planning, strategy & alignment

How We Think About Strategic Planning

John and Adam are joined today by Greg Crooks (Executive Pastor of Watermark Community Church) to talk about the role strategic planning has in the church. They talk about five best practices for effective strategic planning and then walk through Greg’s strategic planning worksheet.


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CLP Strategic Planning Guide

Introduction (00:50)

“Strategic planning has the potential to really change churches all across the country.” – Greg Crooks

Greg believes that focus, clarity, and alignment are crucial in the local church. Many believe that strategic planning is somewhat taboo topic within the church. It is helpful to remember Proverbs 16:9. We want prayer and submission before the Lord to be a part of everything we do. That means as we plan to constantly ask God to direct our steps. Greg likens this process to when Nehemiah began each day in prayer. Adam talks about how strategic planning is a great way to steward resources and time well.


3 Benefits of a Strategic Plan (4:07)

  • Focus and Clarity
  • Alignment
  • Increased Productivity

5 Principles of Strategic Planning (6:05)

  • Start with Prayer (6:05)
  • Keep it Simple (7:46)
  • Think Short Term (10:36)
  • Invite Others with You (12:52)
  • Display Publicly (17:41)

Start with Prayer (6:05)

We want to begin by laying every part of the strategic planning process before the Lord. Remember Psalm 127:1, Proverbs 16:9, and Proverbs 21:5. If we think that planning is going to let us thrive apart from God, we are strongly mistaken. It is only with God’s help, guidance, and strength that our plans can succeed. Pray earnestly that you might believe this.

Keep it Simple (7:46)

There is always going to be a temptation to think great planning needs to be incredibly complex. Greg says that in reality, it often is just the opposite. Whatever your plan may be, be militant in simplifying it. If it is multiple pages, get it down to one. Once it is one page, be able to describe it with a single sentence. Once you have it as one sentence, try summing it up in one word. The reality is that people don’t have time to read 30 pages. As the leader, don’t ask others to do your work for you. Have a detailed understanding of your plan. Do the hard work of getting your complex plan down to a single page. When overwhelmed, remember that planning can be as simple as answering “Where are you?”, “Where do you want to go?”, and “What are you going to do to get there?”

Think Short Term (10:36)

When thinking about strategy, it is easy to zoom out and think about five or ten years from now. Slow down. There is simply no way to know where you and your organization are going to be five years from now. Instead, start thinking about the next 100 days. Ask where you are going, and how you are going to get there. Once that 100-day mark comes around, do it again. Try to plan for just 100 days and do this multiple times per year. This relieves pressure and allows for more dynamic leadership. This does not mean you don’t dream big and have long-term plans, however, it does mean you have to be able to break those long-term plans down into manageable chunks.

Invite Others with You (12:52)

“People are going to support what they help create.” – Adam Tarnow

The process is just as important as a plan itself. Ask your team for their ideas and to buy in. They are going to bring different perspectives and ask different questions than you would. Plus, people also want to be there when the plan gets formulated. If you believe you can’t, for whatever reasons, invite others into the planning process, you don’t have a planning issue, you have a cultural issue. Inviting others with you is a way of granting ownership.

Display Publicly (17:41)

“Peer accountability is powerful.” - Greg Crooks

If you are writing a book, or running a marathon, you want to ask other people to come around you to support and encourage. The same applies for strategic planning. You want everyone on your team to see and be reminded of your plan often. This will result in increased engagement. Hang your final one-page plan in your office. Insist people put it up next to their computers. A great exercise is to go around the office and ask people what they believe the plan to be. Ask, “Where do you think we are going?” The consistency of everyone’s answers will give you a good idea of how you are doing at displaying your plans publicly.

Strategic Planning Framework (19:47)

John, Adam, and Greg discuss how to work through The Strategic Planning Guide. Please consider downloading this resource and following along. More in-depth instructions will be included within.

Wrapping Up (33:44)

“Some people think they want to follow bold leadership. Often what they really want to follow is clear leadership.” – Adam Tarnow

Planning works best in your own context. Take whatever we’ve suggested and work to improve or adapt it for what works best for you. Remember that focus and clarity is what will get you through the year. In church, it is easy to focus on the vision and then forget about the clarity. Just take a faithful step. Sit down as a team and talk about what is next.


Referenced Resources

The Strategic Planning Guide

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t by Jim Collins