SWOT & Is Your Church Strength Really Their Friendliness?

by Bob Whitesel D.Min, Ph.D., 9/5/15.

One of the most used planning tools by MBA students is one of the most missoverlooked tools for religious leaders.  Called a SWOT Analysis (and the accompanying TOWS  Matrix) this analysis of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats allows a team of people to quickly plan an organization’s future.

I’ve written an entire chapter in The Church Leader’s MBA (Circleville, OH: Ohio Christian Univeresity Press, 2011) on how church leaders can conduct a SWOT and TOWS analyses.  You can download the chapter here: BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – MBA Strategy Chpt. 5 (and if you appreciate the book, please support the publisher and the author by purchasing a copy).

I want to also share with you a common misstep.

Often when completing a SWOT assignment, students will state that an organizational strength is that “we are a very friendly congregation.”  Yet, in many cases we may be primarily hospitable to people who are “like us,” or people that we’ve met through friends.

Therefore, if you are considering listing friendliness or hospitality as a strength of your church, ask yourself the following questions to ensure it really is:

•    Do either of the characteristics above pertain to you?  In other words, are your visitors usually people “like us” in age, ethnicity and/or socio-economic level?  Or did your visitors come to your church because of an invitation from a mutual friend?  If either of these cases are true, you may be friendly; but  your friendliness may be primarily with people who are similar to you.  Paul emphasized in Romans 12:13, “Contribute to the needs of God’s people, and welcome strangers into your home.”  And Jesus made His intention that we practice radical hospitality even clearer:

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:

I was hungry and you fed me, 
   I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, 
   I was homeless and you gave me a room, 
   I was shivering and you gave me clothes, 
   I was sick and you stopped to visit, 
   I was in prison and you came to me.’ (Matt. 25:34-36 MSG)

So if your church truly has a “strength” in hospitality, then it will be a pervasive welcoming of outsiders, both into your church and into your homes.

•    Or, have you ever had an outsider (perhaps a friend) visit your church as “a secret church-shopper” to give an analysis of friendliness?  Perhaps it was a relative or friend that visited your church when you weren’t there?  If you can recall such a situation, ask yourself “how did they feel?”  If they felt truly incorporated and embraced, then maybe your church does have a strength in hospitality.

•    Finally, if you do feel your church is very friendly, could it be because of its small size?  If so, what will you do to maintain this friendliness factor as the church grows?

All this is to say that I don’t doubt that there are churches out there who practice what a colleague of mine (Bishop Bob Schnase) calls “radical hospitality.” And, I don’t doubt that some of your churches have a degree of friendliness.  But, because many churches think friendliness is their strength, when it may not be so, I want to ensure you probe deeper before you list friendliness as a church “strength” 🙂

If you are one of my students, there is no need to respond to this posting.  Just keep this in mind as you prepare your lists of organizational strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.