An implementation strategy is a step-by-step procedure for taking advantage of the existing characteristics of the planning culture in such a way as to enhance the likelihood of the planning being accepted and used. The process of introducing a planning procedure into an organization is a subtle one of taking advantage of an established planning culture and, in turn, of reinforcing that culture. Planning cannot be introduced into an organization that is not ready to accept it. An all-at-once introduction of a comprehensive planning process is almost inevitably doomed.

The implementation of the strategy involves four steps that could be called the management process: planning, programming, budgeting, and designing measurement and reward systems. As was pointed out at the beginning of this section, the church should be made aware of the need for long-range planning at the very beginning. Several reports were suggested along the way to keep the congregation informed. The final report should be summarized into a 10–20 page report that could be presented to the membership, along with some visuals to make them aware of where the church is in the present and where it intends to be going in the future. The full report may be several hundred pages, and several copies need to be kept available for reference and use.

The final responsibility of the long-range planning process is to insure that progress toward goal accomplishment is occurring. This is the role of evaluation. Forecasts prove less than acceptable, new environmental factors appear, and the values of weights assigned various decisions and strategies become modified. Any or all of these can cause a redirection of effort. Both the process and results of long-range planning must be evaluated. This is not the same as controls, but must be concerned with the overall system. The process is establishment of goals and objectives, measurement of performance, comparison of performance with goals and objectives, and then analysis of deviations.

Problems with long-range planning

1. More time is needed for implementation than expected
2. Unanticipated major problems
3. Ineffective coordination of activities
4. Crises that distracts from implementation of plans
5. Insufficient capabilities of the church
6. Inadequate training and instruction of workers implementing plans
7. Uncontrollable external environmental factors
8. Inadequate leadership and direction by leadership
9. Poor definition of key implementation tasks and activities
10. Inadequately monitoring of activities by leaders

Goal and Strategy Formulation

Now the committee is ready to write goals for the future. These goals should meet the same criteria given in the chapter on Time Management. They should be specific, measurable, challenging but attainable, dated, and written.

Goals should be prepared for areas like church membership and attendance, new members, contributions, staff, facilities, new programs, and goals for each of the church program areas. Each program organization should submit goals for the next 5–7 years to the committee at this point. Some of these goals may be for immediate implementation, and some may be for 7–10 years in the future. The organizational leaders need to be very involved in this part of the planning process. The goals might be put on a planning sheet that would contain the goal, the activities needed to accomplish the goal, a time to do each activity, the person responsible for each activity, and the resources needed (funds, buildings, personnel, and equipment) for each activity. Some control or reporting points
should be indicated to show how it would be monitored.

A standard approach could be adopted to force a uniform analysis and to provide some means to compare competing goals. Each recommended goal could be described by the function it is to perform and the services and skills required. Underlying assumptions and factors critical to its success are considered, and strong emphasis is given to defining measurable results to be expected. Next, the resources required and currently available are listed along with a preliminary budget. Any negative consequences of approval or disapproval are considered, along with possible alternatives. An important criterion of this summary outline is that it can be no more than two pages.

The goals are then each considered on the basis of a series of challenges or questions as to their merit:
1. Does the goal offer a practical, logical response to the issues and facts?
2. Does it promise measurable and worthwhile results?
3. Will it make predictable, reasonable demands on resources?
4. Will it substantially improve the situation or worsen it?
5. Does it needlessly burden the organization while ignoring the responsibilities of others?

The organization strategy can now be implemented into the organizational structure. Developing a strategy and an organization structure to match should be simultaneous events, not independent and sequential. When strategy is developed, therefore, organizational issues must be included as an integral part of the strategy formulation and implementation process. The organizational strategy and structure must consider lay leadership and professional leadership. This will include the revision of job descriptions, and the adding of new positions. Especially, the need for additional staff must be considered with a growth strategy.

All the possible strategies had to be narrowed down to the one best strategy before this could be done. This is done through sub-units, and they all establish goals which become the end for the sub-unit but a means for the next higher unit’s goals (means-end chain). Thus, each level of goals is derived from, and in turn supports, the accomplishment of the next highest level in the hierarchy.

Specialization and coordination are the two concepts most useful in choosing among alternative ways of organizing the parts of an organization to complete the tasks efficiently and effectively.

The organization structure should be designed to support the accomplishment of goals and the making of decisions to implement strategies. If possible, it is best to have one position or person responsible for the accomplishment of each goal and for implementing strategies in achieving this goal.

In this step, the planners must identify, examine, and evaluate the specific alternatives available. The evaluation of alternatives deals with the definition and evaluation of the alternative ways in which the resources of the organization are to be employed to achieve the organization’s objectives. Thus, the process of evaluating alternatives is one of deciding on the best route for the organization, given the conditions and limitations of the future.

The evaluation of alternatives, using some form of cost-benefit analysis, should be performed in terms of the previously selected objectives and should therefore lead to the selection of alternatives congruent with these objectives. These alternatives, together with a statement of risk and uncertainty, constitute the core of strategic planning. To be meaningful, they must be cast in the framework of what can be done and what should be done, given the existing organizational purposes and the risks in the future.

The financial considerations are becoming increasingly important in selecting alternatives. The chief financial officer needs to have an important role to play in this part of the process and not just the program people. By integrating financial planning within the overall planning effort, a ministry can develop a truly strategic plan based on the best information from everyone on the team. Some consultants are very much aware of this.

The reimbursement implications of an alternative are considered, but the ultimate test of financial feasibility is made only after the program is selected. In effect, the solution is determined, and then the question of affordability is raised. If an institution is to survive, it must take into account both the programmatic and financial elements of planning from the outset.

The committee writes and presents the plans

The long-range planning report should contain most of the following types of information:
1. The need for long-range planning
2. A history of the past 5–10 years of the church
3. Church growth for the past 5–10 years
4. Strengths and weaknesses of church programs, such as staff, facilities, and programs
5. Community characteristics and projections
6. The church and community needs for the present and the next 5 years
7. Church goals based on those needs
8. Strategies to reach the goals

The committee should report to the church in several stages. The committee might report on the written statement of purpose or objectives for the church. A second report might present the critical needs that needed to be addressed in the planning. A third report could be long-range goals for the church. A final report could summarize the total study. This type of reporting could keep the church membership informed of the progress.

Analyzing the Community

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.

Studying the Church

Three things are a part of this process: information collection, analysis, and feedback. This part of the planning will involve a gathering and analysis of data (past, present, and future) that provides a base for pursuing the planning process. It should identify and analyze the key trends, forces, and phenomena having a potential impact on the formulation and implementation of strategies. The planning committee is attempting at this stage to answer the questions: Where are we? Where did we come from? How well are we doing? The two sources of information for this study are records and reports of the church and a survey of church opinions.

The internal analysis consists of an assessment of the organization strengths and limitations. It seeks to determine how well the church is doing. Essentially, it is an appraisal of how well the organization is accomplishing its objectives. Examples of factors considered are membership, programs, staff, facilities, finances, worship, missions, fellowship, and publicity. Much of the strategic change process necessarily focuses on the development, mobilization, and allocation of resources, physical, personnel and financial, to carry out a new direction or to implement a new action. Facilities are often a crucial item.

The committee needs to look back 5–10 years and try to establish trends that will help it to answer the questions above. The committee needs to ask questions of themselves, and the church membership such as: What are our strengths? What are our weaknesses? What suggestions for improvement can be made? The group needs to look at the effectiveness of the church. This is a hard task, and there is more discussion and opinion than hard facts.

History of church – when organized, number of charter members, reason for starting, pastors and their ministries, new buildings, splits, churches started, growth trends, and factors that affected growth. The study should place the church in the organization life-cycle as presented in an earlier chapter.

Church programs – for each major program of the church, the attendance, the membership (by age and sex), and the workers. The programs to be included include the following:

a. Pastoral ministries – should be examined in such areas as worship services, outreach, following pastor, and the work of deacons.

b. Educational program – should be examined in such areas as teacher training, growth, and meeting needs of everyone.

c. Mission programs – should be examined in such areas as congregation involved, enough funds, and broad enough support.

d. Recreation programs – should be examined in such areas as for all ages, good philosophy, leadership, and facilities.

As the internal analysis is being conducted, it is very important that the particular programs are not considered in isolation. Programs cannot be considered in isolation, since they often interact with one another and they compete with one another for the scarce resources of the organization.

Finances – chart by year the total receipts, total disbursements, mission expenditures, salary expenditures, debt retirement, building costs; and gather current data on the budget, the debt, the assets, the weekly giving pattern with the number of givers at various contribution levels.

Facilities – consider the capacity, the average use, the need and the condition of the land, parking lot, auditorium, educational space, the fellowship areas, and the administrative areas.

Membership – determine the total active and inactive by ages, the number that join each year by baptism and by letter, the number that leave each year by letter, by death, or to other denominations, the length of time people are members, if they own or rent their dwelling, average income level, marital status, educational achievement, type of vocation and distance traveled to the church.

Staff – job descriptions, personnel policies, selection process, compensation, records, supervision, morale.

A survey form for church participants to fill out is very significant for this part of the study. It might be distributed in 2–3 weeks of Sunday morning worship services to get the highest percentage of responses. (Samples of these forms are available in many strategic planning books.) A form should be devised with multiple answers that are easy to check off. Information to ask for on the survey could include:

I. Personal information:
a. Gender
b. Age
c. Marital status
d. Time of membership in years
e. Time of living in community
f. Distance live from the church
g. Frequency of attendance of church
h. Services usually attended at church:
i. Number of ministry positions at the church
j. Reasons (1, 2, 3) that you attend this church
k. Number of close friends in this church

II. Church information:
(You might use below average, average, above average to rate the following.)
a. Potential for growth of church
b. Church involvement with helping people in need
c. Outreach program
d. Discipleship training program
e. Children’s program
f. Youth program
g. Music program
h. Prayer program
i. Church member visitation program
j. Preaching program
k. Communication program
l. Visitors would find the church (not friendly, friendly, very friendly)
m. Priorities of the church should be (number 1–5, 1 being most important)
n. Programs that should receive more emphasis in the church (list programs)
o. Programs the church should start are _____
p. In the next 10 years, the church could grow to an attendance of _____
q. I wish the pastor would _____
r. Major issue facing church next 5 years is _____
s. Our biggest need in facilities right now is _____

III. Survey might also deal with specific issues that are confronting the church:
a. Times of worship services
b. Music for worship services
c. Next staff member to add
d. etc.

Surveys like this are available to be looked at; design one that will fit your church best. The survey can give you factual information about members and also opinion information about how the church is perceived by the members.

If data is available to do comparisons of data from your church and from a group of other churches, or from national figures, this will help immensely with the analysis and interpretation. Having raw data is sometimes meaningless unless there is something to compare the data with. The comparison may be on the basis of percentages or of ratios.

This is a major part of the study, and when it is completed, the committee will have a very good idea of the strengths and weaknesses of the church. They will know who the church is, and where it has come from.

Process for Long Range Planning

The process for long range planning is lengthy but well worth it.  A long range plan helps keep a church focused and motivated to reach its goals.  The next several sections discuss the process for long range planning.

Prepare the congregation and elect a committee

This must be considered the starting point. The church needs to understand the purpose and the process of long-range planning, and be involved as much as possible. The pastor must take the lead in this step. The deacons and other special groups should be made aware of the program. The church needs to realize the potential for improvement that long-range planning has. The church needs to realize that it will probably take six months of work to prepare a meaningful long-range plan. The church needs to realize that it will cost not only energy of leaders, and time, but also some money to do long-range planning.

This is one of the places where a committee is a good thing. The committee will need 8–20 members. The small church with an attendance of 200 or less would need 8–10 on the committee. The medium size church from 200 to 500 in attendance should elect 10–15 for the committee. The church with over 500 in attendance should have 15–20 on the committee.

Many times the committee will want to have an outside consultant to work with them. Several companies offer real help with this, but it can be expensive. An outside consultant is especially important where there is possible or actual conflict in the church. Also, if there are a lot of complex issues to deal with, a consultant is helpful. The consultant is generally more objective than the church leadership and should know the process and where to look for information. Materials are available (see sources at end of chapter) that would help the committee know how to go about their task. The committee would probably need to meet twice a month for about six months.

These members should make a commitment to stay with the project until it is finished. It is almost impossible to bring in a replacement after the process starts. Committee membership should be representative of the entire church membership (age, income levels, life styles, etc.). Members will be some of the key leaders in the church, who may have to turn over their normal church work to associates while they devote themselves to the planning process. Of course the members need to be committed to Christ and to the church. They must have time available for the large amount of work involved and all the meetings.

Objective writing or reviewing

Many writers are calling this the mission statement or purpose statement. Much has been written about preparing one. Objectives are the enduring statements about the purpose of the organization. They are the future destinations and may be stated in quantitative or qualitative terms, but they should be broad and timeless statements, as opposed to more specific goals. This describes the “business” that the organization might pursue in the future. For a church, this statement should be based on the Bible, and what God intends for all churches to be and do, but also distinguish that church from all other churches.

An organization can really drift away from the founding purpose if the objectives become unclear. It is very important that everyone in an organization know the objectives, and that they all work together harmoniously to accomplish them. Objectives must be written down, displayed, and explained. All the members of an organization need to be committed to the objectives. Objectives become the cornerstone to all church planning and evaluation. Good objectives will build morale, reduce frustration, and develop cooperation. Good objectives help to place boundaries around the ministry and thus define what it will and will not do. They will help to communicate to those outside what the organization is all about. Objectives determine the direction and relevance of all church plans and activities. A church’s goals should be a direct result of objectives and needs. Both long-range and annual planning should be based on a church’s objectives.

One of the most significant books about the church in recent years is Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Church. He really states the importance of having a purpose or objective. “What is needed today are churches that are driven by purpose instead of by other forces. This book is written to offer a new paradigm, the purpose-driven church, as a biblical and healthy alternative to traditional ways that churches have organized and operated . . . . Nothing precedes purpose. The starting point for every church should be the question, ‘Why do we exist?’ Until you know what your church exists for, you have no foundation, no motivation, and no direction for ministry . . . . If you serve in an existing church that has plateaued, is declining, or is simply discouraged, your most important task is to redefine your purpose. Forget everything else until you have established it in the minds of your members. Recapture a clear vision of what God wants to do in and through your church family” (pp. 80–81).

Goals are more specific, time-based points of measurement that the organization intends to meet in the pursuit of its broad objectives. Usually goals are stated as specifically and as quantitatively as possible, the emphasis being on measurement of progress toward the achievement of objectives. Goals are the hoped for results that occur from a commitment of the organization’s resources.

The objectives of the church must be taken from the Bible. A very careful study of the purposes of the church, according to the scriptures, should be used to establish the objectives of a church. It is far better to make this a group project. The task may be assigned to a regular group, such as the deacons, or church council, or a special group may be used for this purpose. The objectives should put in simple direct sentences why the church exists. The objective statement should be reviewed by other groups and finally by the congregation as a whole. Part of this review is for refinement of the statement, but part is to educate the members as to what the purpose is. This purpose should be understood and accepted by the entire church. It needs to be kept before them and not hidden in
some folder.

Many theological books deal with the church, and these could be used, but the church really needs to get into a study of the scriptures to determine the objectives. Many scripture passages should be used, including:
 Matthew 5:13–16; 9:35;11:28–30; 16:15–19; 18:15–20; 22:36–40; 24:1–4; 25:34–40; 28:19–20
 Mark 10:43–45; 11:25–26; 16:16
 Luke 4:18–19, 43–45; 18:19–21; 24:46–48
 John 2:21; 4:23;10:14–18; 13:34–35; 20:21–22
 Acts 1:8; 2:38–47; 4:32–35; 5:42;6:1–7; 8:1
 Romans 12:1–8; 15:1–7
 1 Corinthians 1:2, 12–31; 3:16–17; 5:6; 12:4,6, 12–14, 28
 2 Corinthians 5:17–6:1
 Galatians 5:13–15; 6:1–2
 Ephesians 1:7, 22–23; 2:19–22; 3:6, 11–16; 4:1–6, 11–16; 5:22–6:4
 Colossians 1:2, 18–28; 3:15–16
 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 2:12; 5:13
 2 Timothy 1:7
 Titus 3:1
 Philemon 17–18
 Hebrews 8:12; 10:24–25; 13:7, 17
 1 Peter 2:9–10; 4:13–12; 5:5–6
 1 John 1:5–7; 2:3–5; 4:7–21
 Revelation 21:2, 9

This kind of Bible study will help establish the five purposes of the church:
1. Worship Love the Lord with all your heart
2. Ministry Love your neighbor as yourself
3. Evangelism Go and make disciples
4. Fellowship Baptizing them
5. Discipleship Teaching them to obey

A well-written objective will be clear, easily taught and remembered, based on the Bible, but distinguish the specific church from all others. The statement should be broad enough to cover all significant areas of activity expected. Everything the church does should fit under the objective. The purpose statement written by Rick Warren’s church is: “To bring people to Jesus and membership in his family, develop them to Christlike maturity, and equip them for their ministry in the church and life mission in the world, in order to magnify God’s name” (Purpose Driven Church, p. 107). He points out that this statement has five key words:
1. Magnify We celebrate God’s presence in worship
2. Mission We communicate God’s Word through evangelism
3. Membership We incorporate God’s family into our fellowship
4. Maturity We educate God’s people through discipleship
5. Ministry We demonstrate God’s love through service

His church also developed a motto based on the great commandment and the great commission. “A Great Commitment to the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:37–40) and the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19–20) will grow a Great Church!” ( p. 102).

Warren emphasizes the importance of keeping the purpose statement before the congregation. He calls it the “Nehemiah Principle.” Nehemiah built the wall in 52 days, but the people became discouraged at the halfway point – just 26 days into the project. Nehemiah had to renew their vision. Vision and purpose must be restated every 26 days to keep the church moving in the right direction (p. 111). This can be done with Scripture, symbols, slogans, and stories.

Definition of Long Range Planning

Long-range planning is the ultimate kind of planning. Long-range planning for a church involves a SWOT analysis. The church does a thorough investigation of itself looking for strengths and weaknesses. This is the SW of the SWOT analysis. Next it studies the community looking for opportunities and threats. This is the OT of the SWOT analysis. With the SWOT analysis, the church can anticipate the future, and then be in a position to influence it. Then goals and plans for implementing them are formulated. This is what long-range planning is all about. Long-range planning is now sometimes being referred to as strategic planning.

When long-range planning is considered for churches, the time frame is usually 5–7 years. Most churches are not attempting to project that far into the future. It is generally accepted that less than 20% of churches in America have completed long-range planning. Many churches are not even doing good annual planning. Annual planning, however, is like a thermometer as it records what is happening and adjusts to the changes. Long-range planning is more like a thermostat as it controls the environment.

Long-range planning is seeking to find the answer to seven questions:

1. Who are we? (Objective)
2. Where are we now? (Evaluation)
3. How did we get here? (Past trends)
4. Where are we going? (Forecasts and assumptions)
5. How do we get there? (Goals and strategies)
6. What is the biggest need of the church? (Priorities)
7. What is our timing? (Schedule)

When these seven questions are answered, a church will have plans that will give them direction as they move into the future.

Advantages of long-range planning

The number of advantages to long-range planning indicate that it may be worth-while for leaders to use. Long-range planning allows an organization to act rather than react. The organization can make things happen, rather than just let things happen. It is writing history before it happens. Long-range planning will allow an organization to anticipate problems and work out solutions before the problems appear (building, staff, community change, demographic changes in membership). They can make use of circumstances, rather than fret about misfortunes. Long-range planning allows an organization to seek out the will of God about what it should do and be.

Long-range planning can help insure an adequate, comprehensive, and balanced program. It involves an evaluation of the present programs and practices and encourages changes that make for greater effectiveness. It looks at programs, staff, and buildings that will be needed in the future. Long-range planning seeks to anticipate community changes. It requires a study of the community needs, and then a reexamination of the church’s objectives to see if they are still adequate. Long-range planning will lessen conflicts and tensions. It anticipates future problems and allows a church to begin solving them before they become acute.

Annual Planning

Annual planning is sometimes called programming. Programming is usually thought of as planning for a 1–3 year period. When a church decides how much of its objectives to accomplish in one year (annual goals), and how to get it done (strategies or actions), then it is involved in programming. Programming is planning in detail what a church believes that God wants it to do during that time period. It involves setting goals in the light of objectives, selecting the best strategies to reach the goals, and planning actions to carry out the strategies.

These three terms are basic to annual planning and need to be understood:

1. Goals – The goals are based on the church’s objectives, and are specific,
measurable, dated, written, and accomplishable.

2. Strategy – A pattern of actions to reach a goal. It tells how a church intends to reach that goal. A strategy brings actions together in such a way that they complement and support one another. A strategy is not just any way to reach a goal––it is the best way. It is a plan calculated to reach a goal with a minimum expenditure of resources.

3. Basic actions – Events or activities necessary to carry out a strategy. If a strategy is planned to increase the church members’ individual usefulness through a leadership training plan, a survey to discover potential leaders would be a basic action of the strategy.

A cute way of presenting annual planning is based on SNAPS:
Acknowledge work being done
Steps to meet needs


Good annual planning can bring many benefits to a church. It enables a church to build progress into church activities. The church selects the needed activities to move ahead in a linear fashion, instead of going in the same well-worn circle. It builds unity into the church programs so that the church can truly be the body of Christ, and not an unrelated collection of more or less good activities that take place at the same building. The programs can be correlated, and competition between them can be lessened. It develops church leaders. As the leaders take part in the planning process, they develop skill in planning and this is one of the most significant functions of leadership. It helps a church to decide in advance the best use of church resources such as money, facilities, time, and human energy.

Annual audit of all programs

A basic part of annual planning is an evaluation or “audit” of each program group. This type of planning would provide for an annual evaluation of every organization and group in the church. This evaluation would be based on the expectations and goals articulated by the persons who will be responsible for the performance of the organization.

The audit would have several parts. Each program would:
1. Submit a written objective that would give its reason for being in that particular church
2. Relate its objective to the overall objective of the church
3. Define its goals for the coming year
4. Provide complete programming for the accomplishing of the goals
5. Submit all this information to a special committee or planning group to be used in correlating the entire church program

The annual planning process

The church staff and the church council should do annual planning. The church council is composed of the directors of all the various departments or ministries of the church. The programs would do the audit discussed above and send their plans to the church council. An annual planning conference with the pastor and this group can be a very worthwhile endeavor. At a planning conference like this, there would be a looking back at the progress made toward the goals for the past year, a critical evaluation of the present situation which would take note of the strengths and weaknesses of the church and its ministries, a fresh look at the basic objectives to see if they are still on target, and then a setting of goals for the next year.

A basic outline that this planning group could follow would include the following:

1. Review of the church’s statement of objectives. This is the basic purpose or reason for being. All planning should start here.

2. Review of the church’s long-range plans as they relate to this next year. What goals were set that needs to be met? What actions were planned that should be carried out? Is the church still on target and progressing as the long-range planning group forecast?

3. Write on the calendar all previously committed dates from long-range plans or revivals and other projects that may have been scheduled several years in advance.

4. Write on the calendar any dates of known programs that will have significance for the church and any dates for every-year kinds of major church projects (Vacation Bible School, Stewardship Promotion Month, etc.). The church needs to limit these annual programs.

5. Now evaluate the present situation in the church. The group might seek to answer such questions as:

  •  What are the basic needs in our church today?
  •  What are the basic needs in our community that the church should be meeting?
  •  What are the priority needs from the preceding two questions?
  •  How can the church best meet those needs?

This step is the key to meaningful annual planning. This step, carefully carried out, will ensure that annual planning is more than a repetition of past years.

6. The group can now write goals for the year that will reflect the church’s objectives, the long-range plans, and the present needs.

7. Actions or strategies can be suggested for each of the goals.

8. The time for the actions, especially when it involves major church projects, can now be scheduled on the church calendar.

9. The plans that were suggested by each program organization to this church-planning group now need to be carefully considered. This was the annual audit that was suggested earlier.

10. The group will need to work out any duplication, overlap, and conflicts between all these different suggested activities. Some effort will need to be given to producing a calendar that has balance, with special projects being scattered throughout the year.

11. Report the proposed calendar to the church for adoption.

Project Planning

Project planning is used when planning for a definite project, like a revival, Vacation Bible School, a missions conference, or other such major church project or activity. A project will have a definite beginning and a definite ending, unlike the regular church organizations. A church should probably limit the number of major church-wide projects that it will have to about 8 each year. The planning process might include a special calendar that shows the intensive planning for a 6–8 week period for each project. Eight special projects with 6–8 weeks of planning will give 48–64 weeks of planning for the year.

Organization for project planning

Since projects are by nature special programs with a definite beginning and a definite ending point; most of the time a special organization will be established to plan and produce them. The basic pattern of this organization is to establish a steering committee, with individuals given responsibility for planning and directing specific parts of the project. Each of the individuals on the steering committee may also be the chairman of a subcommittee that will help him to plan and direct the part of the program assigned to him. The steering committee chairman is usually exempted from other responsibilities. Different projects will require different responsibilities, but some examples could be promotion, food, decorations, arrangements, financial, printing and mailing, prayer, training, etc. The steering committee may be mostly paid staff serving in these capacities, or mostly volunteer. Many projects recommend that even the chairman of the steering committee be a layperson.


A number of specific techniques have developed for use in project planning:

Project booklets. A special project booklet is sometimes prepared to help with project planning. Capital fund raising programs, budget promotion programs, Sunday school attendance programs, and some evangelists have these prepared to help churches plan for their special projects. These can be a great aid to project planning. Some of them will list all actions, provide a calendar, give job descriptions and organization charts, and even give sample publicity. A church could prepare a booklet for any project and could be helped significantly by having all the information present in one place. The booklet usually lists what is to be done, who is responsible for doing it, and when it is to be done. Job descriptions, or at least a list of the duties of different workers, is included. A planning calendar is often a part of this booklet, showing when each activity is to be planned and executed.

Gantt charts. A Gantt chart indicates all the activities to be done to carry out a particular project. It shows when each activity is to be started and when it is to be completed. A time schedule is indicated across the top of the chart. The rows on the left side of the chart represent the individual activities to be carried out to accomplish the project. A horizontal line is drawn in each row showing when the activity is to start and when it is to be completed. As the work proceeds and the activities are accomplished, the lines are darkened to indicate how much of the work has been completed. With the darkening in of the lines, it becomes helpful in the continuing process of planning and evaluating, because it is a visual of the progress on the plans.

Gantt charts are very helpful where there is little or no relationship between successive activities and where the times to complete a task can be established.

PERT chart. PERT stands for Project Evaluation and Review Technique. This technique was developed to help plan complex operations where many functions or activities need to be integrated at a specific time. The PERT chart consists of a diagram that shows the sequence of activities needed to complete a project. The chart has numbered circles that represent events, which must be completed at some particular point in time. The circles are connected with lines that have arrows, which indicate activities that must be performed in order for an event to occur. The lines have numbers that indicate how much time will be required to accomplish the event. Events do not occur until all of the work included in the activities leading up to the event has been completed. The connected series of activities and events, from beginning to end, is called a path. The critical path is the sequence of activities, which will require the greatest normal time to accomplish. Sometimes a circle will be connected with paths to two or more other circles. If one event were required to be completed before two or more other events can be started, then this would be indicated with connecting paths or lines. The sequence is very evident in PERT charts.

The PERT chart starts at the earliest possible date for an event to occur. It continues until the last event is completed. One can follow the path from the earliest circle to the last circle, adding up the times indicated on the lines, and determine how much time is necessary to accomplish the project.

Time estimates use three estimates: optimistic (a), pessimistic (b), and most likely (m). The formula for time is “a” plus four times “m” plus “b” and all divided by 6. This will give the best time frame estimate.

PERT charts have a number of advantages:
a. They call for detailed planning of a project.

b. The network development and critical path analysis reveal interdependencies and problem areas, which may not be obvious.

c. The three-way time estimates give a good estimate of time needed.

d. They present a large amount of data in orderly fashion.

e. The charts focus on time and show where delays would be serious.

f. They are helpful in control because they show the critical path (the path taken most of the time).

Operational Planning

Planning for an organization like a church can be viewed in four categories: operational planning, project planning, annual planning, and long-range planning. Organizations need to be involved in all four types of planning at all times. Planning is a process, and churches should be in the process of planning in each of these categories. This section will deal with the first three categories of planning, and the next section will present long-range planning.

The planning for daily operations, or work, is called operational planning. This type of planning is very routine, and much of it is repeated. Much of this type of planning can be done with policies and procedures – a basic part of operational planning. Policies are the planned answers to reoccurring questions. Procedures are the planned step-by-step operation to follow to accomplish a regular task. The writing of policies and procedures fits into the task of planning, because the leader is really planning a response to a future
situation when he writes policies and procedures.


A policy is a standing answer to a recurring question. It is a definite course of action selected from alternatives in the light of given conditions to guide present and future decisions. A policy is a simple decision meant to guide organizational behavior out of a number of alternate decisions. Usually a policy is set by someone at a higher level in an organization to give guidance to those at lower levels making decisions. Policies reflect what the boss wants the organization to do.

A process of policy development has evolved:

  • A problem, or question, arises repeatedly and is brought to the attention of people who can develop policy.
  •  Alternate courses of action considered, the probable effects of each alternate are considered, and finding the best alternative makes a policy decision.
  •  Documentation of all alternatives, conditions, and reasons for final decisions are preserved for future reference.
  •  Finally, the policy statement is communicated to all who need it, and is then used in making decisions.

Policies are needed for personnel matters, weddings, use of buildings and equipment, nursery use and nursery workers, purchasing, special offerings, school admission, and many other things. A written policy allows the leader to make a decision ahead of time, make a decision without personalities (like deacons) being involved, and have a consistent answer to the same question for different parties at different times.

Church policies should be:

a. Written clearly enough to be understood by everyone
b. Publicized
c. Reviewed and updated periodically
d. Followed or enforced
e. Seldom not followed
NOTE: Policies are rules to be followed and not rules to be broken.

Written policies require the church leadership to think clearly and consistently through the guides to action. As the guides are written down, the leaders should discover any conflicts, contradictions, discrepancies, or inconsistencies, which can be corrected. If the written policies are different from the unwritten operating structure, then problems in implementing the policies can be expected. The writing of policies should begin by determining the current operating structure. It may need to be changed, but it should be considered. Some leaders are afraid to put their policies in writing because they don’t want to be committed to a particular standard. These leaders want to have the freedom to make a decision based on the personalities, and not the principles. Policy that is “understood” but not written down is more flexible and can easily be adjusted to different circumstances. However, written policies insure uniformity of decision-making and make it much easier for subordinates to perform their work.

These written policies also serve an educational purpose. Without them the pastor or other staff members must assume the responsibility of carrying on a continuous educational program that will be repetitive. The value is not only in making the policies clearly understood, but also a certain value is inherent in putting them in writing. What people read they retain for a longer time than what they hear. A manual is therefore superior to a lecture for many reasons.

Major policies should be made by, or at least approved by, the pastor and his chief advisors. These policies will have the effect of limiting the decision-making range of personnel charged with managing the work of the church. The function here is to sanction in advance decisions made by the leaders in lower positions of authority in various situations as long as they stay within the guidelines. Policies may be written at any level in an organization, and not just the top level. Policies will guide and govern persons and operations at levels either identical with or below the level at which the policymaking occurs.


A procedure is a step-by-step process that has been standardized to accomplish a particular task. Procedures give a definite course of action, instead of a puzzle to be solved. Procedures detail the exact manner and the chronological order of job performance. When a leader writes procedures for accomplishing a job, he should be designing the best way to complete a task in a regular definite order.

Procedures are needed for such things as changing addresses on members and prospects, distributing the mail, purchasing supplies, counting the offering, receiving new members, locking and unlocking the building for services, and such events that lend themselves to a step-by-step procedure for accomplishing them. Procedures that are carefully prepared and followed will insure that the best sequences of events are followed, and that nothing is left out that needs to be done to accomplish a specific task. Procedures are especially helpful to a new employee.

These written policies and procedures should be brought together in a policy and procedures manual. This kind of reference manual can be referred to whenever needed and will eliminate frequent time consuming conferences on routine matters. This will allow leaders at various levels to make certain decisions without constantly bombarding others with questions or seeking of opinions. The manual should be designed to help make the church more effective and efficient, and should not be overly negative, restrictive, or legalistic. Some degree of flexibility, with limits, should be written into the policies.

The Place of Forecasting

Planning must begin with estimating what the future will be like. The process calls for determining what will happen if things continue on as they are, then deciding what you can change and what you can’t change, and finally what impact your possible changes will have.


Statistics is one of the major tools to use in estimating the future. Statistics is a collection of techniques to describe data and provide a means for making inferences about a total group based on observations from part of the total. The primary purpose of statistics is to provide information for the decision-making process.


This is the practice of making predictions about future events. Forecasting methods are of two basic types:
1. Statistical – Statistical procedures attempt to determine a formal model for using data gathered on past and current events to predict what will happen in the future.
2. Judgmental – Judgmental forecasts are made when either past data are not available or the event being forecast is totally new; and hence, what happened in the past is really not connected with the future. If the future is mostly an extension of the past, then the statistical model should be used. The more the future is expected to be different from the past, the more judgment should be used.

Regression analysis

Regression analysis tests to see the correlation between two or more variables. When one variable is dependent upon the other variable, then a prediction can be made for the dependent variable, if one knows the independent variable. For example, a correlation may be found to exist between community population and church membership. If that correlation exists, then, using the projected population statistics of the city, a projected future membership figure for the church could be determined. Correlations could probably be found between church membership and Sunday School attendance, and church membership and budget income.

Time series analysis

The past offers a good indication of what the future will be like. Charts that show the past can be used to predict the future. A church leader should keep up with how things are going, and he can better predict how they will be going in the future. The easiest way is just to draw, freehand, the trend line on the graph. Statistics also make available more precise methods, such as the least squares regression and the ratio to moving average. None of these methods, however, will help when new and unusual events happen.

Time series analysis will usually discover, and must use, one or more components:
1. A long-term trend component – will show a long-term increase or decrease in a variable being measured over time.
2. A seasonal component – may occur at the same time of the year every year.
3. A cyclical component – has wave-like fluctuations around a long-term trend, which are not seasonal. These can be isolated, but not predicted.
4. An irregular or random component – cannot be attributed to any of the other three components.

Studies may be available by other groups that will help in estimating the future of a church. City planning groups, public school districts, utility companies, and others make it their business to know what the future holds, and some of this data may be available to a church. This type information can be used with a percentage or ratio approach to help a church plan the future. Some of this type of information could be considered a lead indicator, because it signals a coming change. Some of the information might be a lag indicator, and the change only begins after other factors have already changed.

A church might use a questionnaire distributed within the membership to gather data that can be used to predict the future, at least according to the membership.