Church Nerd: Strategic Planning Edition

I’m a church nerd. I’ve admitted it in the past [Church Nerd: Extreme General Convention Edition].

You might also be a proud church nerd. (My peeps! #unashamed)

Or maybe you’re a church nerd, but you aren’t aware of it or aren’t ready to own it yet. (It’s okay. Let it out. We’re here for you.)

You might not be a church nerd at all. (Although, let’s be honest: the probability of you being a church nerd on some level is high if you’re reading this article.)

Luckily for everyone, being a church nerd is not a requirement to admire the beauty of a well laid out strategic plan. The diocese is currently in its second iteration of our strategic plan, which I laid out at our convention in 2014. At the presentation of the plan, there were oohs and ahhs, there was appreciative nodding of heads, and then the crowd went wild and I was lifted over their heads and paraded around Sharon, Pennsylvania, as a queen amongst Episcopalians!

Okay, so that last part didn’t happen. My point is that the majority of people, church nerds or not, could see that the plan was well thought out, kept our priorities in front of us, and was going to move our diocese forward in the direction we felt God leading us. And all was good in our world.

Then reality hit. We actually have to follow through and do the plan. SAY WHAT?!?

And therein lies the weakness of strategic plans: they don’t carry themselves out.

Enter church nerds, and more specifically, this church nerd. Part of my ministry at the diocese is to make sure we are following through on the strategic plan we have created for ourselves.

Yes, the fate of the diocesan strategic plan somewhat rests in the hands of a person who once got caught convincing her own grandfather to steal Easter candy for her:


Try not to panic.

We’ve actually made great headway since 2014. As I stated in the strategic planning annual report, we have addressed over 55% of the action steps of the strategic plan in some fashion.   Since that report was published in November, we’ve accomplished even more, including the announcement of a new church plant, which has been part of our plan since Bishop Sean was consecrated in 2007.

But, we’ve arrived at a sticking point: church nerds alone cannot accomplish strategic plans. Yes, we are amazing. Yes, we are the MacGyvers of all things church. Yes, like Santa, we know when you’ve been naughty and when you’ve been nice. However, it turns out that we alone cannot fully populate a diocesan facilities team.   Or minister to every unchurched and dechurched person in the thirteen counties of our diocese. Or single handedly carry out unified diocesan outreach programs. Or…you get the picture.

Basically, as Uncle Sam so eloquently put it: we need you.


You don’t have to be a church nerd to take part in the work of the strategic plan. Isn’t that glorious? You can be a normal person and do the work of the Lord! If you’re on the non-nerdy side of things, I would encourage you to take a look at the plan. There are many areas where we could use your expertise and legwork. For example, one goal of the plan is to form a diocesan facilities team to help assess our property and buildings in order to help our congregations create maintenance plans. We will need people who have experience in construction and building maintenance to carry this out.

My church nerds, you aren’t off the hook. Help your non-nerd friends sift through the strategic plan. Encourage them to help out when opportunities arise that are in their wheelhouse. Assure them they don’t have to become as nerdy as you.

We will truly be living out the concept of one church if we are able to unite church nerds, church nerds in hiding/denial, and non-church nerds, with all of their diverse gifts and passions, to accomplish the singular goal of advancing the Kingdom of God in northwest Pennsylvania.

And there’s not much that would excite this church nerd more than that!

Vanessa Butler, Canon for Administration, Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania

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