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Strategic Planning Best Practices

Nuts and bolts of a strategic planning retreat.

By Michelle Hartman, Communications Director

In our fast-paced culture, it’s easy to fall into cruise control and do ministry as usual, year after year. In the Bible, we see Jesus ministering to people in their time and place. When we go through the same motions repeatedly without reflecting or revising, we risk ministering by our own strength and missing opportunities to join the Spirit in addressing present needs. Our triune God is creative and collaborative. In Scripture, Jesus often innovated and overturned the status quo to bring the kingdom near. One practice that has helped my team reflect the innovation and creativity of the Trinity is holding annual strategic retreats.

These retreats give us an opportunity to pause and reflect on key questions:

  • Where are we?
  • What do we have to work with?
  • Where do we discern the Lord is leading us?
  • How do we get there?

By taking this time to reflect, we can articulate specific goals, and outline the action steps and resources needed to achieve them. This intentional planning process often leads to a more effective direction than I would have developed on my own. It empowers team members by involving them in the decision-making process, fostering a sense of shared ownership and responsibility for the vision. As a result, the entire team is more invested and motivated to work towards our common goals, ensuring that our ministry remains dynamic and responsive to the needs of those we serve.

To guide your congregation in planning a strategic retreat, consider these best practices:

  1. Define Your Focus Group/Stakeholders: Begin by prayerfully considering who should be part of the retreat. While your leadership team is essential, including members beyond this core group can bring fresh perspectives. Think about who in your congregation or neighborhood has valuable insights or gifts and invite them to join. Their unique viewpoints can enrich the discussions and outcomes.
  2. Prepare the Team: Ensure that everyone invited understands the heart and purpose of the retreat. Provide them with any necessary materials or pre-reading to help them come prepared. Setting clear expectations will help everyone contribute meaningfully.
  3. Prepare Your Schedule of Events: Carve out 1-2 days for the retreat to give your team ample space to process and focus on the task at hand. A well structured schedule can significantly enhance the productivity of your retreat.
    • Begin with Worship or a Devotional: Start with a centering practice such as worship or a devotional to align everyone’s hearts and minds with the purpose of the retreat.
    • Incorporate Varied Formats: Include opportunities for small group discussions, movement, and other formats that spark creativity and dreaming. Different formats can help keep the energy high and ensure that everyone is engaged.
    • Develop Norms Collectively: Establish clear norms and structures for your activities. This ensures that you stay on track and achieve the answers to your key questions.
    • Debrief as a Large Group: Regularly reconvene as a large group to share insights from smaller discussions. This ensures that all voices and roles are heard and considered.
    • Include Relational Spaces: Schedule time for relational activities, such as meals together or team-building exercises like axe throwing or an escape room. These activities strengthen team bonds and build trust.

The output of your retreat should be a comprehensive roadmap for the year. This plan should visually outline your goals and strategies, providing clear direction and a sense of purpose for your congregation.

By following these best practices, your strategic planning retreat can become a powerful tool for aligning your team, fostering innovation, and ensuring that your ministry is responsive to the needs of your neighborhood. Remember that as you embark on this strategic planning journey, you are not alone. It is the Spirit who empowers and equips your team for the good work the Father has prepared for you. With faith and unity, allow his guidance to lead you, knowing that he will enable you accomplish all that concerns you today.

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