How to Execute a Strategic Plan at Your Church – Where Are We, Really?

If you want to execute an actionable strategic plan, you need a practical process. 

The last you need is another unexecuted strategic plan serving as a paperweight on your shelf. 

When I work with churches and organizations, our goal is to walk through a planning framework that presents a clear picture of where we want to go and the practical steps to get us there. 

But, like any journey, the first step is to understand where you are beginning. We can’t move toward a destination if we don’t know where we are starting the journey. 

Effective strategic plans do not just present where you want to go – they begin with a complete understanding of where you are. Determining your current location is how you define the path to your aspirational destination. 

The Strategic Planning Process

A holistic strategic planning process has four segments. Each segment builds to the next as you evaluate information and make decisions. 

The Four Segments of a Strategic Plan
  1. Determine position and reality
  2. Develop a strategy
  3. Design the tactics 
  4. Measure the progress

The first step, determining our position and reality, is typically the most extended portion of the process. In this segment, we define with honesty and transparency our current reality. That begins by: 

  1. Establishing success (Mission and Vision), 
  2. Clarifying aspirational behaviors and values (How do we do things around here?), 
  3. Understanding our points of differentiation (What makes us, us?), and
  4. Asking our one unifying question (What must be true in a year?). 

With these steps completed, we finish out the first segment of strategic planning by determining our current reality. 

Where Are We, Really?

It’s never easy to be honest about our reality, especially when we are the person leading the reality.

Most places are “good news” organizations. We all tend to celebrate our wins and excuse away our losses. That is natural human behavior. But, leaders must rise above this temptation to see our reality for what it actually is.

Our key reality check question is, “Where are we, really?”

To answer this question fully, we need to dig a little deeper. The following questions require an honest assessment. Had you answered these questions to begin a strategic planning process, your answers would potentially be less than honest and directionally off mission. That’s the beauty of the entire process – it keeps us on track and establishes success before we confront our truth. Now, with success and values in mind, we answer these reality-check questions:

  • What do we do? If you are a church, list every ministry and environment you execute. If you’re a business, list all product lines and services. 
  • What is working? Not working? Missing? Confusing? These are often called the “Four Critical Questions.” They show up everywhere. They are great questions to answer AFTER defining the benchmark for success. 
  • What is our greatest opportunity? What significant obstacles are present? These questions are tangential to a SWOT analysis. 
  • Are we working from any underlying assumptions? This question is a bit deeper but fundamentally essential to answer. Your current ministry model or operations are built upon assumptions that may no longer be true. Assess what you assume and evaluate if your beliefs still hold up. 

Putting It All Together

At this point in the strategic planning process, you’ve completed the first section – Determine Position and Reality. I know it’s a lot to cover, but the better job you do in the first segment, the better you’ll be able to build a tactical and actionable strategic plan for the future. 

One thing is for sure; you can’t develop a strategy until you know who you are and where you are. 

How can I help?

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

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