CONTEXT & How To Conduct a SWOT Analysis to Understand Your Org. Context

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 8/24/15.

I help students and clients conduct baseline analyses of their community and their organizations. To do this I encourage them either in the classroom or with their leadership teams to begin by answering the following questions about the organization’s “S.W.O.T” (i.e. Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats).  Thus, to begin to analyze your organization with a SWOT analysis, begin by discussing with your team (or classmates) these questions:

1) Have you led in the past an organization similar to the one your fellow leaders has described? If so, tell her or him about any special strengths, weaknesses, external opportunities, and/or external threats that in hindsight you encountered.

2) If you do not have any first-hand experience with such a context, then from an outside perspective what do you see as strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in your colleagues’ situations?

3) And finally, tender your analysis of the above in the form of a S.W.O.T. analysis. In other words, share your analysis in the following form:

(Look at the following internal factors, i.e. factors under your control):

S = Strengths.
Strong points or core competencies that are internal to the organization.

W = Weaknesses.
Weak points inside the organization.

(Consider these two external factors, i.e. factors not under your control but which you can only react to.)

O = Opportunities.
Possibilities created by factors that are outside of the organization or beyond the control of the organization.

T = Threats. Concerns that are also outside of the organization, i.e. beyond the control of the organization to eliminate.

So, with your colleagues (or class) pick one of the two first questions and tender some insights from your perspective in the form of a “SWOT” analysis. You don’t have to cover all four of the SWOT areas. But tender your insights on a couple or more.

This will help you begin to develop a holistic SWOT analysis of everyone’s organizational context. So now it’s your turn! What potentialities, limitations, possibilities and problems do you see ahead for some of your colleagues’ organizational contexts.

RESEARCH & is One of the Largest Research Sites for Studying Churches

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: One of the best research sites offering not only tools for studying churches, but also links to relevant scholarly research, is the newly relaunched Led by scholars from the University of Boston’s renowned sociology department, check out their church analysis tools and links to scholarly articles at:

“The Studying Congregations Research Collection has hundreds of citations and resources with more being added all the time.” (from