This is the second in a series of four blog posts on the topic of catalysts for strategic planning in the local church.
A catalyst causes change or action. I am suggesting that there are some things that can trigger a change in a local church whereby it goes back to or maybe for the first time tries strategic planning. For each catalyst, I am also suggesting some assessment questions to help you see if this specific one is at work in your midst.
Catalyst #2: Your back door is as big as or bigger than your front door
If the tub is full, and you don’t turn the faucet on, and you open the drain, the tub won’t be full for long. If you forget to put the oil drain plug back in, you won’t have a car much longer, no matter how much oil you put in. And if you don’t pay attention to both the back door and the front door of the church, it will stagnate, decline, and may eventually die.
This catalyst for planning is that uneasy feeling, sometimes backed up by numbers, that there are not as many people here as there used to be. We can explain this away as a decline of Christianity in the west. We can rationalize it by saying that numbers don’t matter. Or we can proactively embrace our biblical mission of making more disciples, including right outside of our front door (and our back).
Jesus was concerned about this so much so that he walked away from healing opportunities in Mark 1 to go preach to more. Paul was concerned about this so much so that he rejoiced when the Thessalonians were proclaiming the word of the Lord to more in Macedonia and in Achaia (1 Thess. 1:7). Dr. Luke was also inspired to write about the more that were being added to the number of disciples in the book of Acts (e.g. 2:47, 6:7, 11:21, 16:5, 17:12).
Leaders are accountable to see that the front door is growing while the back one is shrinking or at least not growing. Strategic planning, if done well, allows you to go to the root of the matter and rebuild the dream of reaching and discipling more for Christ. It also allows you to move from dreaming to executing strategies to have better doors on your church. What is the shape of the doors on your church?
a. Did we have a dream to reach more for Christ that has been lost in “doing church”?
b. If we still have the dream, is it being realized? What has our annual growth rate been for each of the past 10 years? What is the trend? Can that be improved? How?
c. If the dream is not being realized, what are the barriers?
d. How much do we know about our front door (evangelism, outreach, and assimilation)? What’s working well? What’s not? Who is responsible for this area? What is our plan and what are our systems in each area?
e. How much do we know about our back door (retention, follow-up)? What’s working well? What’s not? Who is responsible for this area?