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Doctoral Project Abstract

Leading Strategic Community Change: A Shepherd's Guide to Strategic Planning and Organizational Development for Church and Faith-Based Community Development Agencies

Jimmy A. Atkins
Regent University

Under former Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush, public policies such as Charitable Choice and Faith Based and Community Initiatives made federal money easier to access for churches and faith-based organizations engaged in community development. However, churches and faith-based organizations remained confronted with leadership and organizational development challenges that undermined their ability to effectively implement programs and strategies that lead to lasting community change.

In a 2004 report by Open Source Leadership Strategies entitled "Funding & faith: Research about faith based organizations and institutions" the authors argued that faith-based institutions need capacity building in the areas of strategic planning, staff development, and collaboration. The reports states: "along with the immeasurable power of faith itself, it can be easy to over-estimate the capacity of churches and church leaders to work and effect change on longstanding, complex community problems" (p. 17).  

Furthermore, short-term community development strategies tied to a specific government programs may not be comprehensive enough to meet complex needs such as poverty, affordable housing, and job-creation in low-income communities. Research on social services programs underscore that churches frequently undertake programs that provide short-term benefits (i.e., emergency food or utility assistance) rather than programs with sustained involvement to meet longer goals (Chaves 2001).

To address these challenges, this guide explores the dynamics of strategic planning and organizational development for church and faith-based organizations engaged in community development. In doing so, this guide incorporates scholarly sources from the fields of strategic planning, leadership, and organizational development. This guide also incorporates biblical scripture from the Pauline corpus and others to provide a theological and biblical foundation. In addition, this guide serves as a practical reference for church and faith-based practitioners on strategic planning, organizational design, and leadership development. The appendices include a list of biblical references for strategic planning, sample strategic planning templates, and activities to use during staff training sessions and workshops on strategic planning and community development. 


Chaves, M. (2001). Six myths about faith-based initiatives: Going by faith. Christian
OpenSource Leadership Strategies Inc (2004 July). Funding and Faith: Research about
          faith based organizations and initiatives (Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation).
          Retrieved October 8, 2008, from


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