This part of the planning determines the opportunities and the threats. This is the OT of the SWOT analysis. What is the community to be analyzed? This step looks at the other churches in the community to determine the threats, and it examines the people in the community to determine the opportunities.
Much public information is available on population trends that will help with this part of the study. Many communities have an office of planning and zoning that has data available. The United States Bureau of the Census has an unbelievable amount of information from the United States Government Printing Office, Washington, DC. Many organizations will utilize an outside consultant to assist with the external environmental analysis.
Some of the types of information the group should find would be as shown below:
1. Information on population: total, ages, races, income level, education level, religious makeup, and trends of change.
2. Information on housing: number of units, number of units owned by people living in them, number of residents per unit, age of housing units, value of housing units, length of time residents lived in housing units.
3. Information on community needs: racial, special education, senior adult programs, day care, tutoring, juvenile delinquents, drug and alcohol abuse, home for unwed mothers, institutions with needs for ministry, and what programs are attempting to meet the needs.
The church can then decide the kind of people that present the best target for them to reach. They can decide which of those groups the church is best equipped to reach. They can discover what styles of evangelism will match the target population. Personalize the target audience. Both Rick Warren at Saddleback church and Bill Hybels at Willowcreek have personalized their target audience and named them Saddleback Sam and Unchurched Harry. Saddleback Sam is married to Samantha and they have two kids, Steve and Sally. He is an unchurched man, late 30s or early 40s, college degree and may have an advanced degree, married, likes his job, likes where he lives, is enjoying life. He is self-satisfied, a professional, a manager, or a successful entrepreneur, is affluent, but deep in debt, health and fitness are high priorities, he has an unlisted telephone number and may live in a gated community. He is skeptical of what he calls “organized religion.” He prefers casual, informal meetings, and loves to dress down. He is very materialistic.
Development of a planning base
The community survey gathers a lot of data which must be screened and summarized. The objective of this analysis is to isolate the events which have the highest probability of occurrence and will significantly impact the organization. The analysis of the church and community survey will reveal the current position, and this serves as a baseline against which to measure future developments. Usually three scenarios are presented from this baseline: the best case, the worst case, and the most probable case. These multiple scenarios permit a degree of sensitivity analysis of the impact of the strategies during subsequent steps in the process.
This base will provide basic planning assumptions. An assumption is what you believe to be true. It is your judgment of what the available facts mean. They should be about your church and your community. Church assumptions could be about growth, finances, buildings, staff, membership, and location. Community assumptions could be about population, wages, life style, etc. Assumptions can be about the present or the future. They can be specific, such as the one dealing with the rate of inflation, or more general, such as one dealing with shifts in people’s basic views. Planning assumptions provide complementary information bases to those provided by forecasts. They permit the planner to complete the model of the future that can be used as the basis for evaluating and selecting strategic objectives. Although the future cannot be accurately predicted, the current situation and trends can be analyzed and this information can be used as a basis for communicating expectations to guide organizational planning. This is where some “what if” games can be played on a computer spread sheet with real meaning.
Examples of assumptions based on the community:
1. The average wage level in our area will go up.
2. There will be a shorter work week in the next five years.
3. ___% of the residents in our community will be retired by 20___.
4. More families will require some kind of day-care assistance for young children by 20___.
5. A year round schedule will soon be used by public schools.
Example of assumptions based on the church:
1. Our church will grow spiritually and numerically.
2. Our budget will double in the next six years.
3. Our church will need a new building by 20___.
4. Our church will need to add an additional pastor by 20___.
5. A day care center will be started by our church.
6. More members of the church are becoming inactive.
7. Our current educational program fails to prepare our members for mission.
If the church assumes a growth rate of members and attenders of 10% each year, then you can project out 5–10 years and see what the membership and attendance would be. If you know the projected attendance, and the average amount of offering per attender now, you can make assumptions about the increase in average gifts per attender, and determine an estimate of giving each year for the next 10 years. If you know the projected attendance, you can determine when new building space will be required, and when additional staff members will be required. A good set of assumptions can help you predict the future. If you based the growth on 10% increase in attendance, you can play the “what if” game and change that to 7% or to 15% and see how the change in your assumptions will alter your projections.
Here the planners create an image of the organization’s future preferred state. They seek to answer two questions: What should we do? How can we do it? The current characteristics of the organization are changed into those desired in the future. The process of strategy choice can be thought of as consisting of three elements: strategy development, refinement, and evaluation.
The planners can now decide on one of the basic types of strategies.
1. A stability strategy calls for continuing into the future what the organization has been doing.
2. Growth strategy may be through internal or external growth or through diversification.
3. Retrenchment strategy is used if an organization reduces its scale or level of operations.
The strategy must contain the following elements: scope, results, test of consistency, and implementation. The test of consistency will compare the strategy’s scope and objectives to the planning base.
A host of questions should be answered at this stage of the process. How do people feel about our ministry? Will our ministry become more or less stable? Where is the greatest support for our ministry? What kind of people do we attract? Are more of the kind of people we attract available? Will the church grow? Will the finances increase? What will impact our ministry (community changes, economic changes, changes in life style, etc.)?
This base should identify areas of concern in the church and community that need to be addressed. These areas of concern may be problems, opportunities, issues, or needs. Concerns provide the link between the raw material from the church and community to the goals that will be set. For example, a concern could be a need to reactivate inactive members and prevent new member drop out. This was based on two facts: 33% of members are inactive and 33% of new members are not regular 6–12 months after joining. Another example could be a concern for unsaved people in community. This could be based on a fact like: 60% of people in two miles of the church are unsaved.