Should Churches Have Strategic Plans?
God should be at the center of any ministry strategic plan – after all, it is His mission.
When Jesus said, “Go and make disciples of all the nations,” and “you will be my witnesses . . . to the ends of the earth,” did He mean for us to operate without a plan?
Certainly He has a plan, and guided by the Holy Spirit, generations of believers have taken the gospel in His Name across the globe. But today, in the 21st century, should we be doing “strategic planning” for Christian ministry work?
The Acts Model: Spontaneous or Strategic? Both!
There were many moments in the book-of-Acts era when the spontaneous work of the Holy Spirit turned an important corner, opened an impossible door, or pushed the gospel into places yet unreached. Philip spoke to the Ethiopian, and then the Spirit took him elsewhere (Acts 8:39). Peter and John were heading to the Temple for prayers, and a “chance” encounter with a cripple led to a mass evangelistic rally (Acts 3:2). God gave Paul a vision, instructing Him to enter Macedonia (Acts 16:6-10).
But nowhere in Acts do we see when they were told to do so, in believers “waiting around” (except anticipation of Pentecost). Once they were empowered for their mission, they were off! Judea, Samaria, Antioch, Ephesus, Philippi, Corinth, and eventually Rome! These locations weren’t accidental. The believers were praying, trusting, and then sending workers forward in faith – and forward with specific plans.
For example, note the planning involved in Paul’s journeys:
Even in the case of God’s intervention that steered Paul and his companions to Macedonia, note that they were on their way to Asia Minor. They obviously had developed a strategy for the spread of the gospel, mapped out their journey, and began working their plans. However, they were also listening for God’s direction and redirection throughout the process.
At Leadership Outreach, we believe that churches engaged in strategic plans:
- Honor the Great Commission by giving it the best of their attention, completing the task Christ left them on earth to accomplish (2 Corinthians 5:20).
- Utilize the spiritual gifts of their membership, some of whom are to be leaders and administrators (1 Corinthians 12:4-31, Romans 12:8).
- Follow the methodical (yet Spirit-driven) pattern the apostles established when confronted with ministry growth (Acts 6:1-7).
- Disciple their people according to specific, well-considered plans, like Paul who said of his churches, “We want to present them perfect in their relationship with Christ. That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me” (Colossians 2:28-29).
- Care about community needs and “non-profit” causes in the same way Paul instructed Timothy to organize and administrate the care for older widows (1 Timothy 5:3-16).
“I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters, that I planned many times to visit you, but I was prevented until now. I want to work among you and see spiritual fruit, just as I have seen among other Gentiles.” (Romans 1:13) “My ambition has always been to preach the Good News where the name of Christ has never been heard . . . ” (Romans 16:20-22)
“I am planning to go to Spain, and when I do, I will stop off in Rome.” (Romans 16:24)
“To bring you up to date, Tychicus will give you a full report about what I am doing and how I am getting along.” (Ephesians 6:21)
A frequent critique of ministries that engage in advanced planning and goal-setting is that they are using secular methodology and leaving God out of the process. And of course, that’s not what we’re proposing in the least!
Rather, we believe that God should be at the center of any ministry strategic plans – after all, it is His mission.
Should a church engage in strategic planning?
- Would a well-defined vision help the people of our church “be of one mind” as they serve Christ together? (Philippians 2:2)
- Would it be helpful for us to define our guiding principles, so we don’t stray off course from our Scriptural commitment? (1 Timothy 4:15-16, 2 Timothy 2:2)
- Would our church be stronger if each ministry department, team or committee shared the same core priorities, each aligning with our church’s overall mission? (Acts 2:42)
- Would we more faithfully steward the gifts of those who attend our church if we were operating with a plan to maximize their impact? (1 Peter 4:10-11, Ephesians 4:11-12)
- Would it help our staff, volunteers and members if they knew that we had prayed, considered, sought counsel together on how to solve problems and accommodate for growth? (Acts 6:2-5)
- How would it help me as a leader to know what my next step should be? (Titus 1:5)
A coach at Leadership Outreach would be excited to pray with you about developing and executing your strategy for growth, and exploring whether or not our coaching services could benefit your ministry. Our phone number is 239-775-5323.
We’d love to be your partners on the Great Commission journey!