Strategic Thinking for the Church

There’s a long list of things I didn’t learn in seminary. And to be honest, there’s a long list of things I did learn but can’t remember. I’m incredibly grateful for the theological foundation provided by my Masters of Divinity and Doctorate of Ministry. But as I continue to pastor, I notice a greater need for leadership and strategy that must build upon that theological foundation. Both are necessary. Both are essential. Both are important.I don’t believe in the false dichotomy many say exists. Theology and strategy are friends, not enemies. The Bible and leadership go hand in hand. All truth is God’s truth. So, I want to be the best theologian I can be. And I want to be the best leader I can be. That means I’m a constant student – of theology and strategy.

With that in mind, here’s one thing I didn’t learn in seminary. How do you form a church strategy? How do think strategically, systematically, and methodically as a pastor? Here are four steps that will get you started in the right direction. 

1. Purpose. Popular author and speaker, Simon Sinek, has it right. If you want to motivate people and inspire action, you must “Start With Why.”  This is the question of purpose – why do we exist? Every church has the same purpose. It’s found in Matthew 28:19-20. Our purpose is to reach the lost and disciple believers. To make disciples of all nations for the glory of God. I don’t think there’s a better “why” on the planet! 

2. People. Who are the people around you? Where is your church located? What is the culture of your community? These are questions that you must ask if you want to think strategically. Your philosophy of ministry in the Bible-Belt will be different than your philosophy of ministry in Toronto. Think like a missionary in your context. Get a demographic study of your area. Figure out the people that surround your church.

3. Priorities. Everything can’t have your focus. If everything has your focus, nothing has your focus. If you try to be good at everything you end up being good at nothing. You have to choose what your priorities will be. Your priorities must always support your purpose. What are your values? What is important to your church? What needs your attention and focus? How will your priorities help you accomplish your purpose?

4. Process. You have to answer the question, “How do we do what we’re supposed to do? How do we fulfill our purpose?” If we’re supposed to make disciples, how do we do that? I’ll save most of this for another post, but we’ve come up with three words that define what it means to be a disciple at our church. These three words help our programs and process align to our purpose of making disciples. A disciple will – Connect, Grow, and Serve – connect in personal and corporate worship, grow in small group relationships, and serve in ministry and mission.

I’m sure that many pastors have this figured out way better than I do. I’m still learning, growing, and stretching here. But in my life, theology and strategy are friends. And I want to be the best I can be at both of these things.