Church Leadership Strategies, Strategic Planning

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Also includes Core Values

Part of the Ministry Resource Guide on Church Leadership and Renewal.

Introduction to Strategic Planning in Christian Ministry

Strategic Planning guides lay out a standard planning sequence, with suggestions on how to execute the process for ministry in the church. These cover process issues such as scanning the mission environment, defining corporate core content [mission, vision, core beliefs, core values] setting goals and objectives, designing appropriate ministries and structures, defining time lines and accountability measures, etc. These manuals are not necessarily tied to a prescribed list of features all healthy churches must possess. Instead, they help church leaders define these issues for their contexts within the rubric of the strategic planning process.

Strategic planning, though quite profitable for Christian ministry, is a very intentional and time-consuming process. Seeing it through to the end requires a level of sophistication, diligence, and patience that is rare in congregations. One should not attempt strategic planning without good exposure to the literature. It would be better not to do strategic planning at all than to do it poorly. I recommend church leaders peruse a few of the volumes recommended below and choose the ones that best fit their context, or develop their own hybrid model.

There are many types of strategic planning. For church leadership, two are helpful. I call them Leader-Participatory and Congregational Discernment.

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Ministry Resources on Leader-Participatory Strategic Planning

This is a “guide through” approach to planning where leaders who have a general idea of congregational direction but still wish to walk the congregation through a standard strategic planning process to insure widespread participation and support. Some leaders who use this method may start with a general idea of congregational direction, but wish to refine and clarify their intuitions with a participatory process. These approaches reserve a fairly directive, influencing, and perhaps visionary role of congregational leaders, and suggest means such as task forces, surveys, and focus groups to assess the congregational pulse in a way that informs the leaders’ decisions and secures better buy-in.

First Read:

Aubrey Malphurs, Advanced Strategic Planning: A New Model for Church and Ministry Leaders, Second Edition — Probably the best from the evangelical, church-growth perspective. A very comprehensive, step-by-step guide, full of useful appendices. One may be interested in companion volumes by Malphurs:

Other Helpful Resources:

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Ministry Resources on Congregational Discernment Strategic Planning

These approaches are slightly less directive and use the strategic planning processes (task forces, surveys, focus groups, etc.) to equip the congregation to discern and shape its own vision and strategy. They are not as non-directive as Large Group/Whole System approaches, but are less leader-influenced than the Leader/Participatory guides.

First Reads:

Other Helpful Resources:

Select Resources From the Corporate Arena on Strategic Planning

Obviously, strategic planning processes did not originate with churches. They are borrowed from the world of business, industry, and education. For those who are serious about this process, it makes sense to become familiar with literature from these circles. The materials recommended above do a fine job of guiding churches through the complex maze of planning, but for those who want broader exposure, one of the most respected volumes isKarl Albrecht, The Northbound Train: Finding the Purpose, Setting the Direction, Shaping the Destiny of Your Organization.

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Related Ministry Resources

See Other Resources on Church Leadership and Renewal:

Ministry Resources on Related Areas

See Resources on Over 100 Areas of Christian Ministry:

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