Today, I’m getting away for several hours to spend some time with the Lord and strategize ministry for 2012 and beyond. I used to do this over an extended sabbatical, but church planters don’t get sabbaticals. Sabbaticals for church planters are something like Tuesday from lunch to dinner. So, I’m doing these little mini-sabbaticals as often as possible between now and the end of the year.


Because over the years I’ve learned that strategy matters a lot. In a certain kind of wilderness I’ve had ideas appear on the ground like manna, and direction almost like a pillar of cloud or fire.

Not always, though 🙂

I’ve noticed at first that both problems and opportunities appear like loose stars in at least a semi-random order. In order to see the constellations, one must first take listening to God seriously. After (and only after), good leaders will also take the time to apply their listening to strategy. Strategy is looking for the relationship between this star and that–and their place in the heavens as a whole. At it’s core, ministry strategy is simply applied listening to God. This application requires full engagement of the heart, and, yes, the brain.

Every church has things that need to be done. Ministries need to be started. Which ones? When? How? Where? How can the church afford it, and where will the servants come from to make it happen?

Every church needs to stop doing things. What? How could we ever stop that without setting off an Occupy Church rally? Won’t people get the wrong impression or question our motives?

Every church has opportunities. Where are they? How will I know which are opportunities and which are distractions? How can we ever persuade leadership to grab hold of that opportunity? And, even if we did…by the time they do, will it have passed?

Every church has loose stars. For instance, hypothetically: we need appoint new elders. I need to freshen up my preaching. Baptisms are down. The neighborhood is changing. We need a new challenge to tackle. Two staff members aren’t getting along. I really like the new Campus Minister. I feel like our congregational prayer life is sagging. We have a lot of people out of work. God is blessing us with new population growth around our building.

Strategy seeks to answer the question: How can our church align all of those loose stars into some coherent Kingdom constellation?

All of the aforementioned questions need to be asked as God’s true heart is sought and enough personal space is created to see the constellations as God grants us clarity and wisdom.

Take the time.

Listen to God.

Open your eyes to see what He’s put in front of you, or what you’ll need to reach for. Then, go after it courageously.

If you don’t take the time for strategy, you’ll run the risk of your entire ministry resembling a “Saturday Night Special” sermon: last minute, panicked, poorly thought through, and shoddily delivered. Good ministry is best prepared like good sermons: Thoughtful and well-rounded attention to prayer, study, composition, and attention to delivery.