Updated: Dec 11, 2020
Many churches have some form of Vision / Mission Statement or even a long-range Strategic Plan. If you're lucky, your church secretary may be able to find a dusty copy buried somewhere in the minutes of a Church Council meeting from 12 years ago. More than likely, no one on your leadership team is aware that these documents exist. If they do know, they probably aren't actively implementing them or monitoring any kind of progress metrics related to their implementation.
Even more churches don't even have Strategic Vision documents or any kind of plan in place.
So, how do you know if your church needs to create or update your plan?
There are five simple questions to ask. If you answer "yes" to any of these, you need to work on your plan NOW.
#1 - Do you feel "stuck?" - Churches can easily get into a routine or a "rut." You know you are stuck if you have ever heard "we've never done it that way before" when you proposed some new idea. Churches that are stuck are only a few breaths from dying. Or, if you and your leadership team are having trouble coming up with new ideas for ministry, you are stuck. You need to work on your Strategic Vision
#2 - Are you struggling to figure out the next steps for the church? - If you are having trouble discerning exactly where God is calling your church, you are struggling. If you feel like you are just operating day to day and don't really know what's next, it's time for a Strategic Plan. This is probably due to lack of unified and identified vision or a lack of intentionality about implementing and tracking the vision you do have ( or have had).
#3 - Has your attendance or participation plateaued or is it declining? - A church that isn't growing is declining and dying. You will never be able to sustain ministry long-term with the same group of people. Attrition eventually takes its toll on even the most vibrant church. Beware, this is about more than just pockets in the pews. This is about honest, authentic ministry engagement in the life of the church. Some of your most faithful "members" may be declining in fruitful participation in the ministries of the church, and some people whose names you don't even know may be your most active participants.
#4 - Do you have positive momentum going? - This question may seem a little out of place because it is a positive affirming question rather than a negative question. You may think that because you have some forward momentum in the church that your plan is working and everything is copacetic. When you have some positive momentum the time is perfect to re-evaluate your plan and revise your Vision and Mission. Remember, these statements were created in the past (even if it was the recent past). Churches change continually. Sometimes, tweaking your Strategic Plan to reflect the new realities of the church is most beneficial when the church already has some forward momentum and some positive energy.
#5 - Are you comfortable? - If your church is comfortable and content, you are probably closer to death than the "stuck" church in question #1. Church should not be comfortable. There is an old saying that church should comfort the afflicted and afflict the comforted. Or, if you prefer your quotes from St. Augustine or St. John Chrysostom (there is debate about who said this), "church should be a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints." If you are comfortable, you embody the stuck, declining church that can't figure out its next steps. You are on life support and desperately need a new Strategic Plan.
Fortunately, there is help out there. Our consultants can walk your church through an intentional, deliberate process to take an honest look at who your church WAS, who your church IS, and who God is calling your church to be. We can help you develop Vision and Mission statements as well as a long-range Strategic Plan complete with milestones, benchmarks, goals, assessments, and tools for implementing and evaluating your progress.
Don't let your church die. The New Year is a great time for a New Strategic Plan.