I did my doctoral work in Great Commission studies: evangelism, church growth, and missions. We discussed often the value of developing a strategy for growth, but we also talked often about churches whose strategies accomplished little. Over the years since then, I’ve seen several causes for failed strategies—and, perhaps one of these listed below speaks of your church’s situation.
- The leaders commit little or no prayer to the efforts. In some cases, everyone plans, and no one prays. In other cases, everyone plans first and later asks God to bless what they’ve already planned. Either direction makes strategic success much less likely.
- A primary leader does the strategizing alone. I can understand why a single-staff church leader might go in this direction. I also understand why a leader driven by urgency would want to avoid the slowdown of a team or committee. Planning alone, though, limits oft-needed input and misses the picture of a 1 Corinthians 12 church.
- The leaders get no buy-in from other influencers in the church. Carrying out a successful strategy requires people who will implement the action plans. Leaders who only assume buy-in (often because of their positional authority) are often surprised when other influencers—left out of the process—aren’t fully on board.
- The leaders don’t pay attention to the reality of spiritual warfare. We face a real, supernatural enemy who is a schemer . . . a methodical force . . . an evil strategist who aims his arrows at us. Leaders unprepared for this response will be surprised by the onslaught when they do try to strategize.
- The strategy includes no incremental measurements (and sometimes, in fact, nomeasurements). If our goal, for example, is to increase attendance by 25 people by next year, not evaluating the numbers at set intervals limits opportunity for revising the action plans or resetting the goal. When nobody’s evaluating along the way, that’s the problem: nobody’s evaluating.
- There is no clarity in who does what by when. That is, the strategy remains the big-picture approach, but the details and tactics are only in somebody’s mind or on somebody’s computer. The result is non-existent accountability—and often an unsuccessful strategy.
- The congregation does not celebrate—or sometimes, even know about—successes along the way. This point, of course, relates at some level to #4-5 above. My concern here is that even if there are successes, nobody knows about or celebrates small victories along the way (see my post, “Little by Little” for more on this idea). Celebrating in the intervals gives us opportunity to express gratitude to God and praise Him for His hand.
What would you add to this list? Which of these, if any, reflects your church?