I’m convinced – strategy is getting a bad rap.
At best, some of us make a strategic plan only to put it in a file drawer where it dies a slow, painful death. And at worst, we are told it’s not all that important, so we skip on to bigger, greener pastures freed from the restraints that it forces upon us.
So I’m here to take up for the little guy. I’m here to contend that without a solid strategy, organizations either flail frenetically, or they stagnate, lazily maintaining the status quo as the world changes around them.
Years ago, I was hired to be the new president & CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs (BGC) of East Texas. I took the role mainly because of one simple charge: the Board wanted it to become a Christ-centered ministry.
What an exciting idea. What if we were able to mobilize godly people into the lives of kids and families, especially those from challenging circumstances, to provide tangible help and eternal hope – all while maintaining the distinction of being a Boys & Girls Club?
Well that’s just what we did. Out of more than 4,000 locations in America, we became the first Boys & Girls Club to become a Christ-centered ministry.
But here’s the important point – it took a solid strategy to get us there.
“Strategic plans are known for becoming obsolete.”
Maybe you’ve been intimidated at the idea of creating and communicating the strategy of your organization. If so, that stops today. The Bible has much to say about strategy. A simple walk through the Proverbs gives us some questions to consider when charting our course:
- Where is God leading your organization?
“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” (Prov. 19:21) I remember when our leadership team first sat down to create our strategy. It wasn’t a two-hour meeting. It was a six-month process.We began by reading the book, Pursuing God’s Will Together: A Discernment Practice for Leadership Groups by Ruth Haley Barton (IVP Books, 2012). From there we prayed. And then we waited. We listened. We talked. And eventually, we pulled it all together into a plan that made sense to everyone.Inviting the Spirit into the rightful place of guiding our thoughts and plans for the future is a key distinction between Christ-centered ministries and the secular models we have grown so accustomed to today.
- What is it going to take to get there?
“The simple believe anything, but the prudent give thought to their steps.” (Prov. 14:15) For us it wasn’t easy to become who we desperately wanted to be – a Christ centered ministry, especially if we were to honor the previously established boundaries set in place by the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. It would take creativity and “blue sky” thinking, with our ultimate goal driving our every decision.When you’re asking this question, you want to lay out baby steps in the same direction that get you to the desired outcome. Do you have the right staff in place? Should you do this before that, etc.?
- Who should you partner with to make your goal more attainable?
“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” (Prov. 15:22) We learned quickly that providing certain aspects of the tangible help for the kids and families we serve was difficult for us, but it was right in the sweet spot for other organizations. If we partnered, everyone could win. Local food banks, school districts, city governments and other nonprofits became key partners for us. Could you outsource some of your most challenging obstacles to a different organization, contract employee, or an outside consultant with expertise that you don’t have?
- When will you know if you’ve arrived?
“By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.” (Prov. 24:3-4) Strategic plans are known for becoming obsolete. So when we entered the process to create one we committed to making every item on the plan clear and measureable with a “due date” attached.Smart organizations plan well, yet remain flexible to adapt when they see the market has shifted or the old way of operating just isn’t working any longer.Celebrate your wins along the way. Your staff will love to hear the progress you are making as a team as you strive together toward the common goal.
We ended up creating an umbrella organization, The Mentoring Alliance, which includes the Boys & Girls Clubs of East Texas, another ministry with which we merged and a third ministry we started. This reconfiguration of the entire organization better reflects our common mission.
So, let me encourage you. Take a step back from the tactical minutiae bogging down you and your organization. Dream with those around you about what God wants to do through your organization. And then write it down.
Congratulations. Now you are becoming a strategic leader.
Kevin East is the president of The Mentoring Alliance, a Christ-centered, intentionally multiethnic ministry that seeks to address the foundational issue that wreaks havoc on communities: the breakdown of the family. He and his wife, Stephanie, have 5 kids and actively foster and mentor kids as well.