It’s time for a SWOT analysis
If you’ve spent any time in the market, you know what a SWOT analysis is. It’s when you look at the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats a business faces in its efforts to find and experience growth.
It is a strategic time for companies to engage in a SWOT analysis. They are emerging from the pandemic while still operating from within. And for almost every business, COVID-19 has changed at least some aspects of what the future holds.
Churches and other nonprofit organizations are no different.
Now is the time to know not only where you came from, but what you need to overcome in order to seize all the opportunities that will present themselves in the months and years to come.
So what could a SWOT exercise reveal? Imagine a church that operated 300 before the pandemic, a mix of contemporary and traditional style, five on staff, in a dormitory community in a suburb of a mid-sized city.
Strengths. The typical strength of such a church is community. Often involving families dating back two or three generations, the pandemic has only made this link all the more revealed and precious. Financial stability is also often present. Long-term pastorates, if the church itself is healthy, is also a feature.
Weaknesses. Such churches often face inward. That is why, after imagine an existence of more than 50 years, there are still only about 300 people. It has been suggested that if a church doesn’t break the 200 barrier in the first five years of its existence, it probably never will. Why? It is clear that the culture was not a culture of growth or of seeing, and soon it becomes the DNA of the church. Another weakness is that being put online was probably well outside of his wheelhouse, much less of his comfort zone, and he will want to stop that as soon as possible although that is the future of every church. Finally, he more than likely had a Sunday-centric approach to what it means to do and be a church, and left to his own devices, will come back to that once the pandemic is over.
Opportunities. The pandemic has brought this church online, which means it has a golden opportunity to stay there and nurture and grow its online footprint. The pandemic also gave them a taste of what it meant to have to innovate; they can make this innovation last. They were forced out of a Sunday service mentality into a seven-day-a-week missionary approach. This too could be maintained and expanded. Finally, their online presence may have been successful in reaching / attracting new participants. When that happens, they can welcome newcomers and use them as a catalyst for future growth.
Threats. These include church members who resist change, who resented everything the church had to do (and was important to do) during the pandemic, such as online offers, and will be suspicious of and even threatened by new participants who could “appear” after the pandemic due to online awareness. Additionally, it has been well documented that Christians have been more susceptible to disruptive and divisive conspiracy theories during the pandemic which can further infect the church when all are gathered. All to say, new divisions have arisen between people in the last year or so that did not exist before.
So what does a SWOT analysis like this do for a church?
First of all, this obviously helps you to think about strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. The four areas are extremely strategic to know. As we often note about a SWOT analysis, it helps to peel off layers of the organization.
Second, it helps in decision making. It will help make the types of decisions that capitalize on strengths, reinforce weaknesses, seize opportunities and ward off threats. It also allows your decision making to be informed by “strategic adjustment”. In other words, what you plan to do is achievable based on your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
Third, it forces your thinking to include internal and external factors. That is, if you do a thorough SWOT analysis. A good SWOT analysis would examine both. For a business, internal factors would include people, finances, manufacturing capabilities, and marketing. External factors would involve macroeconomics, technological change, even legislation, culture and market changes in general.
For a church, internal factors can include the current budget, number of members, campus size, current staff, and church structure. External factors may include the demographics of the surrounding community and future growth projections.
All to say, now is the time to use a good SWOT analysis to assess where you are at and then use the same analysis to indicate where you want to be.
James Emery White
About the Author
James Emery White is the founding and principal pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, and the assistant professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book After “I believe” is now available on Amazon or at your favorite bookseller. To take advantage of a free Church & Culture blog subscription, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can browse past blogs in our archives and read the latest news on church and culture from around the world. Follow Dr White on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @JamesEmeryWhite.