the church God has placed in their care. Planning is certainly not a panacea for all church ills. Instead it’s a good place to start moving the church forward in a healthy direction.

God set the example for planning

And now that I think of it, God really gave us the idea for planning when He said in Jeremiah 29:11-13, “For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”

You mean God has a plan for me? Absolutely! You see, seeking God with all our heart involves praying and studying His word, but it also involves planning. And, that happens best with an ear towards the Holy Spirit and help from “many Godly advisors” so that the plans don’t fail.