5 Practices of Strategic Leaders

Leaders often know where they are and where they desire to go but have a difficult time getting there. We need to develop strategic leaders.

strategic leaders

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

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?

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).

Applying Wise Action Steps

The application work is mainly done on location. Action steps involve the team’s movement from goal to goal on the upward stairway toward accomplishing the overarching vision (i.e., end vision). The application of the steps is obviously done in conjunction with knowing oneself, the team, and the context, for it is out of the knowledge of these three areas that the strategic leader is best poised to make wise practical decisions regarding the outworking of the strategy.

Evaluating Everything

The evaluation of everything is an ongoing process. Strategic leaders never rest from this component of planning. Such evaluation is necessary if they are to stay focused on what the Spirit is doing. It also is a matter of proper stewardship. The strategist wants to be the faithful and wise servant (Matt. 25:14–30). Constant evaluation is not done to justify a critical spirit but rather to reveal a desire to make the best decisions under the circumstances.

Praying with Diligence

Prayer must be a natural part of the leader’s life. Strategy development should be bathed in prayer. The practice of strategy development should be a supernatural event, requiring time with the Lord. Throughout Developing a Strategy for MissionsMark Terry and I often make reference to the place of prayer in the development and implementation of mission strategies. This repetition may appear to be an accidental redundancy on our part; however, we are intentionally repetitive. We are convinced that the prayer of a righteous person has great power (James 5:16), and such power is needed for the development and outworking of strategy.

Here is a 1 minute video summarizing today’s post. If you are interested in such videos, follow me on Instagram where I periodically post them–along with all of the other stuff that we are supposed to post there too.


This article on strategic leaders originally appeared here, and is used by permission.

JD Payne
J. D. serves as the pastor of church multiplication with The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama. He has pastored churches in Kentucky and Indiana, and served for a decade with the North American Mission Board and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of several books on the topics of evangelism and missions.