School of Strategic Planning

The School of Strategic Planning is a day and a half event that enables participants to examine and analyze the tools used for strategic planning within the church. It follows the format of the popular School of Outreach (conducted by WELS Commission on Evangelism) and School of Worship Enrichment (conducted by the WELS Commission on Worship).

What happens at the School of Strategic Planning?

In this session we learn what a mission statement is and how it affects the allocation of human and financial resources in an annual ministry plan.

We also look at how a Confessional Lutheran understands the concept of “vision.” It is vastly different than how those in the business world or many in Evangelical congregations understand the term. For a Confessional Lutheran, a congregational vision is not just a sanctified wish of what might be.   A vision is certainly not a divinely given snapshot of the future.   (We believe that God does not speak apart from his Word.) Rather, a congregation’s vision is simply an extrapolation of current reality into the future. When determining vision, a congregation wrestles with the question, “If things would continue as they have been in the past ten years, what does that mean for our congregation ten years down the road?”

That vision, combined with an understanding of our God-given mission, serves as the foundation for all planning.

A congregation’s core values are the most important things a congregation believes it should be doing. Whether a congregation knows it or not, it has core values that drive all ministry. Some core values are helpful.   Others are not.

In this session we lean the difference between activity values and attitudinal values.   Both are used when formulating an annual ministry plan.

More importantly, congregations will learn how to distinguish between aspirational values and actual values.   Aspirational values are activities and attitudes that, based on the study of Scripture, a congregation believes to be vital to Gospel ministry. The congregation aspires to demonstrate all these values. Actual values are the activities and attitudes that actually determine how financial and human resources are allocated.   Congregations will learn how the Holy Spirit enables us to make aspirational values into actual values, if they are not yet so.

In this session we examine how a congregation will use their core values to set goals for every area of congregational ministry: worship, outreach, in-reach, stewardship, discipleship, etc.   We will see that when setting goals we focus on that which is largely under human control.   For example, a congregation cannot control what percentage of its membership is in church every week; however, to a large degree it can control how quickly it will follow up on absentee members.   A congregational cannot control how many adult confirmations it will have; however, to a large degree it can control how many outreach calls it will make in a given year.  We will see how to set goals that are within our ability to reach.

Many congregations come up with their budget by projecting total offerings and then dividing that estimate up among various areas: plant, staff, ministry, etc. In this session, we see the benefits of flipping that around – prioritizing ministry efforts and then budgeting accordingly.   Congregations see how to walk the narrow Lutheran middle when it comes to budgeting – trusting God to provide without putting God to the test (i.e. forcing him to perform a budgetary miracle).

In this session we see how to take the goals of the ministry plan and break them into actionable steps and tasks. God-willing, two benefits are realized.

First, it aids the congregation with volunteerism.   Congregations are able to define the scope of work and time frame of various ministry tasks.   People know exactly what they are signing up for when they volunteer.

Second, it helps congregational meetings to become more proactive. Meetings become where the congregational leaders assesses action plan compliance. Thus, instead of meetings being reactionary, they help drive ministry forward to God’s glory.

In this session we look at how to take the projections from the congregational vision statement and use them to formulate long-term objectives.   Congregations will then learn how to engage in “gap planning,” establishing intermediate steps that work towards those long-term objectives and determining what resources are needed to take those steps.

In this session we see the benefits of examining congregational ministry on a quarterly and annual basis.   We will also learn how to go about measuring and modifying a long-range plan when necessary.

During much of the course of the School of Strategic Planning, congregations will meet together as they study Scripture and look at the components of congregational planning. However, there is also time scheduled in the event for the congregations to break out and actually do some initial short-term planning.


The SAA program is used to evaluate a congregation’s ministry and community.   The congregation does self-analysis to determine health in key areas of ministry.


The MOSE program examines how a congregation intends to implement their ministry plan.   It does this by evaluating the amount and type of human resources the plan requires and comparing that to the resources available in the congregation.