So what are the steps in the church strategic planning process?
1. Create a Vision, Mission and Values Statement
The first and arguably most important step of the strategic planning process is to create a church vision, mission and values statement. This process allows board members and church leaders to clarify why the church exists as well as determine what the church is trying to achieve.
2. Do Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) Analysis
A SWOT analysis is a great exercise to go through because it identifies the key areas of the church that may need targeted resources as well as opportunities or opposing environmental factors that could affect church strategy. For example, if a children’s program is a strength of the church, there may need to be continued or increased resources committed to it to ensure continued development and growth. On the other hand if the church is located in a high crime area, there might be an opportunity to develop a youth outreach program to support that unique demographic. The SWOT analysis process can flush out many great ideas to help target development, growth and improvements.
- Strengths: Characteristics of the church that may give it an advantage over others;
- Weaknesses: Characteristics of the church that may be a disadvantage as related to others;
- Opportunities: Conditions outside the church that could potentially increase attendance or revenues;
- Threats: Conditions outside the church that could create problems for the church.
3. Perform Gap Analysis
A Gap analysis answers the question, “where are we compared to where we want to be”? The process looks at the vision – where do we want to go – and where we are currently. The analysis can be in relation to ministry program development, discipleship, financial viability or customer experience. All areas will be identified and targeted for strategy through the gap analysis process.
An example of a church’s current state:
- The church is renting a temporary facility until it can build a permanent building;
- The church is lacking volunteer leadership;
- The church children’s program is lacking weekly training curriculum;
- The church lacks a process for discipleship.
4. Write Organizational Goals
Once a SWOT and gap analysis is done, it is time to start writing goals. Goals are only as effective as the formalized process of achieving them. Many organizations use the SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely) goal process to ensure their goals are achievable. When writing a goal, filter it through the following questions:
Specific: Is the goal specific enough for clarity?
Measurable: Is there a way to measure the success of the goal?
Attainable: Is the goal truly attainable?
Realistic: Is the goal realistically written?
Timely: Is there a timeline associated to the goal to ensure a completion date?
Church Organization Goal example:
Now if we look at this example, we need to ask the questions:
- Is it specific – yes: keywords, will identify, develop and implement
- Is it measurable – yes: keywords, develop by 3rd quarter 20xx
- Is it attainable – yes: with ample resources
- Is it realistic – yes: within the allotted time-frame
- is it measurable – yes: keywords, by 3rd quarter 20xx
Now let’s take this a step further and create a goal document. Unless a goal is assigned to someone and is accomplished, it is merely words on a paper. When someone is responsible for completing a goal and is managed by a structured performance management process, goals have a much better chance of being completed.
|Goal (What)||Action Steps (how)||Responsible Person (who)||Due Date (when)||Status|
|Develop a volunteer leadership training program and implement by 3rd quarter 20XX.||Establish training needs and objectives||Tim Smith||Oct 31||Completed|
|Write training curriculum||Tim Smith||Dec 31||Completed|
|Identify potential volunteer leaders||Sue Thompson||Jan 30||Pending|
|Schedule training||Denise Jones||Feb 15||Pending|
|Facilitate training||Tim Smith||March 15||Pending|
|Debrief from training||Tim, Sue and Denise||April 30||Pending|
This is obviously an oversimplified example of a church goal but it provides a framework for identifying tactical steps and assigning accountability. The budgeting process is also incorporated into strategic planning as each goal needs to have identified resources (people, time, money) devoted to it to be successful.
The strategic planning process should deliver a document that details organizational goals for the short term (3-6 months) and long-term (1-3 years). This document is living and should be updated as conditions and priorities change. The most important part is getting it written down and assigning responsibility – whether it be an employee or volunteer – assign the task.
The beauty of having a written plan, is that once all of the time and effort is invested in the plan, it is just a matter of overseeing the plan to completion. This is done through a structured performance management process and should be monitored and reviewed at least annually. Once a strategic plan is written with organizational goals, it is time to develop departmental and employee goals.
Does your church have a strategic plan for success?
photo by: ellajphillips