Strategic Planning

Marty Duren at SBC Outpost has written a short note about planning. I really liked what he had to say. Though he isn’t specifically talking about missions, his words got me thinking about everything I’ve been writing here. In my criticism of the Board’s current strategy, and my call for more step-by-step following of the Holy Spirit, do I sound like one of those who doesn’t think we should have a plan? I hope not.

I used to go to a church that was very programmed. We had a music minister that knew how to plan a service. The order of worship was planned and rehearsed two weeks ahead of time. The hymns and the pauses between them were timed, and the special music was chosen according to how much time we had to fill. I often heard people complain that the service hardly left room for the Holy Spirit to work. I’m sure the music minister was aware of the complaints, but for years he continued to plan the services down to the minute.

The music minister eventually decided to respond to his critics by not planning two weeks’ worth of church services. The result, as you can imagine, was not a spontaneous time of praise. It was, well, nothing. After the deacon welcomed everyone to the service (apparently he hadn’t gotten word of the “no programming Sunday”), nothing happened. Someone stood up and started taking hymn requests from the congregation, but we really struggled to make it through all eight verses of “Just As I Am.”

No one complained after that.

When I finally asked our music minister what he thought about leaving more room for the Holy Spirit, his response was: “I wish our people knew how much prayer went into the planning. God leads us throughout the week as we put together what we hope will be a tremendous time of teaching and worship.” (He always used the word “tremendous.”)

I believe that planning is necessary. Our team likes to think of it as “intentionality.” We have a clear strategy for interacting with the people around us, and have a clear plan for discipleship of the folks God brings our way. I just want us to be sure that our plan is based on God’s leading, where He is working. I guess my concern with the Board’s strategy is not that we have one, but that the one we have is based on human-centered, “logical conclusions.”

Oh, and just because we have a plan, let’s not assume that God has to follow it.

About E. Goodman

Ernest Goodman is a missiologist, writer, teacher, and communications strategist.