Fulfilling a church’s mission requires taking the time to develop a strategy, planning the steps to get it done and management of the process.
Managing the process requires identifying who needs to do what, by when and holding them accountable for what they are responsible for doing.
7 Steps to Implementing Church Strategy
1. Vision, Mission and Values
The first step is writing a church vision, mission and values statement. This step is important because it helps with understanding for why the ministry exists (mission) and what it is trying to accomplish (vision).
It also clarifies the guiding principles (values) by which it operates and makes decisions. This is arguably the most important step because it sets the direction for the church. Without clarity of vision, any organization is susceptible to steering off course.
2. Strategic Plan
After the vision, mission and values are written, a church strategic plan can be developed. The plan simply maps out the necessary steps to achieve the ministry’s mission and vision.
This kind of plan can be both short term (3-6 months) or long term (1-3 years). There was a time when strategic plans went as far out as five or ten years, but because of rapidly changing conditions, shorter term plans seem to be more common.
The first step is to identify the outcome – what it is you want to accomplish in three years. Take some time to brainstorm or visualize what that future state looks like. This will be the beginning of the plan.
For example, strategic objectives or outcomes may be things like building a bible school, planting churches, sending missionaries to certain parts of the world or developing worship leaders – whatever supports the church vision.
Next create a timeline for completion of objectives and determine how many weeks, months or years it will realistically take to complete the objectives. This is done by thinking through the high-level action steps needed to complete the tasks involved.
Once you’ve identified what it is you want to accomplish (this should line up with the mission/vision) the next step is to start mapping out what it will take to get there.
For example, to plant a church, you need to ask the question, what are the steps that need to be taken? – ie: identify church plant leader, identify new church location, decide on church model, transition plan for leader, timeline to new church opening, etc.
This detailed planning can be put in the format of an action plan. An action plan is merely a written document outlining the objectives (goals), action steps, responsible person(s), possible team members, due date for each action step and implementation status.
Mapping this out creates a visual that is easy to see at a glance for what needs to be done, by whom and by when.
As you create the action plan document, you will identify objectives or steps that individual church departments need to take to support this strategic objectives. And, as each department identifies their goals and objectives, it provides the information needed to write individual (or volunteer) job descriptions and goals, which support departmental goals, which support organizational goals and ultimately the strategic plan.
When goals and objectives are written to have a straight line influence on the strategic plan it helps to achieve the long-term goals of the organization.
3. Organizational Goals
Goals are important because they provide direction, clarify job roles, give something to strive for, show how far you’ve come and help make the vision attainable.
Having goals written down makes it more real and achievable. It allows you to see where you are going and the steps to get there.
Church goals should be written at the organizational level as the first step in strategic implementation. This involves high level goals that the church as a whole is trying to accomplish.
These high level goals are typically what a Business Administrator is accountable for to the board or governing body.
As the organization works toward accomplishing the strategic plan there needs to be a structured process to take the organization from where it is to where it wants to be. This can be done by developing annual organizational goals that are written to break the long-term goals into bite-sized pieces.
This step also provides the framework to accomplish them in steps and stages, rather than the overwhelming task of trying to do them all at once, and a tool to monitor its progress.
This is done by spreading the responsibility of the goals to the departmental and staff level. This step helps to ensure that what staff are doing day-to-day, lines up with the vision and goals of the organization, and keeps employees focused on church priorities.
The structured process should include a cycle that begins with writing goals, communicating expectations, monitoring performance toward goals, assessing performance and lastly ends with the performance appraisal.
This cycle is repeated annually. Once the organization has some direction for what it wants to accomplish during the next twelve months, the priorities can be shared at the department level.
This step ensures that there is a person or group of people with responsibility for completing those goals.
Example Year 1 Annual Church Goals
- Increase weekly attendance by 10% (120 people based on 1200 member church). This supports the strategic objective of growing the church to 1500 people in three years.
- Increase the number of church volunteers by 20% (50 new volunteers based on 250 current volunteers). This supports the strategic objective of growing the volunteer base by 20%, from 250 – 350 volunteers.
- Decrease operating expenses by 5%. This supports the strategic objective of reducing operating expenses by 5%.
4. Departmental Goals
Once there are defined church goals, goals should then be delegated to the respective ministry heads or department managers.
This is where the chain-of-command or organizational structure delegates responsibilities for completing goals.
For example, a Business Administrator may have responsibility to achieve goals at the organizational level but may use the help of a ministry head or volunteer to accomplish those goals.
The ministry head or volunteer may then use employees or volunteers to help achieve goals. Now you take these Church (organizational) annual goals and break them down at the department level.
This requires assigning the goal to a specific department. For example, the church goal of increasing weekly attendance by 10% can be delegated to several different departments but one specific department might be adult education.
This is an example of what that departmental goal might look like:
5. Employee Goals
To ensure that the departmental goals are accomplished, they need to be driven down to the individual employee/volunteer level.
This is done by identifying the steps the employee needs to take in order to accomplish the goals. As you will note, these goals line up with the individual’s departmental goals.
This goal document is a valuable tool during the annual performance appraisal process because it helps to ensure that what the organization wanted to accomplish at the beginning of the year was completed.
Departmental goals should be delegated to employees within the department to share the responsibility for getting things done.
Some churches don’t have employees but may use volunteers to help accomplish goals. The more people who help, and have accountability for achieving goals, the more achievable the implementation becomes.
Now we will take the above departmental goal and break it down into steps for an employee or volunteer to accomplish.
As you will notice the objective (goal) for Susan is taken from the action steps in the departmental goal. This allows Pastor Joe Smith to assign responsibility to Susan Jones for accomplishing this goal.
This document will be used when Susan is reviewed at her annual performance appraisal which will demonstrate her goal completion. By Susan completing her goal, it allows Pastor Joe Smith to accomplish his goals, which supports the overall church goals.
6. Job Description
A church employee’s or volunteer job description should include their goal responsibilities and be updated annually. This helps to ensure that the job description is accurate.
Job descriptions should be written to reflect individual goals which support the departmental goals as well as reporting relationship (this is to identify who the boss is).
The document should also list job duties that this person is responsible for. Job descriptions should be reviewed and updated annually (performance appraisal time is a good time to do this).
Example Church Staff Job Description
As you can see, the responsibility of organizing adult discipleship classes is on the administrative assistant’s job duties description. This provides a direct link between staff members’ job duties, their department goals and ultimately the global goals which support the strategic plan.
7. Performance Appraisals
The performance appraisal process should be a time to reflect on the last year and celebrate successes. It should also be used as a time to course correct if an employee has gotten off track. Reinforcing the positive and celebrating the successes can influence future positive behaviors.
Churches that invest the time clarifying their mission and vision, and develop a strategic plan that disseminates goals throughout the ministry, not only experience success at implementing the plan, but also engages employees and volunteers to support the mission of the organization. This kind of engagement is how God uses the body to build the church!
Article originally posted December, 2011, updated, May, 2014.