How Your Church Benefits from Strategic Planning

In deciding whether or not to plan, there are often questions pastors have but seldom ask, at least not out loud. Do I really want to plan? Will a strategic planning process actually do any good? Do I want to spend all that energy in planning? My answer to all of those questions is a resounding yes! Why?  Well, the benefits of planning far outweigh the alternative of not planning. Consider just a few :

Clarifies mission and core values

A successful process allows you to clarify your church’s mission, vision and core values. This then gives direction to the planning, operations and decision making of the church leadership. It also gives you a means by which you can evaluate current and new activities and build a plan for the future.

Identifies Priorities

Planning is not a process of prioritizing according to the tyranny of the urgent. Nor is it a random scheme of trying the latest best thing a pastor or elder read in a book. Certainly books can be helpful, but every church is different. What works in one setting may be far from appropriate in another setting. Through our process of due diligence, we work with churches to help clarify the critical planning issues and then begin to identify priorities. This helps to focus the staff and guide the planning process. In this way the eventual plans that come from the process fit the culture and are by no means random.

Establishes clear direction

Initially, we try to help the church create or clarify its mission, vision, critical issues and core values. This allows the church to move quickly through a process that establishes future direction by developing a road map of goals, strategies, action plans, timelines and budgets. I have had pastors and staff members complain about lay leaders inserting themselves into church operations. One of the great antidotes for this is to have a plan that the governing body has helped develop and ratify. Then if it’s not in the plan, you are not obliged to do it. Of course, if it’s a good idea that makes sense to most people, then you are also at liberty to revisit it. But having the plan gives you that flexibility.

Focuses decision making

Establishing goals, strategies and action plans allows the pastor along with the leadership team also to focus decision-making. That includes decision making not only for operations but also for important activities like ministry expansion, resource allocation, fundraising and church growth.

Enhances communication and teamwork

Once you have completed a planning process and are committed to implementing the plans, communication improves and teamwork grows. However, you have to be committed to the goals and manage to the plan. It’s not unusual during our planning processes with churches, to hear people share something like, “ I didn’t know you were doing that. I’m doing that as well!” Initially it’s funny, but the duplication of effort can also be quite costly.

Increases success

Ultimately, you want a process that leaves you with a plan that produces an increased level of success. Certainly that success can be measured in a variety of ways. However, the increased efficiency, effectiveness and commitment our process helps produce are primary factors that contribute to that success.  Maybe our online products can help you.





Why Strategic Planning is Not a Waste of Time for Churches

Some people in the church world think that strategic planning is a waste of time. Maybe you fall into this category. In the paragraphs that follow, I’m going to try and convince you otherwise. I understand the complaints:

  • The plans are too long
  • There is often no accountability associated with them
  • There is too much detail and they are often all over the proverbial map

No justification to stop

While these observations speak to serious process problems, it does not provide justification simply to stop planning. In fact, that kind of thinking represents a sharp contrast with the thinking of one of the great leaders I interviewed for my book, Leadership is a Covenant. I’m talking about the late John Wooden who said, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”

Lessons from Coach Wooden

Of course, Benjamin Franklin first made the comment, but Coach Wooden’s teams clearly approached planning perfection. The Coach told me that he and his assistants planned everything, from offensive and defensive execution to living accommodations and uniform fittings for each player. He explained that he didn’t want his players to have any excuse not to play well.

The coaches also executed and sometimes adapted those plans at daily practice, so that when they got to the games they were clearly well prepared. Based on the results – with 10 national championships in eleven years – it’s pretty clear that their planning proved to be fruitful.

Giving account through effective planning

The point that churches really need to understand is that the success of church ministry, church growth, stewardship and much more are all related to effective planning. Among other responsibilities, the church is compelled to be a good steward. Romans, chapter 14 tells us, “So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.” As church leaders, we cannot afford to neglect our stewardship responsibility for the resources (financial, material and human) in our care. That is best achieved through an effective planning process.

Use the right process and be serious about it

Now, I’m biased, but I believe our fundraising consulting organization has built a process that actually yields results. It is relatively short and we have dozens of thankful clients who have a reliable, useful, and action oriented strategic plan. But they were serious about both the planning process and the implementation of the plan.

I do agree with one thing: many strategic plans are not well built and fewer still are well implemented. However, that does not mean the plan itself was a bad idea. Often, we just need to commit ourselves to actually doing what we say we will do.

So, my suggestion: have a plan! But, if and when you have one, be sure you’re committed to working it. Don’t allow your planning to be wasted. Instead, be an effectual doer, not a hearer only.


Fundraising 101 - Lesson 1: 5 Principles Necessary for a Successful Campaign

For the past 19 years we at the Covenant Group have helped hundreds of churches, schools and other nonprofit organizations plan and implement successful fundraising campaigns. In fact, most of the organizations we have helped have been quite successful (about 97% averaging 145% of goal). Often people ask us what it takes to have a successful campaign. While the times have changed since we first started our business, the basic principles of fundraising have not.

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