How to Execute a Strategic Plan at Your Church – Defining Success

Success will be accidental and unreadable if you don’t have a strategic plan.

Strategic plans are hard to come by in the local church.

Every church has a mission statement. It was given to us by God. We’ve adjusted the language, but at the core, churches exist for one reason.

Many churches have a vision statement. Where the mission describes why the church exists, the vision statement describes the desired future. To say it another way, the mission statement focuses on today and what the organization does. The vision statement focuses on tomorrow and what the organization wants to become. The vision statement gives your church direction.

Let me give you an example from my time serving as a lead pastor within North Point Ministries:

Mission: To lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.
Vision: To create a church unchurched people will love.

Every church has a mission statement. Every church should have a vision statement. Too few churches have a clear strategy.

The strategy is how the mission and vision come to fruition.

A Frequent “Defining Your Strategy” Misstep

Hope isn’t a strategy. If you hope to achieve your mission and vision, you need a clear plan of actionable steps.

Here’s the misstep: Leaders often attempt to articulate a plan in a vacuum, but you aren’t leading in a vacuum. If you lead an existing church or organization, ministries, gatherings, services, and such are in place. This collection of activities may exist outside of a clear strategy, but they exist. They are in place. Before you attempt to define your future plan, you must evaluate where you are today against the win for tomorrow.

Where Are You Now?

The first step to defining your strategy is to clarify where you are now. But, evaluating your current position isn’t as simple as it may sound. Strategic planning typically begins by asking what we call the “Four Critical Questions:”

  1. What’s working?
  2. What’s not working?
  3. What’s confusing?
  4. What’s missing?

I love these questions, but asking them first doesn’t allow for the best answers. Asking these questions about everything your church is currently doing certainly provides some insight, but starting with these questions might not let you answer them correctly. The reason? We might all answer with different expectations or definitions of success.

The first step in building a strategic plan is to identify success. Success is a combination of your mission and vision in practical terms. Defining success is how we know if something is working, not working, confusing, or missing.

Let me explain.

Think about your church service. Is it currently working, not working, confusing, or missing? Answer this internally first. Now, why did you answer in the way you answered? Is it working because it’s full? Is it not working because it’s challenging to attend? Is it confusing because outsiders aren’t comfortable with the experiences? You see, what follows “because” is how you define success. If you don’t definitively determine the win, you cannot correctly answer these critical questions.

The First Step to Define Your Strategy is to Define Success

Defining success is the secret to creating a successful strategy. You must clearly articulate the win before designing a plan, method, or system to win. Your definition of success should be a combination of your mission and vision.

Your First Step: To begin a strategic planning process, reduce your mission and vision statements to their irrefutable minimums. A great (and frustrating) process is taking your statements and reducing them to eight words or less. This exercise creates clarity. Now, with this clarity in hand, compare everything you are doing (ministries, events, gatherings, digital expressions) against this definition of success. Everything you are doing is either working towards success, not working, or creating confusion.

How do you define success? That is the driving question for any strategic planning process.

Continuing to Build Your Strategic Plan

This is why all great strategies are built strategically in this order:

  1. Determine position, reality, and success
  2. Develop a strategy
  3. Design the tactics
  4. Measure the progress

I’ll outline how I lead strategic planning workshops with churches (and businesses) utilizing this specific plan in the coming posts. Each segment of this process is critical to the outcome.

If you want to get a head start on your next strategic planning session, begin by clearly and simply defining success.

How can I help?

Most of my clients consider me their CSO (Chief Strategy Officer). Partnering with ministry and marketplace leaders from innovation through implementation is why I created Transformation Solutions. I’m dedicating my time to helping leaders like you discover potential problems, design strategic solutions, and deliver the preferable future. That includes you.

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