Is Your Church Strategy Really Yours or Just an Illusion?

The illusion of a strategy is worse than not having a strategy. For the person who wants to lose weight, the illusion of a diet/exercise plan is worse than not having one. Because when you don’t have one, you at least know you don’t have one. For the person attempting to save for retirement, the illusion of a retirement plan is worse than not having one. Because when you think you have a plan but really don’t, you’ll get to a certain age before you discover you did not save sufficiently.

In the same way, the illusion of a ministry strategy is worse than not having one.

The illusion of a ministry strategy is like a mirage that gives people a false sense of hope about the direction of the ministry. It provides an erroneous belief that a wise course has been set. Not having a strategy and knowing it is far better than thinking you have one when you don’t. At least then you know the reality and are likely much more open to developing one.

A ministry strategy is how a church accomplishes her mission on the broadest level. The mission is the “what”; the strategy is the “how.” An overarching ministry strategy is how all the programs and ministries are designed to work together to help fulfill the mission of the church. Because I am often asked—two books I recommend on ministry strategy are Simple Church (yes, that is a shameless plug) and Church Unique by Will Mancini.

Based on consultations and conversations with church leaders, perhaps the most common illusions of ministry strategy are rearranging and photocopying:

1)    Rearranging

Here is a common occurrence: A church leadership wordsmiths a new vision/mission statement, puts the statement on a dry-erase board, and commits not to leave the room until “all our programs fit into this statement.” While they give the impression they are beginning with their strategy, they are really beginning with their programs. Thus, everything they already do is rearranged and categorized based on “the new vision.”

Merely taking all your existing programs, events, and activities and placing them under new language or baptizing them with new nomenclature gives the illusion of a strategy without necessarily thinking through how people will move throughout the life of your church. The illusion of the strategy helps the team call themselves strategic without developing the discipline and focus necessary to really possess a strategy that guides the church in a direction.

2)    Photocopying

Another common occurrence: A church leader visits a church or reads about one, loves a program they have implemented, their mission statement, or an initiative they are passionate about. He searches their website, learns everything he can about the program or initiative, and imports it into his church without thinking critically about his church culture or the strategy he has articulated to his people. Over time, the church becomes a discombobulated collection of photocopied programs. Each one looks strategic when it stands alone, giving the illusion of a strategy. But when all are meshed together in one local church body, the church can move in a plethora of directions, revealing the lack of an overarching discipleship process/strategy.

Both rearranging and photocopying are common practices because they are easy. All it takes is a white board and a few hours with some folks who have read a book. Developing ministry strategy is much more difficult – and much more impactful.

 Read more from Eric here.

Want to learn how to develop genuine ministry strategy? Connect with an Auxano Navigator and start a conversation with our team.

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Eric Geiger

Eric Geiger serves as the Vice President of the Church Resource Division at LifeWay Christian Resources. Eric received his doctorate in leadership and church ministry from Southern Seminary. He is also a teaching pastor and a frequent speaker and consultant on church mission and strategy. Eric authored or co-authored several books including the best selling church leadership book, Simple Church. Eric is married to Kaye, and they have two daughters: Eden and Evie. During his free time, Eric enjoys dating his wife, playing with his daughters, and shooting basketball.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
— winston
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
— Russ Wright
comment_post_ID); ?> "While I understand the intent behind this phrase" Expound please. What do you understand to be the intent behind that phrase?
— Ken

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