The church is so much more than a business.
And pastors are so much more than professionals.
But there are times when the church acts like a business and times when professionalism is helpful to the mission. And while we shouldn’t reduce the church to an organization built on financial models and strategic decision-making, it would be a mistake to fully leave behind sound leadership principles.
The church is much more than a business, but it is at least a business.
If your church pays people, pays bills, owns or rents property, uses software, or has 501c3 status, it is legally a business.
There are times when acting like a business is the right thing to do.
There are things great businesses do that great churches should do as well.
And one of those things is making a business plan.
What is a business plan?
A business plan is a simple document that defines who you are, where you are, and where you believe God wants you to go in the next season of ministry. It’s a written document that describes how your church will work.
Very few churches have this, but most churches would really benefit from creating one.
When I signed up to be a church planter, my supporting church and funding network required I created a prospectus, a version of a business plan for the brand new church. I spent weeks and months creating this document and distributing it to potential donors. It was robust and filled with projections and plans.
When the fundraising round was over, printed copies sat on a shelf and the PDF stayed hidden in a folder on the hard drive.
That’s not the kind of business plan I’m talking about.
Instead, I want to encourage you to create a one-page plan that captures who you are, what you do and how you do it.
Instead of checking a box to appease a group of donors, you can use this plan to cast vision and inspire people to stay involved.
Here’s a video describing how the plan and the process might work.
The One Page Ministry Plan
When you hear the phrase “business plan,” I don’t want you to think of a 30-page document and an Excel spreadsheet full of Macros and Pivot tables.
Leave that to the accountants.
Instead, create a simple and clear one page plan that you could share with new members, give to new donors, and review regularly with your staff. Create a document that will anchor you in reality and push you to the God-designed future.
Here are some things that should go on your one page ministry plan:
- Your Purpose – this is your deep sense of why, the compelling reason your church exists. It probably comes from the pages of Scripture and when you think about it, you’re never really going to accomplish it. You’ll never check the box because this sentence is always driving towards it.
- Your Mission – this is what your church is shooting for in this next season of ministry. It’s specific and tangible. It’s a milestone as you push for your purpose. If NASA’s purpose is to explore space (never accomplished), their current mission might be to go to Mars.
- Your Strategy – this is HOW you plan on accomplishing your mission. It’s 3-5 action steps that every ministry can share.
- Your Key Ministries – All of your ministries are not equally important and there are some that deserve an unfair amount of money, people and communication capital. Your one page plan should identify those 3-5 ministries.
- Your Goals – Great goals are church-wide, measurable and attainable in a set amount of time. Every ministry in your church should be able to participate in reaching them.
“…But the Holy Spirit Doesn’t Need a Business Plan.”
When we talk about goals, metrics and strategy that looks more like business, there is always pushback.
Frankly, the church needs the voice of the prophet continually calling for a spiritual focus.
God does not need a business plan.
God can do whatever He wants, whenever He wants, with whatever He wants. He certainly doesn’t need any plan of our creation.
God may not benefit from your plans.
But you will. Your leaders will. And the local church will.
Divinity may not require a plan, but humanity benefits from one.
A great annual plan will help you experience growth and health. That’s why the document we’re encouraging you to create isn’t really a business plan, but a ministry plan.
What do you do with your plan?
Another reason churches tend to avoid work like this is because it doesn’t appear helpful. Preparing a sermon, serving the community, and working with people…those things feel both pastoral and useful.
Spending hours in meetings or committees creating a document that will sit in a drawer…that doesn’t feel like a great use of time, particularly when there are more important things to do.
But a simple, clear and carefully written one-page ministry plan can actually be quite useful. It can help you cast vision, raise money, and inspire volunteers to serve.
Once you have a clear and compelling one page plan, here’s what you can do with it.
- Review it in meetings. If you’ve carefully laid out your current mission, identified your keystone ministries and agreed on what numbers to track, pulling out your one page ministry plan in as many meetings as possible is a great thing. It’s a big way you keep your meetings focused on the important not just the urgent.
- Use your one page plan in staff and ministry evaluations. If your one page plan describes who you are and what you do, using it when talking about job performance keeps those conversations from focusing too much on feelings.
- Build graphics. Take parts of your one page plan and turn it into computer background images for your staff and key leaders. Keep the important things in front of you, literally.
- Use it to develop a weekly scorecard. A great plan indicates what numbers you will track, so build this out in a scorecard you review regularly.
- Send it to first time donors. When people give money to your church for the first time, send them a digital copy of your one page plan. Let them know they are funding an organization that has a deep sense of purpose that will impact eternity but also an organization that has a current-world plan that is sustainable.
- Give it to new members. Again, show people they are joining a family that has an important but timely mission.
Take a Next Step
You can get our one page ministry plan template (along with a separate version for each ministry and an annual calendar template to tie it all together) here.
The templates are a part of a 3-module course called “Creating an Annual Plan.” It also comes with coaching that explains every step of the process. You, your staff, or your key leaders can use this course to create a growth plan for the coming year.