Working with an outsider for strategic planning is worth the investment, and we will give you the three reasons why.
The very first question we get when meeting with churches is this: how much will this process cost?
It’s a practical question. We get it. Churches have stakeholders, limited funds, and want to be good stewards. Asking how much working with an outside consulting group like The Malphurs Group or a myriad others is a totally fair question. We wish it was not the first question, but it often is. Rather than fight that, we want to show you why it’s worth the investment.
(Sidebar: if you clicked on this article wondering what it costs to work with The Malphurs Group for strategic planning, you should contact us directly. The truth is that we have a variety of ways we can partner with churches, and the cost depends on which partnership fits best for your church.) As a non-profit organization, The Malphurs Group is interested in helping your church and not maximizing our bottom line. We don’t want cost to be a reason why churches don’t get help, and we’ll do everything we can to find a solution that works best for you.
So here are the three reasons why Strategic Planning is worth the investment:
1. If your church could do revitalization on its own, you already would have.
This is a harsh truth. But it is true nonetheless. We regularly meet with pastors, elders, and deacons who are convinced that they can do strategic planning on their own. The reality is that most cannot. This is not because a pastor, elder, or deacon is less skilled than a consultant.
Church leaders are busy; they are stuck in the week-to-week grind. When church leaders attempt their own strategic planning process, it’s not uncommon for them to get a few months into it and then quit. Implementation does not happen, and people in the church begin to mistrust the leaders’ ability to affect change.
Additionally, church leaders lack an objective perspective. They cannot see the blind spots; that’s why they’re called blind spots! As a result, church leaders often fail to make the critical changes they did not see.
An outside consulting group solves these issues. The commitment to working with an outsider provides a built-in process that keeps the strategic plan moving forward on a schedule. Also, the consultant brings an outside and objective perspective that pastors, elders, and deacons simply cannot have.
2. A strategic planning process provides a shortcut to church growth.
That’s a bold statement. Full disclosure: not every church that goes through a strategic planning process will grow. But the reason they do not grow is usually because they do not commit to the vision and strategies that are developed.
Working with an outside consulting group is not a shortcut because it’s easy—it isn’t. It is a shortcut because an outside consultant knows where the potholes are, and can help you to avoid them. Revitalizing a church is always hard work. Hard decisions have to be made. Hard conversations have to be had. But a lot of pain can be avoided by navigating around common pitfalls and mistakes. An experienced consultant will know where these are, and coach your church’s leadership around them.
There are no shortcuts for hard work. But working with a consultant will help you build momentum towards change more quickly than working on your own.
3. The cost of inaction is significantly more expensive.
Working with a consulting group costs money. It just does. But choosing not to engage in a strategic planning process (with or without a consultant) is far more expensive.
We are regularly contacted by churches with paid-off buildings and six months of expenses in the bank. But they’re hesitant to invest a portion of those savings into a strategic planning process. We get it.
But follow the trail. This is a decision made in the wrong kind of fear.
If a church is in decline, and they choose not to engage in a strategic planning process, they should not assume that their church will suddenly turn around. They ought to expect more decline. If they have six months of expenses saved, they can expect to translate that into a few years’ worth of subsidizing a decreasing attendance and revenue.
Eventually, the church may go from a full-time pastor to a bi-vocational pastor. Expenses will be cut, and the church will decline further. Perhaps years down the road, the church eventually closes. That six months of expenses prolonged the church’s death, but it did not prevent it. All the while, tens of thousands of people in the surrounding community are lost. The church has not only failed to retain its members; it has failed to reach the spiritually lost.
This is not an extreme example. It happens every day. Conservative estimates suggest at least 77 churches are closing every week, and that number is increasing. Some suggest that the number may be closer to 9000 church closures per year.
The cost of inaction is steep.
Your church needs to understand that choosing not to invest in revitalization is a strategic choice to invest in your church’s protracted decline.
An exercise in closing
Answer this question: On a scale from 1 to 10 (one being highly unlikely and ten being highly likely), how likely are you to push for your church to engage in a strategic planning process next year?
Ok, now why didn’t you pick a lower number?
You see, it’s easy to think of all the reasons that you wouldn’t do strategic planning next year. But we want you to think of all the reasons why you didn’t think of the number one.
Make a list of all the reasons you would engage in a process this year.
Think of all the reasons why waiting another year simply isn’t acceptable.
Start there. Pray over your list of reasons that you must begin an intentional strategic planning process next year.
This article is a plea. We’d love for you to work with The Malphurs Group and our Strategic Envisioning process. But frankly, there are a lot of groups to choose from and we are all on Team Jesus. Do not let another year pass you by. The best time for you to start a strategic planning process was probably yesterday. The second-best time is right now.
Not sure where to start?
Get a free Church Check-up. It will tell you how your church is doing in ten key areas of health. All you need to do is answer sixteen “yes” or “no” questions. One of our Malphurs Group consultants will contact you with results, and your complimentary one-page, PDF report.