Strategy: Where Context is King

I love filling a room of creative minds with the specific purpose of thinking strategically.  I wholeheartedly enjoy the process of cluttering a whiteboard with hopes, dreams, goals, and plans.  For me, there are few things more energizing than a creative moment like that.

That is at the heart of what strategy is all about.  It is developing a clear plan to give feet to your church’s mission, vision, values, and goals.

Before we get too far into thinking about strategy, it is important to define some key terms in the sentence above:

Mission clearly states our church’s purpose.  It answers the why we exist question.  Vision describes the impact we will have if we live that mission.  Values paint a picture of how we will behave as a church community.  Goals capture milestones that need reached along the way.  Strategy is how we are going to get there.

In 2005 some of my closest friends and I filled a basement in suburb north of Cincinnati, Ohio.  We were dreaming of starting a church that could have an impact on our side of town and beyond!  A couple Saturdays were invested in developing Journey Church’s mission, vision, value, and goals.  Our conversation quickly turned to the how because we knew our dream needed a strategy.

We made a couple calculated decisions that shaped our church’s ministry.  They help both define and continually refine our strategy. 

First, we determined that everything we did must first be run through the filter of how an unchurched person in our community would experience environments.  Whether it was a Sunday morning worship moment or a children’s ministry classroom, we had to prepare like a church inexperienced person was in the room.  Our mission was to connect disconnected people to Christ and the Church.  We would never fulfill that vision if we didn’t create moments, events and ministries that didn’t plan with those in our community that were just short of the line of faith.

Second, we decided that we would focus on five key areas of ministry—weekend worship, small groups, children’s ministry, student ministry, and missions (our ministry “off campus).  We further decided that if ministry didn’t fit into one of those buckets then we were not going to do it.

When it comes to strategy, context is king. 

By that I mean, we can develop a fantastic plan to fulfill our mission, but if it doesn’t match our community’s context or the people we have a heart to reach then we need to go back to the whiteboard.

You see, every church has a strategy.  It is what you do on a weekly, monthly, annual basis.  The key is has that strategy been intentionally developed or updated to fulfill the dream God has for your church.

Many churches we work with in our consultation process have wonderful mission and vision statements.  However, their lack of strategy short circuits mission and vision fulfillment.  Often, their strategy simply isn’t a cultural match.  So, pause and reflect.  Does your church’s strategy match your community?  Remember, context is king.

Because context is so important, strategy demands frequent evaluation and revision. 

The current change of pace in our cultural shifts can be completely overwhelming.  We simply cannot ignore the cultural shifts that have taken place in the past several years.  Those changes should be shifting the way we do ministry.  The truth of the Gospel maybe timeless, but our ways of doing ministry cannot be.  We must remain in a continual posture of improvement upgrade to ensure that we are pouring the Gospel into a glass those we seek to reach will drink.

Strategy should also bring ministry alignment. 

In other words, how does it all fit together?  How does each ministry or event support the big picture?  If you strategy isn’t bring alignment with you mission, vision, and values it needs adjusted.  If it doesn’t bring all the pieces of the puzzle together then you have some work to do.

Systems provide an engine for your strategy. 

If you are having engine trouble with your car you are going nowhere real fast.  The same is true about the relationship between systems and strategies.  Systems are the specific practices and routines that empower a church to implement their strategy to fulfill the dream. 

Here’s the bottom line.  Without a clearly defined contextualized strategy, your mission and vision will never be reached.

Does your church have a clear mission and vision?  More importantly, does it have a clear plan of execution to ensure you get there?  Most importantly, is that strategy a match for the place God has embedded you church community? 

Tom PlanckPost contributed by Tom Planck, HGC Healthy Church Catalyst.