Planning is an important element in church or ministry leadership. Robert Schuller, author and former Pastor of the Crystal Cathedral in California, says, “those who fail to plan, plan to fail.” Having a clearly defined plan helps a church or ministry organize its resources and apply them in such a way as to best achieve their vision. Without a plan, churches and ministries waste limited resources and valuable time, and inevitably fall short of achieving what God has called them to do. Having a plan does not restrict a church or ministry to a prescribed course of action, but rather lays the foundation upon which the church or ministry can strategically deploy its assets for maximum effectiveness.
To begin with we must first define what is meant by strategic planning. Strategic planning is the process of setting goals, organizing activities and deploying resources to achieve a Vision. A Strategic Plan tells you what resources you are going to use, when you are going to use them, and how you are going to apply them, in order to accomplish what God has called you to do. All of your available resources are given to you by God (James 1:17) and His desire is that you invest and manage them wisely in order to produce fruit for the Kingdom. A strategic plan helps the leader to do just that.
One of the questions many church and ministry leaders ask is why we should have a plan at all, since we are supposed to be led by the Holy Spirit who directs us as He desires. But we must remember that even a strategic plan is directed by the Holy Spirit, and as we start to organize and decide how best to deploy the resources that God has given to us the Holy Spirit is right there with us guiding our decisions and plans. The strategic plan is not for God’s benefit, but for ours. It is a tool that helps us stay focused on the Vision that God has given us and to manage our resources wisely and effectively.
It is also important to remember that our God is a God of planning. Scripture includes references to God’s plan for salvation (John 3:16) and His plan for us (Jeremiah 29:11). It also includes references to our use of planning (Psalm 20:4, Proverbs 15:22 & 16:3, and Isaiah 32:8).
Churches and ministries need a strategic plan for several reasons. First of all, it enables the church tochart a course for the future. A strategic plan helps us to build a foundation for future growth and development. Having a plan assures us that we have a strong ministry foundation that will not be swept away or collapse when difficulties arise (Luke 6:46-49). Second, a plan helps toavoid distractions. The strategic plan will help to keep the focus of the church or ministry on its vision and mission and avoid being distracted from its primary mission or goal. Third, a plan enables a church or ministry toutilize its resources effectively and efficiently. One of the primary benefits of a strategic plan is to enable efficient resource deployment. As part of the planning process the leader must choose how to maximize output from the available resources and to allocate them wisely and not waste the resources God has provided. Finally, a strategic plan helps to prevent future conflicts. This is because the leadership team has already decided how best to use its resources to accomplish its goals and vision. With a plan in place, the church or ministry can better evaluate the impact of conflicts against the current plan and determine the best way forward.
What does a strategic plan involve? There are 7 elements to a strategic plan. They are:
1. Statement of Vision. The statement of vision describes the desired outcome that you are attempting to accomplish. It answers the question of what your ultimate goalis or where you are going. It should be something you can measure so that you know when it is completed. If you cannot measure it, it is not a goal or a vision.
2. Statement of Needs. The statement of needs defines what you need to accomplish the vision. This is usually expressed in terms of the resources needed, such as people, money, time, equipment, etc.
3. Activity Planning. Activity planning is the element that identifies the activities you are going to implement for each need. It answers the question of how each need will be achieved and what you are specifically going to do to achieve them.
4. Timing. Timing is the element of the plan that answers the question of when something needs to happen. Timing specifies when you are going to do an activity, how long each activity will take, or when an activity must be completed.
5. Resources. The element of Resources answers the question of what is needed in more detail. A good strategic plan first considers the existing resources that are available. This usually includes people, equipment, or financial resources from your existing budget. Then the church or ministry can determine those resources that need to be acquired.
6. Tactics. The element of Tactics identifies specific opportunities that you have, either in terms of resources or timing, and answers the question of why you are including an activity in your plan. This includes things like the gifts & skills of your members or how to take advantage of available resources or cost savings on potential purchases.
7. Organization. The final element is Organization, which answers the questions of who is responsible for completing a task. The element identifies who will have what authority for project decisions or financial decisions. It also determines what teams are needed, who will be on them, and who will lead them.
Part 2 continued here.
(taken from chapter 9 of our Management for Church Leaders™ Volume #1 Training Manual © 2010)