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Many people have differing thoughts on whether or not the church should be viewed as a business and use business practices.  I can see it both ways.  I think there are certain business ideas that a church can use successfully.  But I also believe that there are certain business attributes that a church should not have.  Today I wanted to bring up one general business tool that I think the church can use very successfully.  It is called a SWOT analysis.  SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.  This analysis can be a way for your church to determine where it stands in relation to the “market”.

A SWOT analysis can help you get a big picture and can help you realize some places that might need improving.  It can be a starting point for a strategic plan and other goals for your church.  When doing a SWOT analysis, the strengths and weaknesses are an internal evaluation.  You are looking inside your own church and determining what you do well.  One way to do this would be to look at your successes and your failures for the year.  This can help you see the strengths and weaknesses that caused those successes and failures.  Analyzing your strengths and weaknesses helps your church know what they are doing well and what needs to be addressed.

The second part of the SWOT analysis is the opportunities and threats.  And these are comparisons of your church to the “market” or the churches in your area.  You will want to find certain churches to compare yourselves to.  You might think of this as your “competition”.  You might look at churches of your same size, target audience, denomination, and so on.  Once you figure out the market you are in, you want to see what the market is doing.

The first thing you want to look at is the opportunities.  What is happening in our market that could be an opportunity for us?  Did a church in the area just cancel its Sunday night service?  This may be an opportunity for you to start one.  Is anyone targeting the new families that are moving into the area?  No, then this could be an opportunity for your church.  This is an opportunity to ask yourself where the holes are in the market and number one, if your church can fill them, and number two, how they can do it.

The last thing you look at in the external analysis is threats.  This one can be a little harder to see at first.  A threat  could be another church doing vacation bible school the same week at the same time as you.  When trying to find your threats, you need to be very competition focused, which can be hard in a church setting.  But competition is not only the other churches in your market it could be the environment as well.  For example, your youth minister is thinking about starting a Wednesday night youth service.  A threat to this would be that the bowling alley in town is going to start doing dollar bowling nights on Wednesday nights.  This could be a threat to the attendance of your youth service.  The goal of seeing the threats is to change them into opportunities.  The youth minister could do a kick-off event at dollar bowling night, or they could turn it into “Bible Bowling”.

Doing a SWOT analysis in your church can help you in several ways.  First, knowing your threats can help you narrow down what you are offering.  It can also help you turn those threats into opportunities.  When you act on the opportunities, these can turn into your strengths.  Knowing your weaknesses can be a viewpoint into your threats.  You can ask yourself, “We know that we are weak in this area, so how is this going to hurt us?”  Knowing where you stand internally and externally can help you grow intentionally by being aware and continually making changes based on your SWOT analysis.

Have any of your churches ever done a SWOT analysis?  Did you find it to be a good tool?

I was sitting in class today and I had a thought: what if churches had a focus group.  If we are really trying to be effective evangelists, wouldn’t it be an interesting idea to bring in a “focus group” to see what we are doing wrong and how we are not effectively reaching visitors.

It is an interesting idea.  What if only two or three people knew this group was coming in and they came in as visitors, genuinely evaluating us as visitors do.  It is almost like the tv show where people hire professionals to break into their house and see if it can be broken into.  The interesting thing about the show is that after these people effectively break in, they help the people fix it and make it stronger.

What if professional visitors came in, evaluated us, saw our weak spots, our strengths, where we fall short, and then helped us fix it in order to become stronger?

In order for this to happen, a church would need to be open to criticism, change, and discussion.  Companies do a lot of evaluations in order to be effective.  I think the church can embrace some of these concepts in order to be effective and in order to grow.  Albert Einstein said, “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  The church cannot keep doing the same things and expect different results.  If something does not work, evaluate and change it.  If you are going to have goals and strategies, then you need to be okay with evaluating those things and changing them if they are not working and meeting your goals.

In order to grow and change we need to recognize the problems.  One idea to do this would be “Undercover Visitors,” almost like a “Secret Shopper.”  Who better to come in and evaluate us than the people we are trying to reach?