One of the courses I teach at Beeson Divinity School is Contemporary Issues and Strategies in Missions, that is: at Beeson we want to develop strategic leaders. After twenty years of training pastors and church planters, I have noticed that many struggle in the area of strategic planning. This is true whether leaders are being developed in the classroom or through the local church. Part of the reason for this limitation is the lack of education given to practical ministry and leadership development. Leaders often know where they are and where they desire to go but have a difficult time getting there.
The crafting and implementing of strategy can be summarized in five important practices:
5 Practices of Strategic Leaders
1. Asking Good Questions
Strategic leaders have inquiring minds. They want to know answers. They ask questions such as: Are we being faithful to the Lord? Is what we are doing the most Christ-honoring thing? What is working well in our strategy? What is not working very well? What do we need to change? How can we do a better job? Are we being wise stewards with all the resources and opportunities the Lord has entrusted to us? What do we need to do first? What do we need to do next?
Strategic leaders must also take the following questions into consideration whenever they begin the strategic planning process: What do we know about the context and people? What is the purpose of our team? What is the best way to reach these people with the gospel and plant churches? What are the barriers for evangelization? Does our team have the callings, resources, gifts, and abilities to execute the strategy? What are our immediate, short-term, and long-term goals?
2. Responding with Healthy Answers
Along with asking good questions, strategic leaders must respond with healthy answers. Not just any answers will do, but only those that are true to the biblical and theological foundations for Great Commission activity, in agreement with missiological principles supporting healthy mission practices, and efficient and relevant to the context. Here is where the theoretical begins to meet the reality of the field. According to Dayton and Fraser, “Planning should be thought of as a bridge between where we are now and the future we believe God desires for us” (1990, 293).