When it comes to creating an implementation strategy for your new church, it is rarely wise to move forward with just one carefully thought-out course of action. Instead, it is wiser to encourage vigorous dialogue and develop several alternatives as part of the strategic discussion. The best scenario is to have a few alternatives that are all so good that you experience angst over which one to choose. This process provides several benefits; among them are better critical thinking, increased creativity, and defined options to choose from as the future unfolds.
Unfortunately, some planters don’t value this approach and they quickly move strategic discussions toward execution. While their strategy may have been great at the time they created it, factors outside of their control can change the dynamics of their ministry. Without alternatives that were developed in their strategic planning process, they cannot respond quickly enough to leverage an opportunity or avoid a significant threat.
In order to remain relevant and effective, ministries need ways to monitor both the execution of their strategic plan and the changing environment in which they serve. The following paradigm may be of help to you as a new church leader.
Have you identified the primary stakeholder groups to whom you should be periodically listening to determine whether you’re moving in the right direction? Consider these among many.
- Seekers: How the spiritual seekers that have connected to some tangible degree with your ministry see your ministry is critical. Since not all feedback systems work equally to uncover perceptions, you should use a variety of feedback strategies. You need to determine continually and intentionally if your ministry is connecting with ministry recipients.
- Ministry Leaders: You should to track the level of engagement and satisfaction among the point persons in your ministry. Again, you should use a variety of feedback systems to gauge their perceptions.
- Vendors: Have you ever wondered what the vendors who provide goods and services to your church think of your church? In our global age, everyone is connected and a part of a greater whole like never before. All of your church’s relationships are potential assets upon which you can draw to accomplish your mission. Consequently, understanding how your vendors perceive you is important. It can help you understand how the community in general views your church.
- Community: This could include the Chambers of Commerce, the media, businesses and non-profits in the area, and government or public service agencies. How these groups view the church should impact your strategy.
- How are you doing implementing and executing your strategy, including the goals and the timelines? Are you ahead or behind? Are you performing according to plan or are you in some way out of sync with the plan?
- What are the results of your overall ministry? You may be doing a great job executing on your ministry strategy, but it may not be producing the tangible results you anticipated.
- How are you performing relative to the agreements that were established in your Memorandum of Understanding and your plan shaped by your training experience as well as the project management, coaching, and your oversight team feedback? What’s happening with the consequences? Are you getting greater or lesser results than expected?
When you review your purpose as a new church, you need to ask questions such as, ‘What has changed?’ or ‘What is or will be changing in our context?’ Your answer should impact the way you look at your vision and long-term goals for the church. The goal is to look for new opportunities or to identify what threats may be emerging because of changes in your environment.
All ministries, like life itself, are a process. It’s a series of tasks combined to achieve a particular goal. Such is the case with strategy as well. There are steps you go through … there are people involved … there are processes you have to examine to determine where you can improve your implementation and in what order of priority. Are you creating duplication of effort? Is there noticeable re-work (ministry “do-overs”)? Are there inefficiencies in your various processes? Are the processes really creating the results for which you’re looking? How are you doing tactically? How are you improving your processes? How should you adjust your resources? You may have a great plan, but if you don’t have the right sense of urgency or the right level of accountability in the execution of it, the plan likely will produce disappointing results.
“Keep Score” for Greater Fruitfulness
Good strategic thinking and monitoring takes the four Ps mentioned above into consideration. It’s about constantly assessing your context and adjusting your plan as necessary without compromising your core vision/values which are timeless and rooted in God’s Word. Remember – your plan should be timely, but it is never timeless. Developing this kind of monitoring system, combined with robust alternatives in strategy, will move you away from rigid game plans and toward a more team-based, synergistic ministry (synergos is the Greek term for “fellow-worker” or “partner”). As a result, you’re better able to adapt your strategy to the environment while it’s changing. Keeping these four Ps in mind will help you keep your strategy fresh so it won’t become stagnant or obsolete in its implementation.