Let’s get strategic!

A number of years ago I attended a weeklong program at Harvard University on non-profit leadership. It was an exhilarating experience, in large part because the teaching was based on fascinating case studies presented by incredible professors. Very engaging and interactive.

One of my personal goals during this week was to develop a clear understanding of the core elements of a functional strategic plan. I knew what I didn’t want: a 1-inch thick document in a binder that would end up sitting on a bookshelf.

At the same time, I knew that without clear direction, an organization was rudderless — bounced to and fro by wind and waves.

I surveyed my fellow non-profit leaders and the professors who led the program. I also discussed strategic plans with the head of Harvard’s M.B.A. program. What I learned, and have since applied in practical situations, is that a strategic plan doesn’t have to be complex.

In fact, a simple strategic document is far more helpful than a lengthy, complex document that people probably won’t use.

Here’s what I believe are the key components you should include in your strategic plan:

  • Mission — Your answer to the question, Why do we exist?
  • Vision — Your answer to the question, What do we want to create?
  • Values — Your answers to the question, What do we care deeply about?
  • Goals — Your answers to the question, What 4 to 6 measurable ministry goals do we want to accomplish? This can be the most challenging part of creating a strategic plan. That’s because it takes a lot of hard thinking to narrow down all you do to a handful of goals.
  • Strategies — Your answers to the question, How will we achieve our goals? Think of strategies as the “tracks” you’ll run on to reach your objectives. One strategy might be developing a monthly sustainer program to meet the goal of increasing income by a specific amount. On the program side, you might want to develop a discipleship initiative to meet your goal of seeing more people actively involved in Bible study. The point is to link your goals with core strategies that will get you there.

While the components I’ve outlined above are not complicated, it can take a lot of time and thought to bring them all together into a concise, 10- to 12-page document — which is about as long a document as you need.

Note: While the strategic planning process I’ve outlined above relates to the organization as a whole, the idea of establishing measurable goals and developing specific strategies to meet those goals applies to every department in your ministry — HR, public relations, ministry programs, etc.

Best wishes as you work on your strategic plan. It will be an essential road map that helps you unite your team and guide your ministry to new levels of effectiveness, growth and Kingdom impact.