The strategic planning process
The strategic planning process can help you clarify your mission, vision, and values. (Flickr )

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The past week brought several economic positives. For the first time in 17 years, the four major U. S. stock indices (S&P 500, Dow Jones Industrial, NASDAQ and the Russell 2000) established simultaneous all-time highs.

October's new orders for durable goods increased 4.8 percent for the month and 2.1 percent for the year. Existing home sales increased 6.1 percent in the past year. In October, the PMI Manufacturing index increased 0.9 percent.

On the negative side, the U.S. Census Bureau reported the international trade deficit increased 9.6 percent for the month of October; exports were down 2.7 percent and imports were up by 1.1 percent. The Census Bureau also reported that wholesale and retail inventories were both down 0.4 percent. The larger trade deficit and fall in inventories will be negatives for GDP. Interest rates also continued to increase, with the average 30-year mortgage increasing 0.21 percent. New single-family home sales fell 1.9 percent. 

Events on the world stage and a new U.S. presidential administration are increasing economic uncertainty. Details of Brexit are still unknown. Anti-Euro political parties are increasing their power in Italy. The Middle East is becoming increasing volatile. The strong U.S. dollar is causing disruptions throughout the world. Global trade is faltering. Low or even negative interest rates are stressing the banking industry worldwide. Economic risks and uncertainty abound.

Businesses and governments are revising their strategic plans to take advantage of the new environment. Strategies are designed to attain an overall aim, and tactics are plans and actions to achieve a specific end. Strategies tend to be longer-term in nature, while tactics are usually shorter-term. Strategies tend to be the purview of top management, whereas tactics are often developed and/or implemented at lower levels.

The strategic planning process will benefit every church and ministry. The process allows us to:

  • Better understand our current situation
  • Clarify our mission, vision and values
  • Develop strategies or approaches that will be used to accomplish our mission
  • Develop long-term (three-to-five-year) and short-term (typically one-year) objectives
  • Develop Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that will be used to measure progress toward the objectives
  • Ensure resources are available to accomplish the plan
  • Communicate the strategic plan to all

If we truly understand our current situation, many issues and potential solutions become apparent. SWOT Analysis (strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats) can be beneficial. In the SWOT process, we critically and objectively list our organization's strengths and weaknesses. Since we tend to be myopic during self-evaluations, increasing the number of voices providing input and getting outside opinions can be especially important. 

SWOT analysis also requires us to enumerate external opportunities and threats. The external environment is constantly changing. To the extent we can accurately anticipate these changes, we can become more effective while simultaneously reducing problems. Life.Church recognized the opportunity technology was providing to spread the gospel. The online and mobile YouVersion of the Bible was the result. The YouVersion App has currently been downloaded more than 200 million times in more than 1,200 versions and 900 languages.

Taking time to write down our mission, vision and values provides clarity. Communication to others is enhanced. The Lord told Habakkuk to write the vision down and keep it plain so readers could run with it (Hab. 2:2). 

Our strategies, objectives and KPIs keep us on track. A strategic plan allows us to reallocate resources to more productive uses. The strategic plan allows us to recognize deviations quickly. Corrective action can be taken in a timely manner. 

Strategic plans also promote unity. Input provided by stakeholders during the development process is motivating. Communication of the plan allows the entire organization to work toward common objectives. Everyone has more knowledge of, and probably more empathy for, the entire organization. 

Most importantly, effective strategic plans are a result of revelation. By stepping back and asking "What is important? Where do we want to go? How are we going to get there?" gives us the opportunity to more effectively receive counsel of the Lord.

Dr. James Russell is a professor of economics and undergraduate chair of the College of Business at Oral Roberts University.

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