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.

STRATEGY PLANNING & ; The Essence of Strategy is Choosing What Not to Do

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “Many Christian organizations try and do every thing for which they are given an opportunity. This is not strategic thinking. Strategic thinking is deciding what things to do and what things not to do. Napoleon Bonaparte summed up strategic thinking this way: ‘In order to concentrate superior strength in one place, economy of force must be exercised in other places.’ More recently Michael Porter said, “The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.” When leaders are struggling to understand strategy read this article … and remember Porter’s adage.”

Read more at … https://hbr.org/2014/05/3-myths-that-kill-strategic-planning/

CHANGE & The Difference Between Change and Transformation

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “Transformation and change are two different things. Change involves adjusting programs, people and tactics. While transformation involves reinventing the entire organization. Therefore transformation involves guiding an organizational culture into a new and healthier culture. Many leaders fail because they don’t recognize the difference and the different tools (below) required for each.

Change involves, ‘making the business case, building a coalition of leaders, getting early results, engaging stakeholders, executing with discipline’ and monitoring/adjusting results’ (p. 2-3)…

‘Transformation is another animal altogether. Unlike change management, it doesn’t focus on a few discrete, well-defined shifts, but rather on a portfolio of initiatives, which are interdependent or intersecting. More importantly the overall goal of transformation is not just executed to find change but to reinvent the organization and discover a new or revised business model based on a vision for the future. It’s much more unpredictable, iterative, and experimental. It entails much higher risk. And even if successful change management leads to the execution of certain initiatives within a transformation portfolio, the overall transformation could still fail’ (p. 3).

Transformation therefore involves, ‘flexible and dynamic coordination of resources, stronger collaboration across boundaries, and communication in the midst of uncertainty’ (p. 4).

I have made the case in the ‘Strategic Management’ chapter of the Wright and Smith (eds.) book, The Church Leaders’ MBA’ (Ohio Christian Univ. Press, 2009) that transforming churches means:

  1. Getting multiple cultures to work together
  2. In one church
  3. To reach and unite multiple community cultures.

This creates a healthy church with multiple sub-congregations respecting one another and working together for greater impact (steps to this can be found in Whitesel, ‘The Healthy Church,’ Wesleyan Publishing House, 2012).

Thus church transformation brings the Good News to a larger segment of the community – while also reconciling/uniting disparate community cultures.

For more on the important difference between change and transformation read this Harvard Business Review article.”

Read more at … https://hbr.org/2015/01/we-still-dont-know-the-difference-between-change-and-transformation

LEADERS and MANAGERS & What Is The Difference (Part 2) by John Kotter

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “One of the first exercises in my leadership course is to have students study the difference between leadership and management. As this article by John Kotter points out, both are required in a successful leader. Yet students seem to prefer studying leadership and overlook the critical ability to put leadership ideas into action by developing management skills too. Here in another seminal article on the importance of leadership and management, John Kotter not only talks about the difference but also how good leaders must develop both.”

Read more at … https://hbr.org/2001/12/what-leaders-really-do/ar/1