8 Ways I Might Determine if Your Church Has a Strategic Plan for the Future

As a church consultant, I’ve learned over the years to “read” a church in order to help them move toward growth. Below are some ways I might learn whether your church has a strategic plan in place. Use the list to consider the state of your own church. 

  1. Ask the pastor to tell me his vision for the church over the next five years. If he hesitates to answer, or if he admits he has no vision, I doubt the church has much of a plan for growth. 
  2. Ask each staff member or lay leader what the church’s short-term and long-term vision is. Where the leaders cannot speak of an identified vision, there likely is little strategic planning taking place. 
  3. Do a demographic study of the church’s ministry area—and then see how well the pastoral staff knows the community. When the leaders don’t know the community around them very well, much of their planning (if it exists at all) may not be strategically focused. 
  4. Ask church members about the church’s plan to influence and reach their community. Again, evidence there is no plan is most likely evidence there is no strategic planning going on—or if there is, communication with the congregation is poor. 
  5. If the church has been through long-range planning in the past, review the results of that plan.Too many churches do the hard work of long-range strategizing but then shelve the report when the work is too complicated. Seldom do they do another round of planning anytime soon. 
  6. Ask if the church has a master site plan. All of us have seen the church whose facilities reflected no planning—disconnected buildings with different color brick, parking lots later covered with buildings, etc. If a church has no current master site plan, they probably have not done enough strategic planning. 
  7. Review the church’s budgeting process, particularly focusing on plans to prepare for future ministries, staffing, and facilities. Are funds set aside this year to hire the new minister proposed previously by the leadership team? Is the church saving toward the next phase of the building process? Or, does the church budget focus on only this current year? 
  8. Review the church’s growth pattern over the last 5-10 years. I realize COVID has affected everything, but you can still tell something about a church by looking at its growth trends. A church living in decline is likely not planning much—or, at least not planning well. 

How well does your church rate in answering these questions? 

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