I’m convinced that healthy and growing churches result from BOTH prayer and strategic planning. I’m pretty sure you can’t have one without the other. I know that God expects us to both seek Him and make things happen. Jesus hit on this very idea in The Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25 when he described the pleased master as saying:
“Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things. I will put you in charge of many things.” Matthew 25:21
In this final installment of ‘The Ten Church Systems‘ I will talk about perhaps one of the most important (and least attended) aspects of a growing church and organization: Strategic Planning. I recommend you also read some of the ‘Getting Started Thoughts and Disclaimers’ I wrote prior to this series on systems. It was written in three parts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.
Key Sub-Systems of the Strategic System
Following are the key sub-systems of strategic development in the local church. Ironically, we’re discussing what your strategy is for ongoing strategic planning.
- The Strategic Team & Strategic Meetings
Strategic planning is not a solo sport. Although one individual can plan and implement plans, that’s not how a healthy church will function – nor is it very effective. This system will build the best possible team (or teams) of leaders and will include regular, consistent and well led strategic meetings throughout the year.
- Philosophy of Ministry Development (mission/vision/values)
It’s very difficult for your church leaders and staff to get where you’re going when it hasn’t been defined. Howard Hendricks said, “If it’s a mist in the pulpit, it’s a fog in the pew.” This system includes the development of your church mission statement, core values, and long range vision statements. Once that is done, this system will also ensure that your philosophy of ministry is integrated into every area of church life.
- Strategic Evaluation & Feedback
Feedback is the bread and butter of successful strategic planning. Without regular and unbiased input your church will create amazing strategic plans that lead in the wrong direction. It can be the difference between hitting the target in the bulls eye and simply hitting the target. This system will create ways to evaluate every aspect of church life. It will include evaluating how well the Philosophy of Ministry is being integrated throughout church events and activities. It will also include occasional or regular evaluation of each of The Ten Church Systems. Finally, this system will evaluate the effectiveness of all major sub-systems and tactical plans.
- Strategic Metrics & Benchmarks
Metrics take evaluation and feedback to a whole new level. They will play a big role in setting agenda items for future strategic meetings. Besides revealing possible areas of weakness in the church, they will also bring great encouragement when your team is doing things right – resulting in growth and an increase in positive life change in your congregation. This system will track important areas of growth over a period of months and years. Common metrics often include giving, attendance, and small group participation.
- Strategic Coaching & Training
It is rare for the average pastor to be knowledgeable in every aspect of church life and development. Most pastors have been trained in the Bible, public speaking, and other aspects of spiritual care and oversight. Strategic planning and organizational development usually are at the bottom of their repertoire of skill sets. This is why it is critical the pastor and church leaders gather around themselves others who excel in those areas. This system will ensure that strategic planning happens through regular input from ministry coaches and/or a strategic leader. This system will also include ongoing training in areas of strategic planning for the pastor and all church leaders. (tip: subscribe to this blog!)
- Ongoing Strategic Planning
If you’ve followed along at all, then it’s very likely you’ve become overwhelmed reading through all of the ‘Ten Systems’ and their various sub-systems. No church can focus on every area at once. This system will ensure the feedback, metrics, and strategic team are all utilized in the best possible way in order to focus on the most important areas of church health and growth each year. It also includes basic training in strategic thinking for all key staff and leaders. Ideally, strategic planning will take place at every level of leadership and for every area of ministry in the church.
- Strategic Roll-out & Tactical Planning
At some point, everybody needs to stop talking and start doing. Surprisingly, this can be very difficult to do. Strategic Planning can easily become a sinkhole that leaders and teams can never find their way out of. This system will finalize strategic development through the creation of tactical plans. This system will also include intentional strategic steps to ‘roll-out’ new plans to other church leaders and the congregation without creating mass discord or dissension.
Note: Inspiration for the Ten Church Systems comes from Nelson Searcy and the Eight Systems of the Local Church he proposed in his free e-book entitled, ‘Healthy Systems, Healthy Church‘.