Handling Objections to Strategic Planning

Strategic Planning

While strategic planning in churches is making a comeback, there is still resistance to strategic planning in churches. The push back is often verbalized as objections.

It is tempting to ignore or reject objections. Resist the temptation. Engage in active listening. Hear the issues under the emotions so you can consider them.

Here are five common objections and my responses to them.

“Strategic planning was a waste of time in the past.”

Most of us have watched strategic planning unfold like a train wreck in slow motion. A new “vision” is totally disconnected from the congregation’s history and culture. A list of new “core values” is generated that is more aspirational than real.

Go ahead; share your strategic planning horror stories with one another. Clearing the air will help take down the initial wall of resistance. Then, tell the staff and members stories when strategic planning worked. State why you so strongly see a need for strategic planning and ask for their support in the endeavor.

“The accelerated rate of change in life has rendered strategic planning useless.”

At the turn of the millennium I helped organizations write “2020” strategic plans looking 20 years down the road. Five years ago, strategic planning looked five years into the future.

Again, affirm the concern. Then, share today strategic planning reflects the pace of life. I do strategic planning in two-year cycles. It takes about six months to do the planning process, then 18 months to implement the plan.

“As a church we shouldn’t use secular business practices.”

The underlying concern is whether your church relying on its own wisdom instead of placing its faith in God. Strategic planning can seem like God’s people creating their own path through the wilderness. When you hear this kind of objection, ask follow up questions to discern whether it is a faith issue.

If it is, respond by sharing their concern. Reaffirm planning must not replace trust in God. Explain strategic planning helps the organization more effectively engage in God’s mission. It makes the organization better stewards of what God has provided.

We don’t have the resources to spend on strategic planning right now.”
This is another objection where you should ask follow up questions for discernment. Is the resource funding or time or staffing or all the above?

In response, reframe “spending” as “investing.” Then, outline the benefits of strategic planning for the church.

“Strategic planning will cause more harm than good.”

One could also maintain not doing strategic planning could do more harm than good. The root of this objection is often fear of personal loses due to strategic planning.

Staff and members may well experience loss as the result of a strategic plan. With such objections, it is best to practice active listening. Your response is your attention and empathy.

Share other objections to strategic planning in the comments or shoot me an email. Additional posts in this series include:

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