5 Summer Strategic Planning Steps Your Church Can Take for a Strong Fall Kickoff

by | May 8, 2023 | Strategy

As the summer months approach, it’s the perfect time to begin planning your church’s initiatives for the fall and the rest of the year. 

With years of experience working alongside churches like yours, I wanted to share with you five practical steps to help you make and measure a successful strategy.

Step 1: Define Your Goals

You can’t build a bridge without first determining its final destination. Likewise, it’s essential to define your goals before the work begins. 

While goals in ministry have to strike a balance between “squishy” and too strategic, it’s still important to be intentional. Having something to aim for also provides a guardrail against becoming distracted by the proverbial shiny objects that keep you from moving forward. Your team will thank you for having that clarity in direction.

Michael Hyatt’s SMARTER goals is a great place to start.

Step 2: Know Your Audience

If you target everyone, you are targeting no one. 

In order to engage people effectively, you need to understand their needs, desires, and pain points. 

Why? Because when you have these insights, you can become more intentional in shaping your offerings to what they need.

Here are some ways to get there:

  • Discover your church’s ideal audience through psychographic community research
  • Create a survey to gather information about your audience
  • Conduct a focus group
  • Invite some people to lunch or coffee

Step 3: Develop Your Message

Once you have a clearly defined goal and a deep understanding of your ideal audience, you need to translate your message with a high degree of relevance. 

Why? Because a relevant message gets remembered and acted on. 

When you lead with an empathetic approach that shows you “get” them, you build trust with your audience – which compels them to take action.

  • What is the core message that you want to communicate?
  • Identify the problem this solves for your audience.
  • How does your audience feel about that problem?
  • How does it make their life better?
  • Does it align with your brand?
  • Does it align with your audience’s needs?

And then, once you’ve written something, ask yourself this: Is it unique, clear, and concise? If not, keep working it over.

Pro Tip: use a 140-character limit to train yourself to eliminate fluff. 

Step 4: Plan Your Tactics

With your goal, audience, and message defined – now it’s time to determine where that message needs to go. The biggest challenge will be putting aside personal preferences in pursuit of your audience’s needs. 

Just like in the audience section, psychographic community research can provide insights into where people prefer to receive messages (such as social media, text, email, and so on). 

But remember, The Rule of 7 states people need to be exposed to your message at least 7 times before they take action, so don’t think just one-dimensionally.

  • Based on these things, do you need to start something new?
  • Do you need to stop doing something you’ve always done because it’s not relevant or effective? 
  • Identify where your message needs to be communicated (social, website, verbal announcement, text message, etc.).
  • Create a content calendar detailing when each message needs to appear in each location.

Step 5: Measure Your Results

You have a goal (hopefully a SMARTER one), so it’s important to continually assess your performance against that goal. No matter how you compare to the benchmark, you only fail if you fail to learn.

To evaluate the effectiveness of your initiatives, you need to measure your results. By measuring your results, you can determine what works and what doesn’t, make adjustments as needed, and ultimately have a plan to build off of the next time around.

  • Define how you will measure success (attendance? next steps? connect card completions?).
  • Determine how you will track it (Registrations? Spreadsheet? Something else?).
  • Delegate the responsibility of tracking it.
  • Discuss the results with stakeholders and make notes on what changes you want to implement.
  • Celebrate the win (even if it’s a small one).

In Conclusion

You must be relentless in your understanding of who you’re trying to reach so you can leverage those insights to focus your efforts. An intentional communications strategy makes all the difference in if your strategic plan is set up for success or failure. 

Don’t head into fall without a clear plan. 

If you’d like someone to talk to in order to clarify your plan, I’d love for you to click here to schedule 30 minutes with me, and we can talk about it.