When I first began my ministry, I was blessed with a coach who told me, “Cameron, everyone gets somewhere in life. The rare person gets somewhere on purpose.” Being distracted by the busy-ness of ministry is all too easy in this age of social networking, cell phones and email. We become reactive in our ministries rather than pro-active in shaping them. The second secret of progressive leadership, after asset mapping, is a commitment to shaping the contours of your days by investing your time in strategic mission rather than spending your time in reactionary minutia. After all, as Ann Lamott reminds us, “How you spend your day is how you spend your life.”
Strategic Planning is the process by which you discern how God is moving in and around your community, and then find ways that to align your church’s ministry with that movement. It is, in essence, discerning who and what God has called your church to be and do in the world. It takes many forms. Some churches prefer documents outlining strategies, goals and tactics, while others prefer weekly prayer gatherings. Still others prefer dancing, eating and community reflection. Personally, anything involving food sounds like a fun strategic planning process to me!
Let me offer an observation about planning in church. The challenge today is not that we lack plans; God knows we are pros at developing reports that collect dust on a shelf in someone’s office! The challenge is we forget that the point is not the product, the plan, the projected outcome. The point is the process, the PREPARING.
Planning is what we do when we think we can control outcomes. We plan vacations, meals and parties. We control the process and the details so that we get the desired results. At Thanksgiving, we will buy and cook our turkeys, invite our friends and family, and decorate our homes in ways that ensure the outcome that we want: a perfect Thanksgiving dinner. Preparing for Thanksgiving requires a different starting place. Preparing means that we create space for mystery, surprise and the Spirit. We open ourselves to unimagined outcomes, surprise guests and sacred conversation. While we might still cook turkey and decorate our homes, we do so with the intention of creating space rather than controlling outcomes.
The secret to strategic planning in the church today is remembering this distinction. In this fast-paced world, plans change suddenly. If set in stone, they become obsolete as the world races by in way that no longer aligns with the future you imagined in your plan. A better approach is aligning yourself with the movement of God and preparing your leaders and your ministries for a journey of unimaginable adventure.
We have access to a number of good resources that guide congregations through such a process. Check out books like Gil Rendel and Alice Mann’s book Holy Conversations, or Aubrey Malphurs’ book Strategic Planning: A New Model for Church and Ministry Leaders. Joe Myers offers an innovative model in his book Organic Community. You also might research an emerging model called Scrum that examines how fluid, non-hierarchical organizations engage vision and get things done.
- Coastal Church Papers (PDF)
- Strategic Church Plans
- The Knowing Doing Gap (PDF)
- Holy Conversations
- Congregational Resources
- La Misión de CPR
- Online Learning Center
- Coaching Leaders
- Events & Webinars
- New Church Planters