Many are recognizing the importance of church planning. The bible supports the value of setting clear directions, prioritizing and counting the cost. Nehemiah’s plan to return to Judah to restore to Jerusalem is a prime example. Church leaders are to lead the people for whom they are responsible with diligence and they can do this mandate by conducting a church planning.
Strategic church planning aims to guide the church in understanding why it exists. It also entails what strategies it will take in the next three to five years to make a significant impact in its immediate communities. It is a collective process of envisioning a proper biblical future for the church and working together toward that future. The essence of church planning is that the church leaders, in line with the God-given mandate and commission, prayerfully and collectively agree to the church’s direction and well designed course to get there.
A church strategic plan is different from the annual plan or multi-year implementation plan that both come from the strategic plan. A church plan sets the overall direction and priorities of the church that will be responsive to changes in itself and in its environment. It sets priorities that guide the church to make decisions that will lead and accomplish its mission over a specific period of time. Church planning is anchored within the context that churches exist and strive to fulfill Christ’s command to share the gospel and make disciples of all nations. Church plans should not be inward looking but outward looking. Strategic plans are not only intended for church maintenance and preservation; it is also meant to nurture and multiply disciples.
Conducting church planning involves three major phases: pre-planning, actual planning and post planning. The pre-planning phase involves preparations that are essential to the success of the actual planning phase. Pre-planning includes gathering pertinent information that will be used in the actual planning phase. This includes the assessment and evaluation of the church performance in the past three years and the study of church’s external environment. The church needs to conduct an evaluation of its own performance and measure impact to its external environment in the previous calendar years. It must have preliminary research and understanding of its current and future external environment prior to actual strategic planning. Pre-planning also includes decisions on who will be involved in the actual planning, what will be the planning framework and program and how it will be facilitated, where, how much and how long it will take to complete the process. To have ownership of the plan, church strategy must be collective and should involve all those leading the church ministries.
Actual planning starts with determining, or revisiting the church’s shared and core values, vision, mission and goals statements. It then makes an assessment of its internal and external environment and decides on the strategies it can take to achieve the vision mission and goals. It defines the indicators that it wants to measure its performance against after three or five years. The output is a church plan.
Post church strategic planning includes the presentation of the strategic plan to the church members. Once agreed upon, series of sessions will be devoted to create the annual or operating plans and budgets per ministry or church department or units. Another leadership level meeting will be held to consolidate all these unit plans into a consolidated annual implementation plan with corresponding budget. The presentation and approval of the congregation of the plan completes the whole cycle of strategy.
Church leaders are spiritually responsible to lead and shepherd the church pro-actively. Church strategy planning is a blessing to them to fulfill their roles more diligently.