Strategic Leadership

By Jeff Young

Leaders are frequently described as visionary, relational, intuitive and/or strategic. It’s easy to grasp the benefits of a visionary leader who can see what can be, to instill belief in others. That fires us up! Clearly, leaders need to be able to attract and build relationships with people to shepherd and lead them. Having trustworthy decision-making skills and discernment are key attributes of intuitive leaders. And while a leader being described as “strategic” may be heard less frequently, all of us have benefitted from a well-determined plan/process to ensure mission achievement.

Leading strategically is a massive topic (but Jarrett only allowed me 700 words) so here are a few key essentials:

1. Pray – It’s what God wants for you, therefore it’s best for you. Asking for His discernment, insights and favor are keys to leading strategically (Lamentations 3:21–24).

2. Process – The way to have a great idea is to have a lot of ideas, so include others. Collaboration (brainstorming, listening, including) not only displays value to key leaders in your ministry, it shows you how others on your team think and communicate. It also limits overlooking a key person, idea or issue that is essential to your success or that needs to be addressed (probably in another setting) to ensure that success isn’t compromised. Leadership doesn’t equate to having all the answers or always being right. Collaboration is a key component of leading strategically. Especially as it relates to introducing a significant change or new direction to your church, a strategic leader will (a) explain the idea to a core group of key leaders, (b) collaborate with the committed leaders and workers in the strategic design, prior to (c) sharing with the entire congregation. Leaders love progress, and typically progress doesn’t happen without change. While change is rarely easy, patiently walking through a communication process increases the likelihood of success.

Additional process considerations:

    1. Ministry/Mission areas to analyze –
      1. Are people being saved?
      2. Are people’s priorities changing in accordance with Scripture?
      3. Are people developing purposeful relationships with unbelievers?
      4. Are members excited about bringing unchurched friends?
      5. Do guests feel welcome?
      6. Are new members easily connected into the church?
      7. Are people building quality friendships inside our church?
      8. Are we identifying and developing leadership?
      9. Are we honestly re-evaluating the effectiveness of our programming in light of our mission statement?
    2. Timing – Is it the right time? Has ample time been allocated to involve key leaders in the information process? If outside contractors or consultants are needed (architects, stewardship, etc.), has their input been considered? Is ample time available to explain the “why,” to create a compelling need, etc.?
    3. Staffing – Do you have the right person(s) in place to implement the new strategy?
    4. Costs – Have you considered the financial needs and time necessary to gather the needed resources?

3. Own it – After seeking the Lord’s guidance and creating a process … own it. This will involve restating the “why” for this new initiative; it will also require diligence, focus and perseverance. Remember, life is a series of interruptions and, if we aren’t careful, a new initiative can be “put on the shelf,” and poor assumptions can be made about implementation and buy-in. It’s far too easy to move on to the next item on our “to do” list. Lead the way by soliciting stories of success so that you can recast the vision. Lead the way by demonstrating buy-in and asking team members for implementation feedback. Vision leaks—your people are busy with things in addition to church—so leading strategically demands a plan for retelling the “why” and celebrating the “wins.” It’s been said that when sharing a new vision, we must “see it clearly, say it continually, and share it creatively.”

In conclusion, realize that strategies can always be improved and adjusted … use the steps above, but avoid getting bogged down in perfectionistic tendencies. Adjustments are OK! And, remember, you’ve asked for the Lord’s help in leading His Church to reach and impact as many people as possible. He promises to guide us, so lean on Him—He will help you lead with vision, as a relationship-builder, with discernment and strategic design.

Blessings, as you lead!

Jeff Young serves as Minister of Spiritual Development at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas. Follow him on Twitter @JeffYoung7.

Jeff also serves as a member of our Network Coaching Team. Read more about Jeff and this team