Strategic Planning That Sets the Bar High and Makes a Difference

Usually, people desire to make a difference in just about every area of life. That is particularly true in church life, a place where making a difference really matters. The only problem is that in my church leadership consulting I find that many churches don’t expect to achieve much and they also don’t know how to get more out of their people. George Barna seems to have a good grasp of the problem in an article he wrote recently.

“The challenge to church leaders is to stop pandering for popularity and set the bar higher. People live up to the expectations set for them. When the expectations are that people show up, play nicely together and keep the system going, the potential for having life-changing experiences that characterized the early Church are limited. If churches believe in the power of the gospel and the Holy Spirit, they must hold people to a higher and more challenging standard.“

However, that is difficult to do without taking some time to plan. In the next few paragraphs I will tell you how strategic planning can help you both set the bar high and also make a difference. Consider these steps:

Be bold and committed to excellence

How do you pursue excellence? What will it look like when we achieve it? How will we hold ourselves accountable for excellence? All of these questions can be answered through an effective planning process. Coach Wooden told me once that mediocrity is greatness to the mediocre.

Care what others in the church think

People want to be valued, particularly in church. Yet, pastors often go about their work routine as if they are the only ones who have anything important to say. That’s why when we facilitate a planning process, we also include a member survey so we can hear from others and motivate church members to become involved in the process.

Involve others in your quest

My pastor used to say that if he was six inches ahead of people he could lead them, but if he was six feet ahead of them he was a target. If you want people to own something you have to bring them along and involve them. In a church the more you empower people through involvement the more engaged they become and church growth will result. Conversely, the more you try to control them, the more they will disengage from the church.

Create a vision that will make a difference

As I said earlier, most people want to make a difference, but often when I begin to help churches create a vision they are reluctant to be bold and imaginative.

Be methodical in your processes

This is certainly true for planning, but it should be true for all that you do. Excellence demands discipline, and if you desire to be disciplined you also have to be methodical in everything you do. That doesn’t mean rigid, but if you decide to do something, you need to plan to do it well. (Col. 3:23-24)

Finally, finish the course and perform beyond expectations

Not only is planning important, but it is equally important to commit to the plan and see it to fruition. That doesn’t mean components of the plan won’t change. Undoubtedly they will, but if you are committed to the vision and goals of the plan and manage to them, you will be surprised how often you will also perform well beyond expectations.