Friday, July 15, 2011


I know strategery really isn't a word. I think either George W. made it up or the folks at SNL made it up for him and it stuck. But I thought about that word this week. I'm involved in the process of helping making a strategic plan come alive. That's vital because too many strategic plans are dead in the water before the ink dries on it's pages (does ink even dry anymore or for that matter is there still such a thing?)

Strategic plans are a tad bit predictable especially in the church/para-church world. Its about crafting a vision statement that informs the mission which gives birth to the unsexy goals and objectives. Of course, the vision is always a variation of reaching the world (or at least a significant piece of geography) coupled with a some sort of creative twist on a love God, love others mission statement. Despite the predictability the exercise can refocus a ministry and even lead to new insights and better methodology.

Strategic plans are supposed to drive an organization to greater heights and depths but the truth is in the non profit world budget restraints often puts a bit of a stranglehold on vision and mission.

As Christians we're fond of saying that there is no lack in the kingdom of God. After all ...God owns the cattle on a thousand hills. But there does seem to be a lack based on the funding appeals lining my inbox. Don't worry, I don't think God is broke. It's just that He chooses to use people as His supply line. And people can be remarkably cheap especially when asked to give even somewhat sacrificially. I know because that 's where I struggle. Maybe you do too. But it's not just sacrificial giving. My wife works in Christian radio and only about 10% of regular listeners bother to support the ministry at even minimal levels. That's true in many churches. It's sad because enormous amounts of time and energy are then required to figure out ways to entice money out of full pocketbooks. Perhaps it's true that the conversion of the pocketbook is the hardest one of all. I'm convinced that most tithing supports programs that gives goods and services back to the giver. That's why, even though I give to my church, I often wonder if I'm just not giving back to myself. Despite my angst I still write my checks but secretly delight in giving to things that won't benefit me.

So, sometime during our strategery session this week at Breakthrough (which has a terrific vision by the way for what needs to happen in East Garfield Park) I began to understand in pretty profound ways the funding issues that get in the way of making a vision come alive. I also felt burdened by all the constituencies needing to be satisfied. This government contract wants to measure this, that foundation has a another set of expectations, the really conservative church that supports us wants certain things to happen, and the liberal church is appalled by what the conservative church is expecting. It gets difficult to fund a vision and a mission and satisfy everyone. And satisfying everyone just ain't going to happen.

But what choice do those who are responding to God's call really have? When God places something on hearts and minds you just can't walk away. If anything you dig in deeper, pray like crazy, keep inviting people into the vision, and look for imaginative ways to get done what absolutely has to get done. And then accept the fact that at any given time that someone from one funding source or another will be disappointed and wrestling with the temptation to turn their giving into a weapon.

Funding a God-sized vision will never be easy I'm thinking. There still is an enemy that kills, steals and destroys. Keeping wallets in the back pocket and unopened is an easy temptation to sell. But I am convinced there is a growing army of people that are choosing to resist that temptation. There just isn't enough of them yet.

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