Vision without strategy is merely a dream. Several variations of the preceding phrase are attributed to any number of writers and thinkers. It’s an important thought. Strategy is the pathway to vision. Many pastors have a vision for their churches, but they don’t know how to create a pathway to accomplish their goals.
Strategy is how ideas get implemented. I believe it’s easier to formulate a vision than it is to think strategically. Many pastors have an idea of where they want to go, but they struggle with how to get moving. While much attention is given to vision, I believe a lack of strategy is one of the main reasons why churches are stuck.
What are some common snags to implementing vision? And how can a pastor think more strategically to get the church moving?
1. The first snag is not understanding the scope and schedule of implementing an idea. Scope involves knowing the who, what, where, when, and how of the work involved. What’s missing in this list? The why. Ironically, most leaders know why they want to accomplish an idea, but the snag becomes the rest of the list. It’s one thing to know why you want something done. Strategy determines who will do what, when they will do it, and how they will do it. In addition to scope, the schedule of the strategy is equally important. Unreasonable timelines are strategy killers.
2. The second snag is not considering the capacity of the people who are at ground level in the ministry responsible for implementing the vision. A while back, I encountered a pastor who asked his support staff to laminate hundreds of cards for a sermon illustration. It was Friday morning when the idea hit him. The team spent an entire weekend working because the pastor struggled to think ahead. Unfortunately, these kinds of requests were a regular occurrence in this church. Even your best people have a limited capacity. Thinking strategically requires a leader to consider workload along with timing.
3. The third snag occurs when pastors do not communicate consistently about implementation. Progress stops when communication stops. Many pastors are good about communicating upfront about where the church is going. What is often missing is consistent updates throughout the implementation of a strategy. These ongoing progress reports are arguably more important than selling the vision upfront. For instance, capital campaigns can sputter when updates are infrequent. People get excited the first few weeks, but the excitement wanes when nobody knows how things are going.
Vision is important, but it’s overrated. Thinking strategically is grossly underrated in the church leadership world. The lack of a clear strategy is what often snags pastors and holds them back. An average vision with a stellar strategy will accomplish far more than a superior vision with no strategy.
Posted on July 28, 2021
As President of Church Answers, Sam Rainer wears many hats. From podcast co-host to full-time Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Church, Sam’s heart for ministry and revitalization are evident in all he does.
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Another point to consider is overcoming institutional inertia. Vision and strategy can be easily derailed by an institution and leadership that doesn’t have enough power to overcome the inertia in the people.
As we used to say, a bad plan is better than no plan at all. Maybe overstated but the premise was to understand that organizations tend to look for the perfect solution to a problem, thus delaying change. While the “bad plan” facilitates movement which allows corrections along the way. The issue/challenge is balancing a plan that creates change with one that is spot on target.
Last item, especially with long-lived institutions, the sense of time is skewed. For instance, an event happened 20 years in our neighborhood (10 years before I arrived) and the story was “event ‘X’ just happened” – yes, 10 years ago was my response. It’s not just the old timers, even the young members of the community have that sense of time.
Thank you for this great teaching. It’s indeed a true fact that most Pastors are going through. God bless you bountifully for your commitment to mentor the servants of God.