Successful Strategic Planning in the Church


Definition of Strategic Planning 

Strategic planning in the church is “the art of devising or employing plans or stratagems toward a goal” (Webster). It is clear from the Bible God loves using strategic plans to accomplish His goals, for example: Creating the universe in six days, Building the nation of Israel, Worship in the temple, The Davidic line, Jesus and the twelve, and End times prophecy.
Therefore, it is equally important in the church age that God’s leaders use plans and strategies to accomplish the Great Commission. This paper will (1) Give the essential people needed to make a strategic plan, (2) Demonstrate a clear strategic planning process in the church, and (3) List the most common mistakes made and how to avoid them.
People Needed to Make a Strategic Plan 

When making a strategy for the church there needs to be certain people present. First, the senior leader or pastor needs to be present to guide the process. God works through a chosen leader, not a “committee” (Galatians 1:15-17). Second, team leaders or department heads need to be present because “dictatorship” is not Biblical. James, the leader of the church of Jerusalem was seen relying on Peter and other experienced leaders (Acts 15:13-14). Lastly, outside experts, these are people that come only for certain parts of the meeting to offer their expert advice in areas the leader and team do not have quality insight (Jethro to Moses – Exodus 18:24).
The Strategic Process 

Here is a clear example of strategic planning in the church from Dr. Rod Dempsey’s article “Core Elements of a Ministry Plan.”First, the senior pastor should open the meeting with prayer and a short word about fulfilling the Great Commission.Second, he should begin by stating the rationale or reasons for the church to exist and operate according to Scripture. This should be the “heart” of why God has called the church to exist. 

Third, a team leader should give some information on the current needs of the community through demographic studies and surveys. Demographic studies are easy to gain from the county, however surveys need to be developed by team leaders and done throughout the community. Also, such books or articles by George Barna can give great general overviews of worldviews within generational and social groups. 

Fourth, the pastor should give a basic vision statement that can encompass the purpose of the particular church. The team can then add their insight and agree upon a simple yet big statement. For example, “Metro Praise’s vision is ‘Loving God, Loving People.”Fifth, the team should develop a mission statement, something that gives “teeth” to the broad vision. For example: “The mission statement of Metro Praise is to “Connect the lost to Jesus, Mentor believers in ways of Jesus, and Send disciples to share Jesus.’” 

Sixth, the team should develop the core ministry values from the Bible. These ministry values are how the vision and mission statement will be given action. For example: “Metro Praise’s ten core ministries values come from Acts 2:42-47, which are, (1) Services, (2) Small Groups, (3) Evangelism, (4) Discipleship, (5) Fellowship, (6) Community Service, (7) Prayer Meetings, (8) Fulltime Ministry Training/Bible College, (9) Church Planting, and (10) Mission Trips.
Seventh, each team leader naming the expenses they will incur for the next year doing their ministry should develop a budget. The pastor then should use an expert in finances to help develop an overall budget and projected earning for the next year.
Eighth, the team should develop goals for each ministry and for the church as a whole. For example: Elevate youth ministry will grow to 40 disciples, the adult small group will multiply to four groups with 80 disciples, and the church will grow to 250 people in Sunday attendance. Ninth, the team should plan a calendar for the year. The events must work within the vision, mission statement, core ministry values, and budget. The pastor should have the last say to what is in the official calendar.
Lastly, an evaluation system should be placed in order so the team can see their strengths and weaknesses and make the necessary changes to insure success of the goals. For example: Metro Praise will have monthly meetings with the team leaders where budgets will be evaluated, disciples will be counted, leaders will be held accountable, and calendar events will be judged as “wins or losses.”

Common Mistakes 

Stephen A. Macchia in his article, “Developing a Strategic Plan for Your Church,” lists the most common mistakes leaders make when trying to make a strategic plan:
(1) Making Planning Too Complex: Stick with 2-3 ideas when coming up with options, making long lists can frustrate the leadership and never lead to a point.
(2) Not Reaching Conclusions and Making an Action Plan: Tie up loose ends along the way, and outline appropriate action steps. Leaving things unresolved to future meetings takes away the teams momentum.
(3) Not Keeping the Action Plan Simple: Action plans are designed to help each ministry reach their goals. These should be simple. For example: Elevate will grow to 40 disciples by (a) Evangelizing every Friday at the schools, (b) Monthly E-Nites, and (c) Small Groups.
(4) Not Revisiting the Plan: Never be afraid to change plans, strategies, and steps. Vision statements and mission statements should be stable, but plans can change to insure success.
(5) Taking Too Long: Make planning meetings efficient and to the point, do not let “rabbit trails” get your team tired and distracted.
(6) Trusting Your Instincts apart from Prayer: Planning alone is okay, prayer is better, but praying with your planning is best! Encourage prayer before meetings, seek God in meetings, and after decisions are made keep an open heart in prayer to let God speak through the process.


Today God is working through leaders that plan to do great things for His Kingdom. Whether it is through Reinhardt Bonke planning for a million souls to be saved in one evangelistic meeting or Cho starting a church in a tent proclaiming his church will be the biggest church in the world- God is giving vision to win the world! 

Make time today to apply these principles to your ministry so you can get “God-ideas” and start “visioneering” with your team! The end result should be doing whatever is good to “your team and the Holy Ghost!” Here is what you can do today if you are a pastor or senior leader: (1) Prayerfully seek out your team, (2) Begin to recruit and start praying about your strategic meetings, (3) Consult other leaders that have had successful strategic meetings, (4) Plan your first meeting, and (5) Encourage the team to pray and prepare for great things!


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