The Strategic Planning Process

Our church is currently in the strategic process of looking ahead to the future, you can read about the 20/20 process here. As our church looks back, “we can see that we are the heirs of a great legacy. Yet it is our privilege and responsibility to look forward and ensure that God’s work through this ministry is passed on, even stronger, to the next generation.”

Part of this process involves assessing and clarifying the mission and core values of the church. While the gospel will never change – the environment in which the church communicates the gospel and reflects the kingdom of Christ will. I believe that the mission and core values should be timeless truths that navigate how the church operates within its local context. These things are very important because they will form the ministry strategy. In other words, the mission and core values of a local church clarify much about the aim, focus, and implementation of all ministry endeavors.

Now, I need to be honest here, ‘strategic planning’ is something that I am growing to appreciate and value. When it comes to reading and study I am more oriented towards theology and ecclesiology. Most resources on strategic planning are business oriented. Now, there are a few ‘common grace’ applications we can take from business wisdom, but with caution. Focusing most of my energy in theology and ecclesiology has made it pretty obvious that the church is a completely different institution than a business.

With that in mind, I have attempted to compile something that might help you think through the strategic planning process – which should always begin with the mission and core values. From these foundational convictions all other things are put in their proper place. So here is one concise attempt to provide guidance in developing the mission and core values of a local church.

Ministry Mission or Purpose

The mission of a church broadly dictates the ministry’s direction. If someone were to ask ‘why does the church exist’, the mission statement should provide a good theologically sound answer. I think the mission or purpose of a church should be a broad Biblical statement of what the church is about, again, why does it exist?[1]

Core Ministry Values

Core values shape the ministry of your local church. Core values are the constant, passionate, biblical core beliefs that drive the overall ministry of a church. In other words, core values determine ministry distinctives, communicate what is important, and guide ministry decisions.


The central questions addressed here are simple: Why does your church exist? How will the people know what your church holds in high value unless it is stated? I think there is much wisdom in Larry Osborne’s statement:

“If [a church body] is going to work together effectively, we have to be reading off the same sheet music. Otherwise, we’ll be a small ensemble to which everyone brings his own favorite arrangement. The resulting sound will be chaos, not music.”

If you are a pastor or ministry leader I would challenge you to take the time and think through these issues. Without a clear picture, things will be blurry, the people will be confused, and everyone will be running in their own direction. I believe that once the mission and core values are established in your church, you are more able to develop the clear strategic objectives that will enable the implementation of a unified ministry.

[1] This contradicts what Aubrey Malphurs argues in his book Advanced Strategic Planning. Malphurs writes that there is a big difference in the purpose and mission of a church. He argues that the purpose focuses on God, while the mission focuses on man. (See page 125). I don’t think it is absolutely necessary to split hairs here.

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