The most recent issue of the Harvard Business Review had an article that caught my attention. The article touches on the traps we fall into while we’re developing strategy. The trap I find particularly insidious in many churches is the trap of “strategic planning”. Many churches develop their plan by building a budget from the prior year. If they are growing, the plan will increase each ministry area by a percentage commensurate with the perceived growth plus a couple of other tweaks here and there.
The problem with this approach is that it’s “planning” but not “strategic”. We all have a tendency to fall into planning because it’s safe (or, at least has the illusion of being safe). The assumption is that nothing is changing in the world around the church, so we just keep on doing what we’ve been doing, just a little bigger and better. According to the article, this “may be an excellent way to cope with fear of the unknown” but it’s “a truly terrible way to make strategy” because “fear and discomfort are an essential part of strategy making.”
…Focus on the people God has called you to reach and to serve. Who are they? What are their fears? Their joys? What do they need? What does the gospel look like through their eyes? Strategy begins here – not with what we’ve done in the past.
The article offers 3 helpful hints for a successful strategy:
- Keep it Simple: It should be no longer than a single page that describes who, how and what success looks like.
- Don't look for perfection: This is about looking into an uncertain future and, with God's help, discerning the bold choices necessary for increasing chances for success.
- Make the logic explicit: "Be clear about what must change for you to achieve your strategic goal."
These are times that demand we both reach back in time and into the future. We reach back to tightly embrace the undiluted gospel of Jesus (orthodoxy) then we look forward with open hands to receive new ways to connect people with Jesus (orthopraxy). This is what it means to develop strategy for the church.