A note on ministry strategy

Since Viv’s mum has been sick in hospital, I have had a lot of time to not only sit in the ICU waiting room, but also think about ministry strategy.  In particular, I’ve been thinking about how we can better be the body of Christ (this is loosely based in thinking around 1 Corinthians 12 – although Paul there is specifically talking about different members of the body being gifted people, I think the idea still stands!).

(1) Operational Effectiveness is important but insufficient to be the effective body of Christ.  The idea of “operational effectiveness” (OE) in a ministry environment is for each ministry area to strive for  a best possible “performance”.  For example, the usual gammit of ministries in most churches include a youth ministry, children’s ministry, school’s ministry, men’s ministry, overseas mission etc.  If each were nominally a different part of the body, pursuing OE means that we strive for the best possible youth ministry, children’s ministry, men’s etc – ie striving for strong arms, legs, feet, eyes, etc.  However, just because some or even every part is strong, does not mean that the whole body is strong!  For the body is more than the sum of it’s parts.

Moreover, the reality of nearly every church is that given the limited resources of any given church (especially one where I’m a minister at) means that we must make difficult decisions about where and how we allocate resources to do the best we can for God’s kingdom.  This usually means that we’ll focus on one or two areas and pursue OE in those areas in particular.  In the case of SPCH, we have a particularly strong and effective youth and music ministry.  However, one or two strong areas in the body does not mean the body is strong by any means!

(2) Strategic Fit becomes important when thinking about the effective body of Christ.  “Strategic fit” is reliant upon the thinking which says that discrete minsitry activities within the church (like youth ministry, children’s ministry, etc) often affect one another.  For example. if the children’s ministry is growing, then generally so are the Sunday services.  Moreover, if the children’s ministry is growing, then as children mature, they will naturally progress to youth ministry.  If the youth ministry is going well then so do young adults and so on.  Thus for a church to be an effective body of Christ, we must constantly be thinking about a whole system of ministry activities and not just a collection of ministry parts.

So the idea of “strategic fit” helps us strengthen the ministry in our church in the following ways:

(a) We need consistency between each ministry – this is just saying that all ministries must align with an overall strategy.  This means that all ministries (parts of the body) have a single-mindedness that not only ensures we are working for the same cause, but also actively seeks to reinforce and strengthen the other parts of the body.  At SPCH, we have a broad strategy of “Bring, Build, Send” – Bring people to Jesus, Build people in Jesus and Send people out for Jesus.  Consistency means that all our ministries work together for Bring-Build-Send, but also all our ministries need to be working with the other ministries by constantly thinking about how their areas are eroding or reinforcing ministries around them.

(b) Ministries must optimise effort.  This idea goes beyond consistency and reinforcement.  For it is the idea that each area works together in such a way as to optimise effort.

The simplest example would be the co-ordination and sharing of information across different ministries in order to eliminate redundancy and wasted effort.  For example, one area may create a really efficient conference management solution – eg online registration and payment,etc.  It would be optimise effort if this information were shared to all other ministries that ran conferences.

Another example may be in the allocation of resources – especially people resources.  Some ministries find it much easier to attract and recruit volunteers into their area of ministry.  Others will prayerfully try and try and try and never get more than a handful (thus often having to work off the smell of an oily rag and regularly seeing volunteers “burn out” and hence wasting effort as the ministry ultimately fails).  Each ministry ought to be concerned about other ministries and in particular those which cannot find adequate resourcing (cf 1 Cor 12:25).  If we recognise that all parts of the body are important and together serve Christ, then we will be more willing to allocate (or reallocate) resources so that the body as a whole may optimise effort.

Well I’m know expert on corporate or ministry strategy, but I do know that if any member of the body suffers then all suffer, and if any member is honored then all members rejoice with it (1 Cor 12:26)

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