Strategic Plan



For the past two years, the Strategic Planning Committee has been observing, listening, studying, consulting, surveying and praying in order to identify and articulate a new strategic direction for First Presbyterian Church.

Many mainline churches, including First Presbyterian, have experienced financial and membership challenges over the last ten plus years. The situation has been exacerbated by the economic collapse of the last two years. Churches with historic buildings like ours have the challenge of current and deferred maintenance costs, and in some cases, preservation. As the demographics of the church change, ministry and program needs and opportunities require reconfiguration, renovation and/or retrofit of facility and space assets. More than one-third of the membership is 62 years or older, whereas young adults 25-45 make up less than 20% of our membership. Based on these statistics, our membership is stagnant and our financial base is insufficient.

The planning process has coincided with a period of great promise in the life of our congregation. Our members have signaled a desire to be part of a movement through dynamic initiatives such as the nontraditional Rejoice! service, Hot Dish & Hope, the Winter Emergency shelter, FPC Jobsnet, and the First Wave healthy congregation project. We are communicating through the “Just a Thought” ministry on radio and on-line and through other Web features. These are a few examples of how First Presbyterian, the institution, is reclaiming the values of a movement and preparing to be a vibrant faith community in the future. We have learned that our facilities, committed members and staff provide unparalleled opportunities for ministry.

These successes and challenges confirm what our committee has learned. There are two options for the future open to mainline churches such as First Presbyterian: 1) remain a Sunday/unilateral church whose focus is on success measured by attendance at Sunday worship OR 2) make a paradigm shift to a “multichannel” church that is intentionally inclusive and encourages widespread participation in multiple forms of worship, education, mission and gathering. We believe remaining a Sunday unilateral church will result in an inward-looking, declining and further aging congregation.

Tom Ehrich, a consultant for our strategic planning process, states: “I am convinced that the future lies in what I call the ‘multichannel church,’ that is, doing Sunday well, but looking beyond Sunday and beyond site-based ministries. Meet people where they are. Imagine more. Learn new skills.” (Church Wellness Report, Window of Opportunity, July 9, 2009)

Learning from our own research and the insights of more than 100 participants in the First Wave exercise, this plan embodies the following principles:

  • First Presbyterian Church should build on what we have learned by making the paradigm shift to a church that fully reclaims the values of a movement. We should become a multichannel church that embraces change and seeks creative ways to grow disciples and help people deepen their faith in a rapidly changing world.
  • Strategic changes will be necessary for mainline Protestant churches such as ours to flourish. Congregations will need to be relational, flexible, encouraging and forward-thinking. This is consistent with our reformed commitment to be “reformed and always reforming.”
  • Becoming a multichannel church will require of pastors, staff and congregation a commitment to openness, risk-taking, collaboration and developing new skills. More members will have the opportunity to offer their time and resources as lay leaders and participants in ministries that impact people’s lives.
  • Transparency in communication and data-driven decision making are keys to becoming a more efficient and sustainable organization, as are accountability in planning and budgeting and creativity in facilities use. Building financial support for ministries will be critical. It will require a new level of generosity among all members and it will require a capital campaign.

How will we accomplish this? We will:

  • LISTEN and RESPOND - communicate with members and friends in ways that draw them into our congregation and give them a real sense of belonging
  • CONNECT and ENGAGE - make it easy to be engaged in the work and worship of the church
  • GROW and BECOME – be more intentional about welcoming new people into our congregation while nurturing and retaining existing members
  • MEASURE and SUPPORT - live the best practices of accountability, transparency, generosity, financial planning, maintenance and flexibility of facilities and organizational effectiveness
  • LEAD and TRANSFORM – carry out ministry in multichannel ways providing a variety of options for worship, gathering, education, sharing, outreach and spiritual formation.

Upon his arrival as senior pastor in 2001, Dr. Sid Batts said, “We share a calling to make this church what God wants it to be. We are on a spiritual journey together.” With the adoption of this strategic plan, we commit to living into our purpose. Together, we will move forward and grow as disciples of Jesus Christ.

We propose this as a three-year plan through 2012, renewable thereafter a year at a time. During the first three years substantial progress will be made on many strategies. An Implementation Team will develop an action plan. It will also recommend to Session assignment of responsibilities to committees and ad hoc teams to accomplish assigned tasks.

We encourage you to examine the strategies and actions in this plan and learn more about the multiple channels we will pursue as our church answers the call to Love, Learn, and Lead.


Summary of Goals and Strategic Objectives

At First Presbyterian Church, Greensboro, we inspire people of all generations to love, learn, and lead through life-giving experiences in worship, education and service. We love because Christ first loved us. We learn because we hunger to deepen our faith. We lead because we are called to make positive change in our world. With God’s transforming help, we seek to be a congregation of growing disciples.

The Strategic Planning Committee has chosen five initiatives to communicate the theme Love, Learn, Lead, Living into our Purpose. They reflect the historic Presbyterian values: “reformed and always reforming.” This plan is a roadmap for congregation, leaders and staff in our journey to reclaim the values of a movement into this great institution. We invite you to join us in loving, learning and leading into our future.

Goal: Listen and respond in order to discern our call and fulfill our mission as Christ’s church.

  • Become a congregation that listens and responds to the yearnings and needs of our people and our community.

Goal: Build relationships within the congregation by helping members connect and engage.

  • Connect people across the generations in ways that recognize needs of children and youth, young, middle-aged and older adults.
  • Communicate in ways that are innovative and transparent.
  • Encourage members to live out their discipleship in their neighborhoods, workplaces, community and in the world.

Goal: Grow a vibrant community of believers.

  • Grow our congregation in ways that are intentional and inclusive.
  • Give more people an opportunity to contribute their time, talents and resources in support of our mission.

Goal: Be good stewards of resources and inspire generosity to increase support for our ministries.

  • Adopt more effective and creative ways to accomplish the work of the church.
  • Fund the church’s operating budget within three years with annual stewardship goals designed to achieve this objective.
  • Build a long-term financial foundation for the church.
  • Maintain our facilities and plan for providing new or restored facilities that have the flexibility to support current and future ministries.
  • Conduct a feasibility study for a capital campaign in the 2010-2011 period with the goal of launching a campaign no later than 2012.

Goal: Bring people into a loving, life-giving relationship with God through multi-channel approaches.

  • Become a more vital center for learning, outreach and leadership.
  • Meet people “where they are” with a variety of options for worship, gathering, education, sharing, outreach and spiritual formation.


Goals and Strategic Objectives

Listen and Respond

GOAL: Listen and respond in order to discern our call and fulfill our mission as Christ’s church.

Strategic Objective: Become a congregation that listens and responds to the yearnings and needs of our people and our community.

Strategy 1: Cultivate deep attention to the work God is doing; reflect and discern God’s call for First Presbyterian Church.

Strategy 2: Integrate listening practices throughout the church program and operations using a variety of options to gather and respond to information from members and the community we serve.


  • Create intentional listening opportunities for groups and individuals and use information gathered to discern direction for ministries and programs.
  • Track and monitor significant life changes of members in order to respond in a personal way to their needs.
  • Train lay people and staff to respond to people’s needs through various methods of support and communications.
  • Use needs data from community sources to determine ministry opportunities.

Strategy 3: Nurture and value the presence and gifts of each member.


  • Support and help members form small covenant communities where people can form significant faith relationships that provide a personal touch and nurture member needs for love, caring, belonging and feeling valued.
  • Encourage and honor the questions and yearnings of individual members and the congregation as a whole.
  • Create a supportive environment where people feel free to take initiative within church norms.

Examples of Outcomes

  • Members feel valued and supported.
  • Members and participants feel the faith and life questions they are asking are being heard.
  • The faith and life questions of members and participants are at the center of congregational preaching, teaching and caregiving.
  • Members discover more about their gifts and how they can be used in God’s work.

Connect and Engage

GOAL: Build relationships within the congregation by helping members connect and engage.

Strategic Objective: Connect people across the generations in ways that recognize needs of children and youth, young, middle-aged and older adults.

Strategy 1: Encourage the natural formation of small groups or circles of friends as a means of developing authentic and honest relationships.


  • Empower the formation of small groups for classes, ministry teams, or spiritual practice groups and provide support as needed.
  • Identify leaders who have interest in forming groups and train them in methods for leading small groups as well as understanding differences among age groups.
  • Provide meeting space, resources and communications network for these groups.
  • Plan and post a six-month church calendar of events, classes and activities to facilitate wider participation.

Strategy 2: Create and maintain an on-line church directory, available through secure passwords that is easily edited, searchable, and up-to-date and provides access to information so members can readily connect with each other.

Strategic Objective:    Communicate in ways that are innovative and transparent.

Strategy 1: Review, expand and/or create communication systems and methods customized for the receivers’ stated interests, needs and generational style.


  • Establish a comprehensive e-mail database of members to facilitate timely and targeted communications to them based on their interests and needs.
  • Revise and expand FPC News options to include a weekly on-line update.
  • Start and maintain a regular e-newsletter for young adults that connect individuals with each other, with First Presbyterian Church and opportunities in the community.
  • Redesign the Web site to be more user-friendly with a search engine, links and multi-media downloads to educate, motivate and enhance discipleship
  • Expand member interactions with the church through the Web site encouraging management of pledges; special contributions; reservations for events, meals, and classes; sign-up for engagement or involvement in a ministry; and/or response to surveys.
  • Provide for on-line exchange and engagement among members using Facebook, blogs and other emerging technology to respond to sermons or classes, to connect with people with similar interests, or to discover what members really care about.

Strategy 2: Create, use and maintain a user-friendly database that identifies and tracks members’ skills, areas of service, leadership experiences and passions in order to connect members with each other and opportunities for service.

Strategy 3: Make an annual report to the congregation that communicates how well we are fulfilling the mission and objectives of First Presbyterian Church and managing our priorities and resources.

Strategic Objective: Encourage members to live out their discipleship in their neighborhoods, workplaces, community and in the world.

Strategy 1: Increase and broaden member engagement in activities of the church in ways that build on members’ and the faith community’s assets, talents, skills and passions.


  • Encourage all members to participate in worship plus one other church activity.
  • Mobilize our members for engagement by starting with learning conversations to discover what people care about, how they see the situation and what kinds of service and ministry projects they desire for engagement.

Examples of Outcomes

  • Stronger relationships, more interaction and a sense of community grow among members and friends as connection opportunities increase and more small groups are formed that meet at church, at homes, at restaurants.
  • Members’ breadth and depth of knowledge about the church and other members increases and is strengthened as methods of communication expand and connection and engagement increase.
  • Average worship attendance increases by 25-30% annually.
  • Engagement in Bible study and discussion groups (face to face and virtual), church programs and ministries increases significantly over previous levels.
  • A majority of church members step up their church engagement and are involved in at least one church-related activity in addition to the form of worship they choose.
  • Members feel more informed about the church and can choose from several options about how they receive and give communications within the faith community.


Grow and Become

GOAL: Grow a vibrant community of believers.

Strategic Objective: Grow our congregation in ways that are intentional and inclusive.

Strategy 1: Strengthen practices that model FPC as a welcoming and inviting congregation


  • Make personal contact with visitors within one day of their first worship experience, with appropriate follow-up.
  • Strengthen strategies that support our congregation as a family of faith where more people experience the joy of being part of the family; new members are attentively integrated; and current members feel valued.

Strategy 2: Develop a plan that encourages young adults (20- to 30-year olds) to join our community of faith.

Strategy 3: Seek and provide opportunities that attract young families with children

Strategy 4: Support a vibrant older adults’ ministry that acknowledges the growing older adult demographic in our congregation and is consistent with local and national trends.


  • Incorporate into programs and ministries for all ages the core value that aging is a life-long, natural experience and that the wisdom and experience of older adults is valued.
  • Capitalize on the skills, interests, leadership abilities, experience and passions of older adults by inviting individuals to serve and lead in all areas of ministry including new initiatives.
  • Train staff, committee members and other leaders to seek out and develop opportunities for members of various ages and life stages to serve together.

Strategic Objective: Give more people an opportunity to contribute their time, talents and resources to support our mission.

Strategy 1: For all programs and projects continually identify opportunities for involvement, both short and longer-term, relying on the database of member interests and skills as well as personal interaction.

Examples of Outcomes

  • A vibrant children and young adults’ program that provides excellent on site personnel and facilities but is also made available 24/7 to all via the internet
  • The membership demographic changes to include a higher percentage of families with young children and young adults
  • Older adults are energized and feel supported in the faith family when they offer their gifts, wisdom and talents to ministries and church operations
  • Our membership increases 10% (approximately 290) over the next five years


Measure and Support

GOAL: Be good stewards of resources and inspire generosity to increase support for our ministries

Strategic Objective: Adopt more effective and creative ways to accomplish the work of the church.

Strategy 1: Infuse transparency and accountability throughout the church’s work and operations.


  • Use best practices in all planning and operations to support a healthy church.
  • To assure transparency, openly communicate plans and results with members on a regular basis.
  • Practice an operating philosophy that includes well-researched ideas for managing challenges in a rapidly-changing world and embraces the risk inherent in new opportunities.

Strategy 2: Identify ways to improve our organizational structure to enable timely and collective decision making.


  • Develop and implement a plan to: align the church’s organizational structure to accomplish this plan and improve the function of the Session as a deliberative and decision making body.
  • Achieve “buy-in” for the strategic plan by church leaders and staff by providing training and assigning appropriate leadership and operational roles for the Session, councils, committees, and staff.

Strategy 3: Make data-driven decisions and measure results to determine which programs we should grow or curtail.


  • Assess the impact or progress toward achieving our goals and mission by determining what is important to measure, identifying criteria and evaluating accordingly.
  • Train staff, Session and other leaders to gather data, use it to understand our congregation and apply it when deciding what is effective.

Strategic Objective: Fund the church’s operating budget within three years with annual stewardship goals designed to achieve this objective.

Strategy 1: Involve more people in the stewardship effort including the youth of the church

Strategy 2: Provide opportunities for honor gifts and special-purpose passion gifts while affirming the primary importance of annual stewardship to fund the operating budget.

Strategic Objective: Build a long-term financial foundation for the church.

Strategy 1: Continue the planned giving program that provides our congregation with estate planning, options for non-traditional gifts and other giving opportunities that enable members to leave a legacy.

Strategy 2: Develop a financial model that assigns operating expense to every program of the church by the end of 2010.

Strategy 3: Develop a plan to report the financial condition of the church to the congregation quarterly by January 2010

Strategic Objective: Maintain our facilities and plan for providing new or restored facilities with the flexibility to support current and future ministries.

Strategy 1: Make facilities and equipment repairs necessary to keep buildings functional and safe while maintaining data on critical infrastructure needs as a component of a capital campaign feasibility study.

Strategy 2: Commission a facilities study in the 2010-2011 period in conjunction with a campus land use plan. Among other things, determine need, rationale for and feasibility of:

Creating an open and inviting space where people coming and going to Sunday school and to worship can encounter one another, enjoy fellowship, register for classes and service opportunities and find the latest information about what is going on

Expansion and upgrading of weekday children’s ministry facilities in order to maintain an integral connection with the church complex while facilitating growth opportunities

Additional parking to support this objective

Strategic Objective: Conduct a feasibility study for a capital campaign in the 2010-2011 period with the goal of launching a campaign no later than 2012.

Examples of Outcomes

  • A Session is engaged in more deliberative planning and decision making while carrying out the mission of the church and dealing with opportunities and challenges.
  • Members become better stewards of the church and its programs resulting in increased numbers of pledging units, an increased pledged amount per unit and revenue increases of 10% annually.
  • Based on best practices, our church improves in identified wellness factors over the next three years.
  • Operational planning and decision making are focused on the strategic plan and are based on measurement of results and outcomes.
  • The church’s ministries and future are more secure as a result of growth in giving, improved planning, decision making and accountability.
  • Our facilities are well maintained as a result of our ability to make replacements, repairs and renovations. We have developed a plan and have the financial foundation to implement scheduled facility maintenance.


Lead and Transform

GOAL: Bring people into a loving, life-giving relationship with God through multi-channeled approaches.

Strategic Objective: Become a more vital center for learning, outreach and leadership.

Strategy 1: Establish a Faith and Life Center with a multi-track curriculum including classes on theology, Bible, spiritual disciplines, Christian ethics and church leadership.


  • Assist members in discovering their gifts, talents and passion for the best fit of their engagement in service to the church and community.
  • Develop a leadership track within the Faith and Life Center that will train members and others in new ways of leadership, fund development, church governance, decision making and service to the church and the community
  • Support and encourage smaller churches with fewer resources to also enroll their members in Life and Faith Center classes.
  • Create a Theologian in Residence program for a two to four week period annually to provide new ideas and to refresh our thinking about spiritual growth and/or ministry.

Strategy 2: Strengthen education and support for parents and their parental role.


  • Design new ways to link children and youth education to parents’ Christian education so parents can more effectively reinforce learning from church to home, including materials to use at home.
  • Establish a FPC “Parenting Academy” within the Faith and Life Center, accepting parent enrollment from First School, Weekday Preschool and from throughout the city, that offers classes and provides resources for every stage of parenting (new parents to “parenting our parents”).
  • Structure ministries and events that enable families to engage in hands-on community service together.
  • When feasible, develop a plan for moving forward with accreditation of both First School and the Weekday Preschool

Strategy 3: Establish a host village for community outreach in existing facilities on our campus or nearby, building on partnerships already in place with community and faith-based partners.

Strategy 4: Organize and convene a permanent interfaith, interchurch organization with a mission of working together on critical community issues by combining resources and encouraging partnerships and collaborations.


  • Host a community forum through the interchurch organization on selected critical issues in the community and/or world that call for the church’s involvement.

Strategic Objective: Meet people “where they are” with a variety of options for worship, gathering, education, sharing, outreach and spiritual formation.

Strategy 1: Cultivate people’s hunger for exploring their faith and learning more about God through classes, gatherings, multiple worship opportunities, ministries and special events – on this campus, in homes, in our downtown neighborhood, at other locations and by means of virtual community.

Strategy 2. Help individuals develop and use spiritual practices that nurture spiritual formation.

Strategy 3: Serve others with love and compassion.


  • Expand our Hot Dish & Hope ministry with an initiative that focuses on job preparation and placement for low income and homeless people who are ready and willing to make positive changes in their lives to become self-sufficient.
  • Develop a comprehensive plan for engagement and mission in international ministry.
  • Continue to strengthen and support the pastoral needs of our congregation.

Examples of Outcomes

  • Strong, new church leaders are emerging from the congregation.
  • Members’ lives are changed (indicator-- stories told, engagement, participation)
  • Maturity of faith of members is well supported and ongoing. (indicator - number and quality of opportunities)
  • Growing disciples are engaged in Christ’s work in the world.
  • Greensboro faith communities are collaborating more, with First Presbyterian leaders serving as supporters and catalysts and are more pro-actively engaged in important community issues.
  • The foundation for child and youth development is strengthened (indicators – number of confirmations, participation in child/youth activities)
  • First Presbyterian Church is widely respected as a leader in the community and is a model for faith programs and ministries.
  • More innovative opportunities, traditional and non-traditional, exist for worship, gathering, education, sharing, outreach and spiritual formation.


Implementation and Timeline

Implementation of this plan requires commitment from the Session, other leaders - current and future and staff. Accountability is linked to implementation.

Upon adoption of this plan by the Session, the Strategic Planning Committee will have worked itself out of a job. We propose that operation of the plan be coordinated by an Implementation Team, appointed by Session. The Team will be composed of a combination of Strategic Planning members, for continuity, and others with leadership and organizational talent (for example First Wave participants who embraced the assignment).

The Implementation team will develop an action plan and timelines for accomplishing the key initiatives for the three-year period 2010 - 2012. The action plan will require the Session’s leadership and oversight. The action plan will assign responsibilities to Session committees with the intent of “pushing down” strategic ideas and methods into the operations and functions of the church and encouraging on-the-job learning. Special teams will be recommended where necessary to accomplish short-term assignments with deliverables. The Implementation Team with the assistance of others will mentor committees and teams in outcome decision making.

We strive for both accountability and flexibility in implementation of this plan. Much of the detail will evolve since we are treading new ground. Our aim is that this plan will set the stage for leaders, staff and congregation to think strategically – an approach that emphasizes methods, learning and results.


Timeline of key initiatives

Enlarge table



Context for our Five Initiatives

Listen and Respond

We learned from First Wave and from experiences of the past year that First Presbyterian Church members yearn for a church that is responsive to personal and spiritual needs of members and to needs in the wider community. In many areas, we have experienced the joy of knowing what it feels like to be responsive.

Our goal is to foster the person-to-person contact, the mission-filled creativity, the willingness to ask questions and listen for feedback and the organizational flexibility that have helped us reach out to reflect God’s love. This means capitalizing on the spirit-filled love and the organizational support that helps an institution reclaim its vitality. The listening, responsive church operates with an understanding of its core values of mission and ministry and lovingly brings them to life in ways that meet the needs of growing disciples whatever their stage or state of life.

Connect and Engage

In responding to First Wave interviews, First Presbyterians made strong statements about their need to engage in ministries and activities that build faith and spirituality. They expressed longings for a depth of experience, a community of meaning and purpose and worship and spiritual practices that put a person in touch with the sacred.

Our members want to be participants, not spectators, and they want to engage with the church and one another through various means of personalized communication. They want to know about and understand what is happening in the church, and they want to be involved with people and groups that share their passions. They want to develop strong relationships with each other.

We are a church that is not limited to Sunday activities—we serve God in this place all week long. We encourage the development of creativity and leadership, as groups of people with similar faith commitments and interests come together to do God’s work. This is in response to church and community needs that are different and more acute than in the past. Clearly, the need for engagement has never been greater.

Grow and Become

“Grow and Become” is a “both and” challenge. It is fulfilling the Great Commission of Jesus to “make disciples” (Matthew 28:18-20), and it is about participation that keeps church ministries operating. It is both evangelism and maintaining the faith community’s ministries.

This is often referred to as recruitment, retention and transformation of members. (Church Wellness, A Best Practices Guide to Nurturing Healthy Congregations, Tom Ehrich, Church Publishing, 2008). The First Wave Membership Development team researched First Presbyterian’s membership-related practices as one of Tom Ehrich’s seven indicators of church wellness. The challenge and opportunity for our congregation is to live out our self-description as “warm and welcoming.” First Presbyterian’s location and facilities present the opportunity to welcome members and attenders from throughout the city, even the region. Yet our sprawling facilities and imposing sanctuary are both a challenge and an opportunity. The First Wave Membership report says the “cornerstones of recruitment are personal and prompt attention.” Their recommendations are embodied in this plan, and they challenge us to become more intentional, systematic, timely and personal in greeting, receiving and including visitors and new members.

Older adults are a naturally growing demographic in our congregation (representing a 30% - plus share). This plan calls for energetic efforts to involve these members in ministry. Other demographics such as young adults (20-30 year olds) and young families with children will require emphasis on programs designed to fit their needs. New and relevant ministries will have to be identified and creatively implemented using a multichannel approach.

The common thread is that whatever the age or station in life, people need to feel personally cared for, and they need to experiences a sense of belonging in our community of believers.

Measure and Support

Measure and Support is about stewardship of our talents, finances and facilities. We learned through the First Wave project that accountability, transparency and effective communications are indicators of church health and vitality. Using our talents to learn and implement these practices is a foundation of outcome decision making, and it inspires confidence in those decisions.

Our church is making progress in these operational practices as information gathering and technological responsiveness improve. We have recently adopted the practice of periodic written financial updates and presentations to members. This is consistent with the transparency and communications advocated in this plan. But valid information for decision making transcends the financial realm. A related best practice is use of metrics – determining what is important to measure, agreeing on criteria, collecting data, and using the results to make decisions. Investing the time to learn and implement these practices will enable the leaders and staff of First Presbyterian to more effectively manage our challenges in a rapidly changing world.

A responsive organization is also crucial to managing in today’s environment. This means that our Session, committees and staff should be aligned so that challenges can be addressed, initiatives effectively deliberated and timely outcome-based decisions made. This will be crucial in upcoming years when operational planning and decision making will be focused on the strategic plan.

An overarching challenge is funding the operating budget of our church and maintaining our facilities. We must build a financial foundation for the future. In these trying times a central question is how do we build our ministry on the gospel message of abundance? A key theme of this plan is that more members must become stewards of the church and its programs to yield the increased numbers of pledging units to support the operating budget.

Even in this period of economic stress we continue to grow ministry. We have been able to respond to members with the Rejoice! service and to community needs with Hot Dish & Hope and the night shelter in part because we have facilities. Our facilities are a blessing. But deferred maintenance is a critical problem. These deficiencies have an increasing impact our operating budget. The Property Committee maintains an extensive and comprehensive list of facilities and infrastructure needs that must be met to provide a safe, more energy efficient and healthy environment to support the ministry of First Presbyterian and the goals of this plan.

Ministry opportunities and facilities needs converge to support the call for a capital campaign feasibility study. A capital campaign should be conducted in 2012. This, along with broader participation of members in stewardship, should yield greater security for the congregational ministries and the church’s future.

Lead and Transform

A church that leads is in tune and rhythm with its members, its mission and its call. Known for its excellence in many areas, a leader church is inclusive and open and reaches out to all with love, hope and caring. Its worship services will draw people from throughout the city and region, not just particular neighborhoods.

With courage, the church steps forward to address issues others ignore and invites partners to focus on critical issues. With gratitude for gifts of talent, facilities and programs the church joins with others to enrich the fabric of community life. Through engagement in its mission and ministries, members have opportunities to meet Christ in the world and to share their gifts. Through its leadership members respond enthusiastically, passionately and generously as they find their call and serve, making a difference in the community and world. The result is God’s grace---transformed lives for those who serve and for those who receive service.

Members of our congregation have expressed a strong desire to live lives that are changed. They want to experience being church rather than doing church. They are yearning to hear God’s call and they want their church to offer ways for them to not only hear but respond to that call. When offered missional transformation opportunities, our congregation responds in amazing ways. Transformation experiences include worship, education, outreach, giving, and spiritual growth. Through our active participation, we are transformed by God.

Worship is the primary way we connect with God and the Word. We will acknowledge and respond to the various styles and needs of our members and visitors as we plan and worship together. We will intentionally encourage community through our worship experiences.

Education opportunities will be expanded and strengthened by offering deeper studies in all areas. Our goal will be to always connect our studies to the living out of the information shared, connecting what we are doing to the relevance in our church, community and world.

In outreach we will intentionally listen to the needs of our congregation, city and world and respond to those needs. Members will ask of themselves “What does God expect of us?” as we discern “What is God calling First Presbyterian Church to do?” Our expectation is that everyone who comes here will do more that worship. “Vital churches in the future will care about their communities at least as much as they care about themselves and their own survival” (John M. Buchanan).

Giving is another path to transformation. We will offer transparency in sharing the ways we give and how that giving works in our church. We will work more intentionally to be personal in the ways we share and ask.

Spiritual growth helps us to align our life and faith with the teachings and life of Christ. We will intentionally create ways to connect members’ yearnings and questions to scripture as we prepare classes, outreach opportunities and worship experiences.


Our Journey

The strategic planning process began in mid 2007 with a period of discernment and research that included reading about church development, reviewing past planning documents and listening to the needs of First Presbyterians. A midcourse adjustment in the fall of 2008 focused the process on strategic responsiveness, best practices and data-driven decision making. More than 100 members solicited input from the congregation and made recommendations for strategic actions.


In April 2007, the Session authorized “a bold strategic planning process that looks at the big picture of [First Presbyterian Church] programs, all our buildings and their use, while considering our known capital needs and the capacity of our resources for an exciting growth plan.” The Session action was in response to a report from the Property Usage Ad Hoc Committee. That Committee was formed to consider the best use of property on the corner of Fisher and Greene streets. But after several months of work, the committee concluded the issues were bigger than its charge and identified the need for a strategic plan.

The Session appointed the Strategic Planning Committee and it began work in September 2007.


As is customary at the start of any significant new initiative at First Presbyterian, Sid Batts recommended that persons involved read several books on the topic at hand. The committee studied Transforming Congregational Culture and What’s Theology Got To Do With It? by Anthony Robinson. He accepted an invitation to meet with the Session, staff and the committee, and we became engaged with the fundamental difference between making disciples and institution building. Robinson explained that First Presbyterian’s strategic plan must be about relationships and the dynamic possibilities of discipleship. Later, the committee read John Buchanan’s Being Church, Becoming Community and Tom Ehrich’s Church Wellness, A Best Practices Guide to Nurturing Healthy Congregations. Ehrich became our mentor and his book provided the impetus for the FIRST WAVE project.

These three books by pastors who love and understand the church challenged us to think anew about our congregation and our future. They gave us a framework for thinking about change within mainline churches and a sound theological context for doing so.


The committee reviewed many documents and reports including:

  • First Presbyterian’s 1991 Strategic Plan, the first of its kind
  • First Presbyterian’s 1993 Facilities Master Plan, which led to a capital campaign that funded various projects including the Mullin Life Center
  • The 1999 Strategic Plan, which preceded the call of Sid Batts as senior pastor
  • The 2005 ABTV Report on the organization, administration and staffing of the church.
  • More than 10 years of reliable budget, membership and attendance data
  • First Presbyterian data available from the Presbyterian Church (USA)
  • Data from other Presbyterian churches
  • The U.S. Congregational Life Study: Fastest Growing Presbyterian Churches


Listening by the committee took many forms:

  • Hosted four drop-in “strategic conversations” with members-at-large and young adults
  • Solicited responses to questions mailed to all members and posted results online
  • Conducted a conversation and break-out groups with the Session
  • Obtained feedback from 22 program staff members about their ministry areas
  • Conducted in-depth meetings with staff and committee leaders in five key ministry areas
  • Heard Sid Batts’ dynamic vision for the near future of First Presbyterian Church


In September 2008, the strategic planning process took a transformational turn. By then, the group had discerned fundamental issues that are evident in this report. However, it was clear that the committee needed to escape the prescriptive strategic planning model. The committee engaged Tom Ehrich, Episcopal priest, syndicated columnist and columnist for Presbyterian Outlook, consultant and author of Church Wellness, A Best Practices Guide to Nurturing Healthy Congregations. He guided the group in refining the planning process.

Ehrich says “the future will be divided between those who think they know what they are doing and so will work harder doing it. The others know they don’t know; so they will try to learn.” Adopting this approach refocused the group on thinking strategically – an approach that emphasizes methods, learning and results.

The global economic recession hit hard in the fall of 2008. It is still having a significant impact on families and individuals in the congregation and on the church budget and operations. Yet, First Presbyterians have stepped forward boldly in response to suffering and loss in the community and within the congregation. During the same period, the church also implemented a new vision for music ministry and the Rejoice! service. One of the aims of the strategic plan is to capitalize on the combination of Spirit-filled planning and risk that have characterized these initiatives and to apply these methods in many areas.


First Wave

The committee held a weekend retreat with Tom Ehrich in early 2009. One of the outcomes was the decision to engage the Church Wellness “best practices” model. The committee enlisted a diverse group of more than 100 members, working in seven teams, to look at best practices and talk with other members about how to be the church God calls us to be. The teams for each of seven factors that shape congregational vitality were:

  • Membership Development – Diligent efforts to recruit, retain and transform members
  • Leadership Development – Recruiting, training and supporting effective leaders
  • Communications Strategy – Using best possible technologies to communicate more effectively and at lower cost
  • Spiritual Development – Training members in basic spiritual disciplines like prayer, giving, worship and study
  • Young Adults Ministry – Creative efforts to engage those exiting college, starting careers and moving toward family formation
  • Listening Church – Listening to our constituents and the world around us, and responding to actual questions and needs
  • Metrics – Consistently and boldly measuring the outcomes of what we do, and then making decisions based on outcomes

The teams reviewed best practices described in Church Wellness, researched how we do things at First Presbyterian, identified gaps and developed recommendations to close the gaps. Then, the groups reported their findings to the Strategic Planning Committee. Many of the strategic recommendations in this plan derive from first wave recommendations. Other first WAVE suggestions are more operational and will be passed along by the Implementation Team for future implementation.


Things We Have Learned

Sprint to accomplish tasks - where appropriate, as learned through FIRST WAVE, Hot Dish & Hope – that is countercultural to our usual year or multi-year process for almost everything.
To enlist participation from all age groups, meeting times and places may be non-traditional, mutually decided for convenience of participants.

Directly collect data using defined questions, defined methods, for a defined period. Use First Presbyterian Church based data for decision making, not what other churches do.
Ask the right questions. They should be about “you” and your yearnings; purpose question - not questions about the institution.

It is important to intentionally identify and connect talent with opportunities. This helps involve new talent and it is a way of leadership development and identification. This was done in FIRST WAVE.
Engage in the personal “ask” in addition to publicizing the need for help.

Be nimble enough in ministry to respond in a timely manner – whether it is to personal yearnings, community needs, etc.
Make responsiveness a priority – faster turn-around; reduce comments like “I wanted to do xxxx but never heard back.”

People support what they help to create.
Change and conflict aren’t mistakes to be avoided, but necessary attributes of health. (Tom Ehrich)

Leadership skills from the workplace or other institutions are not always transferable to church leadership.
It is okay to fail - failure is a sign of trying and is a better teacher than success.

Important reality: we recognize that one-third of our membership is 65+; meaning in 10-20 years our church will be drastically different even if we do nothing.


Strategic Planning Definitions

Learned In the Course of Our Work

Accountability – Being responsible for the measureable outcomes of projects and assignments assumed.
Data Collection and Analysis – Tracking data regularly and fearlessly for outcome based decision making---what works, what doesn’t work or what needs to change---to meet member’s needs and to be a healthy church.

Development/Training – Providing intentional instruction on the uniqueness of leading in churches and living the faith as a church leader (including sharing values, understanding emerging visions, trusting each other and nurturing healthy norms).
Giving – Sharing generously and joyfully of one’s time, talent and money in faithful response to God’s love for us.

Listening – Being open and receptive without judgment or criticism to dialogue and then thoughtfully responding as it relates to the role and mission of our church.
Mentoring – Acting with faith as a trusted counselor, guide or coach for others.

Multichannel Church – “Doing Sunday well, but looking beyond Sunday and beyond site-based ministries. Meet people where they are. Imagine more. Learn new skills. “ (Tom Ehrich, “Church Wellness Report,” Window of Opportunity, July 9, 2009)
Multimedia Communications – Using the best possible technology, customized to the receiver’s stated interests and needs, to communicate more effectively at a lower cost.

Needs Identification – Identifying community and member needs in order to determine how the church can and should respond to with appropriate programs and ministries.
Outcome Decision Making – Session, staff and committees establishing and using measurable outcomes (rather than intentions) as a guide for the planning, development and delivery of programs and services to support the church’s mission.

Personal Touch – Giving of one’s self (face-to-face, personal call or contact) in a way that makes people feel a sense of belonging, value and appreciation.
Outreach – Reaching out to the local, national or international community in ways that respond to identified needs and show God’s love

Risk Taking – Willing to try new ideas, processes and directions that might lead to better performance and stronger outcomes toward fulfilling the mission of the church.

Transparency – Operating the church in an open and inclusive manner that naturally creates trust and support from the leaders, staff and membership and results in a healthy environment.
Small Group Involvement – Offering multiple opportunities for the formation of many “circles of friends” that meet regularly for the purpose of Christian community, i.e. promote belonging and care-giving.

Spiritual Growth – Providing transformational opportunities that respond to yearnings and help members gain an ever increasing capacity to live a spiritual life from the heart.
Worship – Assembling as a Christian community in fellowship to honor God’s presence, to hear God’s word proclaimed and to respond with song, praise and prayer.


Greensboro area and First Presbyterian data

Population Growth in Greensboro and the Triad – Updated July 2009

Greensboro Estimated Population - 2008 estimated population 250,642
Ranks as the nation’s 75th-largest city, down a position from 2007.
Now 45th fastest growing city in the country, down from 38th last year.

Growth Rate – July 1, 2007 to July 1, 2008
Greensboro - 2% (2.4% for previous 12 months)
Raleigh - 3.8%
Durham - 3%;
Charlotte - 2.7%.
High Point - 1.5%
Winston-Salem - 1.4 %

Growth Rate - 2000 to 2008
Greensboro - 9.8%, an average of slightly more than 1 percentage point a year
Guilford County - 11.3%
North Carolina - 14.7%

Projections - The Office of State Budget and Management projects that Guilford County will show a slight uptick in its growth rate in the coming years but will remain at or below the state average through 2029. Currently, 34 of the state’s 100 counties are growing faster than Guilford.

Planners and demographers refer to this as sustainable, manageable growth. The good news is that with appropriate investment, local infrastructure can keep up with growth. This is in contrast to places with higher growth rates such as Raleigh, Charlotte or Wilmington where population growth can outstrip infrastructure capacity. The downside for the Greensboro area is that a 3% to 4% growth rate is more indicative of a healthy economy and job growth.

Source: Office of State Budget and Management

Population by Age – First Presbyterian Church and Guilford County

First  Presbyterian Active Members by Age –September 2009*

Guilford County % by Age – 2007 Estimates

25 & Under

Gen Y

* 389

13.24 %

24 & under


26 – 45

Gen X

* 553

18.82 %

25 -44        


46 – 55

Young Boomers

* 431

14.67 %

45 – 64      


56 – 65

Older Boomers

* 610

20.76 %



Over 65


* 955

32.51 %

65 & over  








*Numbers reflect latest transfer to Inactive Roll of non-participating members age 39 and under. Results for other age groups will be available mid October.

* 25 & Under
380 Active Resident Members
9 Non-Resident Members
511 Baptized Members (Children who have been baptized, but have not joined at this time.)

* 26 – 45
530 Active Resident Members
23 Non-Resident Members
12 Baptized Members (Adults who have been baptized, but have not joined)

* 46 – 55
421 Active Resident Members
10 Non-Resident Members
0 Baptized Members (Adults who have been baptized, but not joined)

* 56 – 65
588 Active Resident Members
22 Non-Resident Members
0 Baptized Members (Adults who have been baptized, but not joined)

* Over 65
919 Active Resident Members
36 Non-Resident Members
0 Baptized Members (Adults who have been baptized, but not joined)

Paradigm Shift

From Dr. Batts’ Tipping Points sermon, February 15, 2009

Growing disciples vs. Becoming a member
Relational  vs. Functional
Informal vs. Formal
Relaxed vs. Systematic
Being  vs. Doing

Spontaneous vs. Organized
Flexible vs. Bylaws
Loosely developed vs. Planned
Casual gatherings  vs. Regular meetings

Love vs. Obligation
Encouraging vs. Correcting
Forgiving vs. Duty
Sharing vs. Loyalty

Hope vs. Memory
New Life vs. Old Ways
Present vs. Past
Forward vs. Back

Grace vs. Law
Possibilities vs. Policies
Discoveries vs. Procedures
Yea-saying vs. Nay-saying

At edge of resources vs. Conserving, holding
Mission  vs. Maintenance
Resourcing vs. Retrenching

Service, Serving vs. Survival, self-serving
Short-term mission teams vs. Long-term committees
Helping people discover power vs. Accumulating power
God’s missionaries together vs. Caste system of laity & clergy


Definition of A “Healthy Church”

Source: Fred Burnham, Network Theory & Church Leadership, Institute for Servant Leadership, Quoted by Tom Ehrich, Church Wellness: A Best Practices Guide to Nurturing Healthy Congregations, pages 44-45
A healthy church needs to show “environmental sensitivity,” that is, an ability to identify contextual changes promptly and to respond to them.

  • A healthy church avoids “centralized control” because it slows communication, discourages the taking of initiative, and hampers healthy relationships. Or
  • A healthy church encourages an open system, in which information and ideas flow freely and rapidly and people organize themselves to deal with needs.
  • A healthy church values individuals functioning beyond rules and boundaries to do what they do well.
  • A healthy church encourages “self organization,” in which enterprising individuals begin to select gifted teammates to work with them.
  • A healthy church values innovation and adaptation as opposed to resisting change.
  • A healthy church has open and transparent communication which generates more and better information, enables the network to adapt effectively, and avoids secrets or in-crowd knowledge.

Signs of “Wellness’ in the Faith Community.

Tom Ehrich, Church Wellness: A Best Practices Guide to Nurturing Healthy Congregations, page xiii

  • Growth in membership
  • Vibrant mission work that makes a discernible difference in the larger community
  • Members’ lives being transformed
  • Congregation able to take risks, fail without recrimination and learn from failure
  • Transparency and confidence in dealing with conflict
  • Ability to deal creatively with change
  • Open communications
  • Members bringing their yearnings and questions to church
  • Leaders willing to be guided by outcomes