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Is it too “business” for a church to create a strategic plan?

Recently I conducted a StratOp at a midsize church. StratOp gives more than a plan; leaders get tools to help them manage, renew, and succeed in their plan. Learn more:  . Duane Cox, an elder in the church who has longed for his local church to think more strategically about their ministry, has written the following article on his reflection of the process.


 Is there “not enough of God” or “room for the spirit to work” when the church creates a strategic plan?  Often I hear concerns that our church leans on business models to make plans and looks to authors like Covey, Blanchard, or Lencioni to name a few.  As we look at these authors and the work of Bruce Hopler and Strat-Ops what you recognize is emphasis placed on the collaborative development of an organizational plan.  All of these writers, business leaders, and strategic planners recommend that organizations develop purpose or mission, values that guide the organization, vision and goals.  So are these business concepts, biblical concepts or simply a sensible approach to moving a group of people to a desired outcome?  

Throughout the Bible, there is evidence of God’s plan for mankind.  Personally, the most compelling aspect of the Christian faith is God’s plan to rescue his people, as promised to Abraham, and is carried out through the Bible and in our lives today.  This plan was achieved not only through the lives of many people who God used, it was also accomplished by a triune God: God made of three persons, each with different roles, and yet a common purpose.  In Genesis 1:26, it is written, “Let us make God in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish…”  Our God of three persons had a common vision for the creation of man and ultimately to complete an eternal redemption plan. 

So perhaps, given God’s intervention, there is not a place for our church to create a plan.  One might conclude that we can rely upon God to do the planning.  Interestingly in Exodus, Moses does not have a strategy for addressing the needs of the over 1,000,000 Jews wandering in the desert.  The scriptures, in Exodus chapter 18 make a point to address Moses’ lack of strategy, as his father in-law Jethro provides counsel to Moses, “What you are doing is not good.  18 You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out…” Choose strong leaders who fear God and train them.  “…21appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens.”   As you look at this text more closely it is apparent that the God who has an eternal plan values the creation of a temporal plan.  

Although it requires time, prayer, and perhaps an outside consultant, as Jethro was in this case, there is tremendous value in taking the time to create a plan.  I am convinced that this planned nature of our God is a characteristic that we should aspire to learn and to grow within ourselves.    

Going back to a secular or business author, Patrick Lencioni, in The Advantage writes: “But all too often-and this is critical-leaders underestimate the impact of even subtle mis-alignment at the top, and the damage caused to the rest of the organization by small gaps among members of the executive team.”(pg.74)  This is an amazing quote when you consider our triune God as the ultimate leaders of the masterful eternal plan.  There is a purpose, a vision, a clear objective and the Fathers, Son, and Holy Spirit, within their roles, are bringing this eternal plan to fruition.  How about your church’s executive team, leadership team, elder board, etc., are you working to create alignment to achieve the hope God has for your church?

Written by Duane Cox, Ed.D. public school administrator and one-time participant of Strat-Ops, serving as an elder in a medium-sized church

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