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Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats

Effective Stewardship Starts with Your Strategic Plan

Effective Stewardship Starts with Your Strategic Plan Part 2

In this series, we’re giving you the practical tools to refresh – or build your church’s strategic plan from scratch. I’m a firm believer in ‘less is more’ when it comes to these plans, so this is a simple and easy-to-use guide that will give you a concrete strategic plan in three pages or fewer. The quality of time you spend – not the length of the final document – will shape your church’s mission, membership, and development work going forward.


In the prior blog, we outlined how to craft your three key components that should be at the top of any strategic plan: your church’s values, vision, and purpose statements. Today, we’ll walk through how to conduct an analysis of your church’s strategic opportunities. This is most often called a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, threats, opportunities) analysis, and it’s a terrific tool that people are familiar with. I’ve learned the hard way that if you don’t involve a broad range of people in the planning process, you will not have buy-in for the final product. Your volunteers, donors, and members need to see their fingerprints on the plan. Yes, it takes more time, but it will be well worth it in how invested your members become.

“S” and “W”

Begin with questions about key areas of your church. Give people the opportunity to share what they feel are organizational strengths. What are we really good at doing? Then, on the flip side, what are we not as good at? The “S” and “W” look internally.

“O” and “T”

Next, dive into the “O” and “T.” These are external facing questions. What opportunities is the surrounding community, culture, and environment creating for us? A ridiculous example: There’s a worldwide pandemic coming soon, so we should be sure we put technology in place to be able to reach people at home with services and for online meetings or working remotely. Wouldn’t it have been nice to see that threat coming? Focus on the external factors, demographic changes or trends that may affect your church and its ministries, properties, or staff. Flag those factors that could create an opportunity or a threat to how you function. Take some time to discuss which factors make sense to prepare or adjust for, and which are nice to know but won’t require any pivoting.

You will want a broad response and engagement for the SWOT conversations.  An organization will want to seek feedback from the leadership team, from the middle management and a few that are up-and-coming leaders or in charge of key areas or ministries.  A church should gather feedback from all of the staff. If you are a very large church with multiple campuses and staff, you may want to determine how to best collect that information. Then streamline and summarize it.  Board feedback will be important. Lastly, ask for feedback from a handful of trusted donors or long-time church members: people who know you well.

Again, this process should be enlightening and energizing as people get focused in conversations about what the church does well and what the future holds. This is a great opportunity to truly engage with your congregation through the planning. 

Coming next

In the next blogs of this series, we’ll cover how to cull down the feedback you’ve gathered. And create a workable, living document.

Effective Stewardship starts with a strategic plan

Less is more when it comes to strategic plans. This easy-to-use guide leads you to a concrete strategic plan in three pages or fewer.

The quality of time you spend – not the length of the final document – will shape your church’s mission, membership, and development work going forward.

We give you the tools to produce a simple, straightforward strategic plan.

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A Nonprofit DNA partner, Mike Meyers has more than 20 years of nonprofit experience in fundraising and leadership within organizations and as a consultant. He has served as Chief Development Officer for three large nonprofits. And as CEO of Food for the Hungry, where he led global strategic planning. Mike has been involved in nonprofit work in more than 60 countries and led fundraising efforts on six continents.

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