Should a Christian School have a Strategic Plan?
Before we answer this question, there are other questions that need to be asked and answered:
- Is Strategic Planning biblical?
- Is there a biblical foundation for the concept of Strategic Planning or Is it just something that we have borrowed from the business world?
Mark Marshall, a Christianity Today contributor states,
“By principle and by example, God's Word establishes strategic planning as one of the ways He works in and through His people. There are a number of leaders in Scripture who thought and acted strategically. Yes, strategic planning is found in Scripture.”
Before we look to the Bible for examples of strategic planning, another question must be asked and answered:
- What is Strategic Planning?
- How can we find examples of something in the Bible if we don’t know what it is?
So, lets start with the definition of the word “strategy.”
A plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim.
The terms tactic and strategy are often confused: tactics are the actual means used to achieve an objective, while strategy is the overall game plan, which may involve complex operational patterns, activity, and decision-making that govern tactical execution. Another way to describe the difference is to use football as an example. Every NFL team has a game plan for each season and in fact, for each game. The game plan consists of high level strategies such as stopping the run, possessing the ball longer than the opponent and having fewer penalties than the other team.
The tactics are the specific actions and methods for employing the strategies and achieving the strategic objectives. A team may snap the ball each play with only a few seconds on the play clock to try and maintain a longer possession of the ball. The team could also conduct more running plays than passing plays to eat up more time on the game clock. These are tactics designed to achieve the strategic objective of possessing the ball longer than the opponent. The collection of tactics comprises the strategy, but strategy comes first. Too often Christian schools are looking for a few good plays to run and not taking the time to create a game plan. This leads to a flavor of the month condition where new singular idea after idea is tried and fails. It is random and unintentional and will not work.
A strategic plan involves the setting of strategic objectives and developing high level strategies that allow a school to select and implement actions and tactics to achieve those strategic objectives. An example of a strategic objective for a school is, “to become financially self-sustaining.” A tactic to help achieve this strategic objective could be to hire revenue producing non-educational personnel to drive funding and revenue.
How should strategic objectives be developed? What determines the school’s annual game plan? Strategy and strategic objectives should represent the most important next steps a school can take to move one step closer to realizing its vision and mission. Strategic objectives are derived from a thorough understanding and relentless pursuit of vision and mission.
Vision is the purpose of the school. The “why” the school exists. Mission is the how, at the highest strategic level the school will achieve its purpose. Vision and mission comprise the destination of the school – where it is going and how it will get there. It is vital for a school to understand where it is with respect to its purpose and destination. Understanding where the school is and where it is trying to go allows it to set a few next step strategic objectives to reach the destination. Once achieved, more strategic objectives are set to take the next steps. A strategic plan is therefore, the vision, mission, core values and strategic objectives of the school. The only components designed to change are the strategic objectives.
So, let’s look to the Bible for those examples and principles. Mark Marshall points to these examples in the Bible in his article in Christianity Today:
David was a strategic thinker from boyhood. He did not defeat Goliath with his might or strong armor. He defeated Goliath using a God-given strategy that pinpointed the weakness of his enemy. Later, as a leader of soldiers, David used strategy in battle. David needed men who could think and plan strategically, and God gave him the men of Issachar (1 Chron. 12:32).
The Old Testament is filled with examples of leaders who established strategic plans and carried them through. What about the New Testament? We can point to Jesus Christ as a great example of one who had a strategy. He began by recruiting His leadership, developing them, then sending them "to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8, NIV). His strategy included some public teaching and miracle working. Ultimately, His strategy took Him all the way to the cross, the grave, and the resurrection. Jesus Christ knew the plan to provide redemption for all of mankind long before leaving heaven to carry it through.
So, should a Christian school have a strategic plan?
The Bible concludes that strategic planning is biblical. David developed and implemented a strategic plan. Jesus followed a strategic plan in the salvation of the world and is in fact the author of strategic planning and everything else we study and can learn about.
18 Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.
Yes, absolutely, Christian schools should have a strategic plan!
More importantly though, the plan should shape and lead to the implementation of tactics to live out a school’s vision and mission. Everything it does tactically should support, align and advance the vision and mission. Sadly, the tactics we chose to implement often have little to do with our purpose or why we exist. Most Christian schools state that their purpose is in some way to Disciple students, but when the activities and tactics are examined, too often little is being done to achieve this stated purpose.
Too many Christian schools have a strategic plan that was simply created to check off a box for accreditation and then it went in a drawer never to be seen again. Vision and mission statements are written on the walls but have no real impact on day to day decisions. The vision and mission of a Christian school is the filter and lens through which all tactical decisions are meant to be made. If they are not, then the existence of a strategic plan is sadly of little value. Without the existence and implementation of a strategic plan there is no vision and we are destined to “cast off all restraint,” which is usually evidenced by conflict, bickering, financial challenges, low morale and other symptoms of a vision-less school. The good news is, this can be overcome!