By Kevin Peck
You and your church team step into a boat to white water raft. Immediately, people’s true colors begin to emerge. Some are afraid. Others appear overconfident in their abilities. Yet everyone in the raft clearly knows the mission: to make it through the water.
What’s missing? The strategy. The rafters know the “what” of their task but not the “how.”
This mirrors what happens in churches. The church knows its mission: to make disciples. Yet, people often don’t know how. Leadership that doesn’t help the church answer the question of how to accomplish God’s mission is not leadership done well.
The Need: Churches with Strategy
Strategy seems like a corporate buzzword that sends red flags into the minds of church leaders and members. It’s powerful, but it’s not bad. Misuse is the problem. Strategy, if used correctly, can bring fruit and glory to God.
Scripture clearly indicates that we should be measured, strategic leaders who manage the house of God well. What distinguishes biblical leadership and strategy is simple: “Many plans are in a person’s heart, but the LORD’s decree will prevail” (Proverbs 19:21, CSB).
God honoring, strategic leadership first listens to the heart of God for what His desires are, what His designs are, and how we accomplish the mission. Sometimes, this might mean we do what is foolish in the world’s eyes if it means submitting to the Lord. Biblical church strategy is seeking God’s heart for how He desires us to steward His people, His resources, and His ministries that we we have received for His glory.
The Danger: Churches without Strategy
What happens if churches, given a clear, God-ordained mission, falter in translating the mission into strategic action? Without a clear strategy, three results quickly surface.
- We lead ineffective chaos rather than coordinated teamwork.
Our churches are full of people who God has gifted. Just as sports teams can have deeply talented rosters but can’t deliver, our church members, without a strategy, are often incredibly under-engaged with accomplishing the mission of God. They may be a part of the congregation, but they form a pool of talented chaos.
- We lead churches that squander resources instead of churches that have empowered ministries.
We run out of money long before we run out of good ministry ideas. Without a clear strategy, our ability to fund our vision is inhibited as funding goes wide but not deep. With a clear strategy, we are able to allocate resources effectively.
- We lead frustrated workers rather than powerfully commissioned leaders.
We’re telling our congregations to go, run, change the world, and take it by storm. They’ve been commissioned into the field. However, with unclear strategy, it is as if the field has invisible walls people come up against as they run. For others, these walls keep people from running in the first place. With clear strategy, lanes and pathways are created. This allows people to move from frustration to powerful commissioning as they seek to complete God’s mission.
We need a clear strategy to accomplish the mission of God. The sheer weight of this mission and the reality of the unreached only begins our motivation to implement strategic plans. If we equip our church members—already ignited with the “what”—with the “how,” we can see a powerful outpouring of empowered Christ followers bringing hope to the nations.
Adapted from Pipeline 2016: Developing Your Leadership Pipeline. To learn more about how to lead in strategy, check out our free Ministry Grid courses Introduction to Leadership Pipeline and Leadership Pipeline Competency Overview.
Kevin Peck is a Lead Pastor of The Austin Stone Community Church.