Building Your Strategic Planning Dream Team

The Church Revitalization Podcast – Episode 237

When it comes to church revitalization and leadership pipeline work, strategic planning teams play a crucial role. These teams are the foundation of any successful initiative, providing a collaborative environment for pastors, staff, and lay leaders to work together toward a common goal. This week, we explore the importance of building a strong strategic planning team, the qualities to look for in team members, and the commitment required for success.

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Why a Team Matters

Creating a strategic planning team is essential for developing a healthy path forward in your church. When a pastor or leader attempts to unilaterally introduce a bold vision for the future, it often fails to gain traction. People need to feel that they have ownership in the process and feel that they were actively involved in shaping the vision. By giving leaders a voice and the opportunity to participate in the formation of the vision, you create a sense of ownership that extends beyond the team itself.

Involving a strategic planning team also builds trust and credibility with the entire congregation. When team members, who are respected and trusted by their peers, take an active role in communicating and implementing changes, it becomes harder for others to ignore or dismiss the vision. This plays out through the team member’s own spheres of influence within the church.

Furthermore, by involving a team in the strategic planning process, the vision becomes associated with the church as a whole rather than just the pastor. This helps to avoid the perception that the vision is solely the pastor’s idea and ensures that the church collectively owns and supports the direction being taken.

Qualities of Team Members

When selecting people to be part of your strategic planning team, look for respected, known leaders in the church who possess spiritual maturity. These people may or may not hold official leadership titles, but they are recognized as leaders by the congregation. Seek out individuals with a positive outlook on the future, as their attitude will contribute to the overall atmosphere of the team.

It is important to include team members who bring diverse perspectives and are willing to engage in healthy discussions. While you want people who can challenge ideas and offer alternative viewpoints, they should also be able to work collaboratively towards a common goal. Avoid selecting individuals who are consistently negative or opposed to change, as they may hinder the progress of the team.

Consider current ministry leaders who are performing well in their roles as potential team members. These individuals have a deep understanding of the church’s ministries and can provide valuable insights during the planning process. However, be mindful not to overburden them with additional responsibilities if they are already heavily involved in other areas of the church. It may be wise for them to take a break from some responsibilities in order to serve on this new planning team.

Team Composition

The optimal size for a strategic planning team is between 12 to 15 members. However, if your church has fewer than 75 people, you may need to adjust the team size accordingly. The goal is to have a solid team of committed individuals rather than reaching an arbitrary number.

When assembling your team, aim for a broad cross-section of the church. Include both men and women and strive for representation from various age groups. While exact proportional representation is not necessary, having a diverse team will ensure that different perspectives are considered during the planning process.

Your strategic planning team should consist of a mix of lay leaders, volunteers, staff, and board members (such as elders, deacons, or council members). This combination allows for a well-rounded set of experiences and perspectives. However, be cautious not to let the team be dominated by a single group, such as the board. It is essential to have a balance of voices and roles within the team.

In larger churches with over 500 members, there may be a greater emphasis on including paid ministry staff in the strategic planning team. As the church grows, it becomes more challenging for volunteers to have a comprehensive understanding of the day-to-day operations and ministry needs. In these cases, the process may become more staff-dependent to ensure that the team has the necessary knowledge and expertise to make informed decisions.

Commitment and Expectations

Being part of a strategic planning team requires a significant commitment from each member. When a church works with a Malphurs Group Guide, the team members are first asked to participate in the Church Ministry Analysis, an online assessment that evaluates various aspects of the church’s current state. They will also be involved in training sessions and planning weekends, which will require dedicating time outside of regular church activities.

During the implementation phase, the team will meet regularly, typically once a month for about two hours. These meetings are crucial for monitoring progress, addressing challenges, and making necessary adjustments to the plan. In between meetings, team members will be expected to engage in ongoing work and follow through on assigned tasks.

The total commitment for a strategic planning team member is approximately 15 months, with 12 months being dedicated to the implementation phase. While this may seem like a significant investment of time, it is important to recognize the long-term benefits for the church. The strategic planning process sets the foundation for positive change and future success.

It is essential for potential team members to understand the commitment required before accepting the invitation to join the team. While life circumstances may occasionally necessitate changes in team composition, having a core group of dedicated individuals is vital for the success of the strategic planning process.

Benefits of the Strategic Planning Process

Engaging in a strategic planning process with a dedicated team can yield significant benefits for your church. Within a year, you can expect to see positive changes and tangible progress towards your goals. While it is unrealistic to expect a complete transformation or exponential growth in such a short time, the groundwork laid during the strategic planning process sets the church up for future success.

One of the most rewarding aspects of being part of a strategic planning team is witnessing the fruits of your labor. As the church implements the plans and initiatives developed by the team, members can look back and see the positive impact of their efforts. This sense of accomplishment and ownership fosters a deeper connection to the church and its mission.

The Malphurs Group Approach

At the Malphurs Group, we have developed a strategic planning approach that emphasizes efficiency and sustainability. Our process is designed to move churches from the planning phase to the implementation phase within three months. We recognize that prolonged planning periods can lead to team burnout and a false sense of accomplishment without tangible results.

Our approach focuses on getting things done as quickly as possible and within the capabilities of the church. We believe that it is easier to steer a moving car than a parked one, so we encourage churches to start implementing their plans as soon as possible. This allows for real-time adjustments and adaptations based on the challenges and opportunities that arise during the implementation phase.

To ensure sustainability, we structure our process around monthly meetings. We understand that team members are likely already volunteering in other areas of the church, so we aim to avoid overburdening them. While the commitment is still significant, it is manageable and allows team members to balance their strategic planning responsibilities with their other commitments.


Building a strong strategic planning team is crucial for the success of any church revitalization or leadership pipeline initiative. By assembling a diverse group of respected leaders, you create a collaborative environment that fosters ownership, trust, and credibility within the congregation. The strategic planning process provides a structured approach to developing and implementing a vision that aligns with the church’s mission and values.

As a pastor or church leader, it is important to remember that you don’t have to tackle this process alone. Surround yourself with a dedicated team of individuals who bring unique perspectives, skills, and experiences to the table. Together, you can navigate the challenges and opportunities that arise during the strategic planning journey.

If you feel overwhelmed or unsure about where to start, consider partnering with the Malphurs Group. Our experienced team can guide you through the strategic planning process, providing the tools, resources, and support you need to build a strong foundation for your church’s future. We are committed to helping you make tangible progress and achieve your goals in a sustainable and efficient manner.

Take the first step towards building your strategic planning dream team today. Reach out to the Malphurs Group to learn more about how we can partner with you and your church to create a roadmap for success. Together, we can work towards revitalizing your church and developing a strong leadership pipeline that will serve your congregation for years to come.

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A.J. Mathieu is the President of the Malphurs Group. He is passionate about helping churches thrive and travels internationally to teach and train pastors to lead healthy disciple-making churches. A.J. lives in the Ft. Worth, Texas area, enjoys the outdoors, and loves spending time with his wife and two sons. Click here to email A.J.

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