Equipped for a mission-focused
Journey With Jesus

Intro to Strategic Planning

By Cara Garrity, Development Coordinator

What makes discernment and strategic planning a powerful duo?

We have been exploring the connection between discernment and strategic planning – suggesting that, when approached a certain way, they can work in harmony with one another. I would like to suggest even further that the two not only can work together, but need to work together as we continue our journey of Healthy Church Vision. Let’s explore this further:

How can we define strategy? In Strategic Planning for Nonprofit Organizations: A Practical Guide for Dynamic Times, Allison and Kaye describe strategy: “To boil it down to the most basic elements: Your mission is your purpose, and your strategy is ‘how’ you will accomplish your mission.” (pg. 6) We could think of strategic planning as the process of creating an intentional plan to pursue a clear and unified mission. In future resources we will explore what the process looks like more thoroughly.

How can we define discernment? Discernment is a decision-making process in which an individual makes a discovery that can lead to future action. In plain terms, it means understanding or knowing something through the power of the Spirit. Discernment is spirit-led and surpasses personal knowledge and experience. (reference note link – GCI Buzz Healthy Church: Discernment)

What is our mission? It is the very mission given to us by Jesus in the great commission (Matthew 28:16-20). What a humbling, sacred, life-changing mission for our triune God to draw us into. With what great joy and care do we respond to his invitation!

Discernment, Strategic Planning, Mission, and Ministry Participation

It is here where we sometimes begin to feel the tension between discernment and strategic planning. If the mission we are given is Jesus’ mission and not our own, then is creating a specific plan to guide our pursuit of this mission an attempt to take matters into our own hands? Is it to choose our own way to accomplish a mission that is not our own? Well, it can be. We often attempt to do things according to our own wills, understanding, or strength. But consider this – is it the fault of the tool or is it an operator error?

This is where discernment comes in. As disciples of Jesus, we are continually drawn to seek him in discernment. We need him – we do not have everything that we need on our own. Strategic planning without discernment is likely to produce ministry participation with a blurry focus on the mission of Jesus. Strategically planned or not, ANY ministry participation taking place without discernment will fall flat. Strategic planning is simply a tool that can be used. Discernment guides us towards a Christ-centered, mission-focused use of this tool.

Likewise, discernment without strategic planning threatens to fall flat. What good is it to discern how God may be inviting your congregation into ministry if you are not going to steward this invitation?

Strategic planning as a response to discernment is a faithful and communal “yes and amen” to the movement and invitation of the Spirit. The mission of Jesus and his commission to his church is much too beautiful to handle haphazardly. If we plan our careers, our education, our workouts, our travels – how much more so does participation in the ministry of Jesus merit our careful attention?

Discernment & Strategic Planning Best Practices

What can it look like to practice a rhythm of discernment and strategic planning within the local congregation? Consider intentionally dedicating time, space, and energy as a team to pray together and discern. Surrender your own agendas. What do you see God doing? How might he be inviting your congregation to participate?

Then become intentional stewards of what you discern. What goals will you keep an eye on as you pursue the mission of Jesus? As a team, what commitments do you need to make to yourself, one another, and the members of the congregation? What next steps need to happen to move forward?

Create a consistent rhythm of dedicated team discernment and strategic planning throughout the year.

Refer to our IMAP and TMAP templates for a tool to organize your strategic planning.

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