Administration,  Church,  Ministry

Towards a Healthy Church – From Strategy to Systems

By now, you might be tired of reading about vision and mission. Good news, we are moving down one more level, but only because it is the next level that allow us to begin to fulfill the mission, which, in turn, allows us to achieve our vision. The next level: strategy.

If mission is the objective of a church (or organization), then a strategy is the plan that is needed to make the mission successful. In other words, the strategy is how a mission is fulfilled. Mission statements are important, and people have developed all types of mission statements which might solve or satisfy most every need or ambition known to mankind. But without some sort of plan (and action), the mission will never be accomplished.

For instance, one of the most ambitious statements of the 20th century was President Kennedy’s statement to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade. That promise was made in May 1961 in the midst of the space race with the Soviet Union. I realize that some believe the actual landing on the moon is a hoax, but even if that is true, the idea of a strategy fulfilling a mission holds firm. Let me explain.

First, let’s assume that a man really did walk on the moon. To accomplish that feat, many factors had to be considered. Each one of those factors was part of a strategy that led to fulfilling sub-missions (building the right type of rocket, lander, suit to wear, training, etc). Technically, each one of those sub-missions was essentially a strategy which had their own steps which were necessary to complete them.

Second, let’s assume that man did not really walk on the moon. The promise was made, and although the man who made it was assassinated in 1963, the decade was coming to a close and the promise was not yet fulfilled. Thus, a new mission would have had to be created to convince people that man did walk on the moon even if he didn’t. And that mission would need a multi-approach strategy in order to ensure success.

So, whether or not, man walked on the moon, a mission was in place to fulfill a promise and a strategy was devised to make it happen. (For what it is worth, I believe it happened.)

Once a strategy is in place, it will likely need to be revised – and sometimes many revisions are necessary. As attempts are made, some are bound not to succeed, and thus alterations are necessary – that is, the strategy changes. But as the strategy begins to look promising, the patterns for success begin to present themselves. These patterns are nothing more than systems. Thus, systems enable the strategy to be (more) effective.

Let me provide an example from a church setting. Everyone’s favorite topic in the church is money! Ok, maybe not, but consider how money has been collected in churches for centuries. In most churches the collection was dropped into some sort of container (a box or later an “offering plate, etc.). This approach worked well for centuries. The mission of collecting funds was meant to be for the benefit of the church and in serving others. (I realize not all giving or collecting is altruistic, but for this example, let us presume it is.) Boxes might be ideal because if the collection was taken outside, the money would not be easily dropped (particularly coins) or blow away (particularly paper currency). As more church moved inside, having a “plate” to pass became common with ushers watching to ensure that people did not pull money out and to ensure people put money in (ok, so much for altruism). But whatever the strategy employed (passing a plate, having people come forward to drop in a box, etc), the mission was fulfilled – money was given for the purpose of the ministry of the church.

However, times have changed. Most churches still have a similar option, but the reality is that not everyone carries cash or writes checks any longer. Thus, drafting money from someone’s account, or direct online-giving have grown in popularity in the 21st century, and particularly over the past five to ten years. Again, the mission is the same, but the strategy has changed. And over time, as more people have become accustomed to paying for things online, churches have adapted to incorporate that system. Because after all, the internet is simply a system for communicating and transferring information (such as money).

So, missions are made possible by developing the proper strategy. And a strategy becomes effective when we have the right systems. The church needs systems in place for a variety of reasons including to fulfill the mission Jesus gave us in Matthew 28 – one that included both evangelism and discipleship. But the types of systems needed are partly dependent on who is involved. And that will be our topic next week.

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