Strategic Planning in the UMC

Does the itinerant system in the United Methodist Church work against strategic planning?

I want to be an excellent strategic planner and have been thinking more about how this works in the United Methodist Church. I suggest that it is important to look at a strategic plan for several years into the future. I recognize that a plan will include specific goals for each year, but there needs to be a long range overall mission and vision that directs these goals.

Here are my assumptions:

  • The average United Methodist pastor will be in an appointment five years.
  • The pastor will most likely initiate and lead a strategic planning process for a congregation.
  • When a new pastor arrives she or he may seek to reformulate the direction of the congregation.

With these assumptions longer term strategic plannign does not seem to be likely for an average United Methodist congregation.

I believe that this is not necessarily the case. The laity in the congregation could lead and own the process and live it out in a way that would be compelling and effective. This would make it easy for another pastor to step into and continue the direction. Also, I believe that there is an important place for pastors to enter a congregation with humility in response to the congregation and the former leader; to seek to listen more than direct in first interactions in a new congregation.

What do you think? Are my assumptions fair? What about conclusions? What has your experience been in this area?

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5 thoughts on “Strategic Planning in the UMC

  1. This will only work if pastor’s agree to it. I know many colleagues who would not. They change everything right at the beginning (as if to say “that other pastor is gone now”) or are actually threatened by assertive & confident lay leadership. Your idea assumes that pastors are mature enough to refrain from seeing “power” as the primary issue.

  2. I think it is interesting that in Bishop Willimon’s conference that set forth a plan for every pastor moving to a new church to come up with a plan for their first ninety days.

    “Every full time pastor who may be involved in a possible move is interviewed by a panel of three District Superintendents who get a clear picture of that pastor’s productivity and strengths. Every congregation submits a statement of goals and objectives in ministry before consideration for a change in appointment. Every full time pastor who moves to a new appointment in our Conference is trained to devise a “First Ninety Day Plan” that outlines what the pastor will do in his or her first three months in a new parish. Working with the District Superintendent and the lay leadership of the congregation, the pastor will work through the Plan so a tone of transformative leadership will be engendered in the congregation.”

    Wouldn’t it be amazing if this was taken a step further and each new pastor was aligned with a church whose strategic plan fit their gifts and skills. The only inherent problem is, their needs to be leadership to discern a unique future for every church. How does the pastor lead the process and allow the church to own the outcome.

    I invite you to read Will Mancini’s Church Unique. He would argue that if a vision were broad, clear, and distinct for that congregation, it could handle the leadership adjustment. Then the new pastor could align his creativity and ideas under the larger umbrella of the churches direction.

  3. Craig – You are right. I do make that assumption. It is an assumption that I think has to be reality for the denomination to experience renewal.

    Wesley – Thanks for sharing the concept of a plan for the first 90 days. I think that this is a good one. The more collaborative the planning process can become the more people will be able to own it. I will make sure that Church Unique is on my list. Sounds like good stuff!

  4. The book “The FIrst 90 Days” is an excellent resource (not church specific) for anyone preparing to make a transition. My hope at the congregation I serve is to be able to lead the congregation into their own understanding of God’s vision for them. When I leave and a new pastor is preparing to come, at or before the introductory the congregation can say, “This is who we are. If you would like to lead a church like this as pastor we’d like to have you. If this isn’t compatible with your vision of church then you may not be the right pastor for us.”

  5. David – Thanks for the link to the book. I’ve added it to my reading list. Also, I appreciate the openness and honesty in approaching the introductory. Good stuff!

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