by Sue Baumgarten
Thinking strategically is not one of my top strengths. By nature, I’m a connector and a communicator, an activator and a mentor. But with almost 3 decades of board service, (respectful of term limits and built-in breaks) and also serving as an Executive Director for a few years, I am no stranger to Strategic Planning. And, I currently serve on the National Maternity Housing Coalition (NMHC) leadership council and we’re in the middle of Strategic Planning as I write this.
Strategic planning is a mandatory exercise for ministries and is probably the most important organizational document to have outside of your mission/vision statements. Strategic planning helps your board and staff have a road map that looks out into the future – hopefully 3, 5 even 10 years and says, “This is where we’re hoping to go.” Your strategic plan then breaks that hope into manageable pieces and allows your organization to make forward motion toward your destination. Strategic plans are living documents that can be adjusted annually so don’t be afraid to have BHAG’s (Big Hope-filled Amazing Goals, using my verbiage)!
In light of Covid-19 in 2020, I’m sure ministries in the middle of year 3 of a 5-year plan will need to revisit their Strategic Plan and make some adjustments. Your Strategic Plan is not just an internal document. It can be shared out in your community as you and your board members meet with potential church partners, foundations and individuals.
Preparation for your strategic planning session(s) is critical. Here’s some basic steps to give the process structure and to seek the Lord throughout the process.
- Prepare deeply. Fast and pray for wisdom and clarity. Prioritize hearing from the Lord and His wisdom over the knowledge of men. Familiarize your group with tools for discernment – Mastering the Art of Presence Based Leadership by Keith Yoder and Pursuing God’s Will Together by Ruth Haley Barton are two that I like. Practice Listening Prayer.
- Gather the right people and supplies. Strategic planning should include key staff leaders and the board of directors. It should encompass every aspect of the ministry – staffing, program, finances, development. A third-party facilitator can also be very helpful to the process. Be sure those with talent in strategy are active and engaged participants. White board and dry erase markers, flip charts and markers, sticky pads and pens – give people the ability to write ideas and brainstorm!
- Create space for a rich conversation. Don’t rush! Consider your meeting time a time of worship, a moment of worship/work. Incorporate music into your meeting. Guard against “book-end praying” – just once at the beginning of your meeting and at the end. The Lord is always speaking through His Holy Spirit and His Word–allow space and time to hear from Him! Strategic planning deserves plenty of time to let members of the group discuss, pray, take breaks, brainstorm, review. It may require several meetings.
- Assess the current situation. Doing a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) is a fast and easy tool. Reviewing your mission/vision statements are key. Is your organization walking out it’s mission? Mission Drift can happen so easily. Look deeply at what is happening within your organization.
- Go through a Goal Setting Process. At the end it should be clear: From What/To What/By When/By Whom. Be sure to know who’s bucket of responsibility the goal falls into – Executive Director, Program Director, Board Chair, etc. Another tool related to goal-setting is SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely.
What a good and Godly work we have been called to! What a joy to seek the wisdom of God through strategic planning so that our work can continue to give a witness to life, redemption, and the very goodness of God! As you think about the future of your ministry, may you experience it with awe and reverence in a posture of worship. Heartbeat offers Strategic Planning resources and as an on-site consultation session. Click here for more about Strategic Planning.
Good to Great by Jim Collins
Traction – Get a Grip on your Business by Gino Wickman
Mission Drift by Peter Greer
Sue Baumgarten has served on the Board of Directors (as well as a variety of other roles) for LifeHouse of Houston since 1993. For more information about LifeHouse of Houston, click here: https://lifehousehouston.org/