‘Strategy’ is a word that is increasingly being mentioned in Church leadership meetings and it’s for good reason; Churches need a ‘blueprint’ in how to execute best practice in how it ministers not only to the Churched; but the unchurched. However, some reservations still exist amongst Churches as to why strategy matters. I believe strategy is crucial in Church leadership and I will show you why.
Firstly, it needs to be said that most Churches have a vision in place. Vision is important because it shows others where you want to be; however, many Churches don’t actually break that vision down into a plan and the ‘vision’ is never truly realized.
There is a quote by twentieth-century French writer Antoine de-Saint-Expury that I particularly value; “A goal without a plan is just a wish”
This is particularly true when it comes to ministry. You can have all the vision in the world, but unless you put a strategy behind it, it won’t mean a thing.
A common criticism I received around this strategy is that it limits God and places the power in the hands of man. This is usually followed by statements such as “our strategy is that we should just pray more”.
I understand this view. We should always soak ourselves in prayer when discussing the future of the Church. In fact, it goes without saying that prayer should be central to every discussion, meeting and event. Prayer needs to always the overarching strategy in every meeting.
Godly leaders throughout the Bible who were incredibly strategic in their leadership; Moses… Joshua, Nehemiah, David… Paul… were all very Godly yet very strategic. I believe God gives the gift of strategy to leaders. Leaders who need to saturate themselves in the Word of God and prayer. So, I believe strategy and prayer work hand-in-hand.
So why strategy? Simple… it breaks down the vision over a set time. The vision is the WHY; the strategy is the HOW. So with this in mind, here are three reasons I believe strategy is important in Church leadership.
1. Strategy Unites
Sit down with the team and outline a strategy together; come to agreed outcomes and set move forward as a team from the very get-go. It’s incredible how strongly strategy galvinizes teams. It’s no longer about the individual; it’s about a vision and strategy that everyone has invested in.
The team leader isn’t necessarily the one who gets their way; create a culture of ‘the best idea wins’ and be open to the fact that it may very well be someone else’s idea. And unless you are an insecure leader, this is an extremely powerful culture to create.
2. Strategy gives measurable outcomes
Strategy is fantastic for giving yourself; or your team deadlines; it gives a level of accountability for everyone involved. And because strategy unites the team, everyone is responsible for the strategy. Timestamp your milestones and sub-goals; make the outcomes tangible. “Where do we want to be by the end of the month? Quarter? Year?”
Strategy breaks the down into bite-sized pieces that are clear and achievable.
This also raises incredible leaders who rise to the occasion of working with a clear goal in mind. You’ll be surprised at the quality of leadership that begins to emerge.
3. Strategy creates a winning culture
I can’t stress the importance of sharing ‘wins’ in a team culture; big or small. We can often fall into this habit of not only celebrating, but recognizing ‘wins’ when they are of certain size of significance. However, I want to challenge this. I’d recommend to begin celebrating the small wins, even if it’s through verbal praise during a debrief session.
It’s easy to focus on what went wrong; while this can’t be ignored, it’s crucially important to discuss what went right. Constantly focusing on negatives wears the team down and can even begin to fracture the team culture as the individualistic grit and resilience is tested. Always celebrate the small wins and bring this back to the strategy. Our team members need to know that they are making a difference.
At the end of each event or activity, I would always ask the question “How did today or tonight help get us closer to our vision?”. This aligns with the strategy almost instantly, and it keeps the leaders encouraged and passionate.
Strategy is important because it brings the big picture; the vision into the present. Strategy is all about HOW the vision will be pragmatically achieved. And how the gifting and skills of the team will see this happen.
Maybe you have a vision but no set strategy to go with it. Here is your chance to put some flesh around it; break the BIG goal into smaller goals. Go for the low-hanging fruit; that is, go for the ‘easy’ wins to gain momentum and see what God does with it.
Strategy matters because lost people matter. The Church has a responsibility to reach them with prayer, strategy and authenticity.