Do You Have a Strategic Operating Plan?

About a year ago, I wrote about one of the key reasons churches are stuck — they aren’t minding the gap. The gap is the space between a church’s vision and all of the ministry activity that’s taking place. In many, many churches, they’ve clarified the vision. Everyone can quote it word-for-word. And, lots of ministry is taking place. The problem is that a gap exists between the vision and all the ministry activity.

That gap is the strategy and systems. If the leadership hasn’t established a strategy and an operating plan (the systems) to accomplish that strategy, a gap exists. Visually, it looks like this:

Vision + [Strategies & Systems] + Execution = Results

Without a strategic operating plan, churches end up doing what churches have always done, but they’re hoping (and praying) for different results. Their vision may be distinct, but people have no idea what they’re supposed to do to accomplish the vision. Because of that, people expect the church to do what all churches have always done. (That defines religion.) Of course, the only way to get different results is to embrace different strategies and systems.

Unfortunately, churches continue to try to get unstuck without minding the gap. It won’t work. As I’ve shared before, strategies and systems without vision will keep people busy. Vision without strategies and systems will keep people guessing.

In the future, I’ll write more about my experiences and learnings. In the mean time, I challenge you to honestly consider this question: Do we have a strategic operating plan?

If not, you may need to mind the gap so that your church does not get stuck.

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Tony Morgan

Tony Morgan

Tony is the Chief Strategic Officer and founder of He’s a consultant, leadership coach and writer who helps churches get unstuck and have a bigger impact. More important, he has a passion for people. He’s all about helping people meet Jesus and take steps in their faith. For 14 years, Tony served on the senior leadership teams at West Ridge Church (Dallas, GA), NewSpring Church (Anderson, SC) and Granger Community Church (Granger, IN). With Tim Stevens, Tony has co-authored Simply Strategic Stuff, Simply Strategic Volunteers and Simply Strategic Growth – each of which offers valuable, practical solutions for different aspects of church ministry. His book, Killing Cockroaches (B&H Publishing) challenges leaders to focus on the priorities in life and ministry. His most recent books on leadership and ministry strategy are available on Kindle. Tony has also written several articles on staffing, technology, strategic planning and leadership published by organizations like Outreach Magazine, Catalyst and Tony and his wife, Emily, live near Atlanta, Georgia with their four children — Kayla, Jacob, Abby and Brooke.

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comment_post_ID); ?> Thank you Ed for sharing your insights into the Church Growth Movement. I have my reservations with Church Growth models because it has done more damage than good in the Body of Christ. Over the years, western churches are more focused on results, formulas and processes with little or no emphasis on membership and church discipline. Pastors and vocational leaders are burnt out because they're overworked. I do believe that the Church Growth model is a catalyst to two destructive groups: The New Apostolic Reformation and the Emerging Church. Both groups overlap and have a very loose definition. They're both focus on contemporary worship, expansion of church brand (franchising), and mobilizing volunteering members as 'leaders' to grow their ministry. Little focus on biblical study, apologetics and genuine missional work with no agenda besides preaching of the gospel.
— Dave
comment_post_ID); ?> Thank you for sharing such a good article. It is a great lesson I learned from this article. I am one of the leaders in Emmanuel united church of Ethiopia (A denomination with more-than 780 local churches through out the country). I am preparing a presentation on succession planning for local church leaders. It will help me for preparation If you send me more resources and recommend me books to read on the topic. I hope we may collaborate in advancing leadership capacity of our church. God Bless You and Your Ministry.
— Argaw Alemu
comment_post_ID); ?> Amen!!
— Scott Michael Whitley

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