Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Game Plan: Strategic Planning for Ministry

One of the most significant things we have done in the ministry of River of Life in recent history is develop a strategic plan. I first heard of this idea while attending a church growth conference in another Apostolic church. While church strategic plans may encompass various types of information, we chose to focus our plan on retaining newcomers and incorporating them into the church. While we had several ministries involved in this work already, we needed a strategic plan to pull everything together and make our objectives explicit.

Having been through the process of developing a strategic plan for ministry and having employed our plan for well over two years, there are several things I would suggest for churches interested in going through this process. (A download of the ROL strategic plan is available at the bottom of this post as a reference).

  1. Take your time. A strategic plan doesn't have to be developed overnight. Much prayer and thought should go into such an endeavor. Be patient. Make several drafts and revisions. It is fine to tweak the plan at a later time, if necessary, but no one will take it seriously if it is constantly undergoing major revisions. Try to get it right the first time.

  2. Make it a team endeavor. Ministry is the work of the entire church. When we made our plan, we formed various project teams to work on the different phases of the plan. This paid off because the finished product could have never resulted from the ideas of one person. We announced to the entire congregation the purpose and goals of our plan, introduced the project teams, and encouraged everyone in the church to present their ideas to the team members. We got a lot of feedback and much of it was incorporated into the plan in some way. In our model, one team worked on the theme and overall structure of a plan, and two different teams worked on key components of the plan. Key leaders and volunteers who would ultimately be responsible for carrying out various aspects of the plan provided much input and, therefore, took ownership of it.

  3. Be SMART. The goals and objectives of the plan should be SMART. This is a very popular acronym which stands for: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. There is a ton of information on SMART planning out there. A simple Google search will yield a wealth of helpful info on this topic.

  4. Choose a theme. It is a good idea to build your strategic plan around a theme, preferably a theme that can be conceptualized by a symbol or illustration. This will help people remember the key components of the plan and just make it more fun, in general. At ROL we considered many themes but ultimately adopted a "Baseball" theme with a baseball diamond as the symbol. The name of our plan also emphasizes the theme.

  5. Sell it to the church. When the plan is completed, roll out the red carpet. Build enthusiasm that will foster participation. Select a special time to publicly unveil the plan and do it in a fun and exciting manner. We had a fun presentation in our New Year's service in which we laid out bases, used baseball gloves and bats, and had some of the church members illustrate the plan by going around the bases. We also used multimedia to add to the drama and excitement of the unveiling. We generated interest and anticipation for the plan by announcing the date of the unveiling several weeks ahead of time and referring to it as "Opening Day" without further explanation.

  6. Work the plan. Part of the plan must include concrete steps involving what to do and who will do it. This should all be documented in a procedure manual. Be prepared to go into implementation mode immediately while the enthusiasm is still high. The Pastor (or responsible party for implementation) should meet frequently with the key players to discuss how implementation is progressing and make minor adjustments as necessary.
I am happy to report that after two years we are still working our plan. It has been a tremendous benefit to ROL. The results are very tangible. There are still some components that need additional work. But, we are much further along than we were two years ago. The changes we initiated are a permanent fixture in our ministry now. We are doing things that we were simply not organized and prepared to do before "The Game Plan". We probably need to update our manual to document some of the practical tweaks we have made. But, we are still rolling along. God has most definitely blessed our endeavors.

To view "The Game Plan" from ROL click here to download (pdf).

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