Strategic thinking is not about seeing a need and addressing it. It is about focusing on a purpose and pursuing it single-mindedly.
Strategic thinking involves an element of risk. This is because the goal
is not only to perfect ongoing programs, but to initiate new ideas and
terminate ineffective tactics. The risk of strategic thinking arises
because of the changes in the mission field (or community) in which, and
toward whom, the church focuses its vision. Demographic research and
lifestyle sensitivity are necessary for effective church ministries.
Whenever a church fails to track demographic trends and shifting
lifestyle expectations, the strategic thinking always stalls. Program
improvements and new ideas never go beyond the comfort zones of the
members. Ineffective tactics are simply repeated over and over again
because the church doesn’t want to offend particular members or
In order to go beyond the box to be relevant to the changing community,
churches must accept more risk. They must be willing to go beyond the
comfort zones of members to improve the effectiveness of programs. They
must be willing to risk failure and learn from mistakes by implementing
creative new ideas. And they must be willing to stop wasting limited
resources of time, talent, and money on sacred cows that no longer drive
the church toward its vision.
The challenge, of course, lies in keeping that line straight. This is
not a curved line connecting identity, mission, and results. It is not a
wavy line, or an intermittent line, or even partially angled line. It
is not a line that sways one way to protect this self-interest, and
another way to protect that membership privilege. It is not a line that
takes a circuitous route to its destination in order not to disturb some
leader’s sensibilities or avoid stressing some faction’s opinions. It
is a straight line. Nothing else will really do.
Keeping this line straight is the art of strategic thinking. Some new
ideas will need to be started. Some old programs will need to be ended.
Ongoing tactics will need to be adjusted. All this keeps the line
straight. Moreover, some leaders will need to be hired or acquired; some
leaders will need to be fired or dismissed; and some leaders will need
to be redeployed. All that effort keeps the line straight. Therefore,
strategic thinking is not about seeing a need and addressing it. It is
about focusing on a purpose and pursuing it … doggedly, persistently, and