Projects are sometimes complicated and slow. However, the organization of a group can prove to be a useful companion in accomplishing tasks. Chapter three shares in a detailed log how the people were divided into groups (primarily by families) and the particular area that they rebuilt and repaired. It is the first of four lists of names found in the book (3, 7, 10, and 11-12). Skipping over these lists is tempting. However, in our approach toward leadership and change, we find two critical lessons from this chapter: appreciation and strategic change.
I usually consider it dangerous to recognizing people during a church service as either guest or for appreciation because often someone is left out unintentionally. Still, people like to feel appreciated. The reward for faithfulness is great for strengthening people’s loyalty, the direction they are going, and for their personal encouragement. This can take place with sending a letter, an uplifting word, public recognition, a gift or something else befitting the work and person receiving the appreciation. For these people, Nehemiah is giving them an enduring legacy in God’s Word.
We have already talked about burden, vision, and mission but we now change direction toward putting things to work. For leaders to create movement from the present reality toward the future vision, the intentional creation of a strategic plan for change is needed. And, there are plenty of good, solid theories about how change takes place. However, when it comes to Churches, they have a unique and spiritual design. This happens because of the focus of the church is on worshipping God and making disciples. The goals of the church are different than that of other non-profit or profit organizations.
How should Churches proceed? Well, the first step forward has been created in the previous two chapters. Prayer, carrying a burden, speaking with other leaders and creating a shared vision, understanding the resources available, and the size of the task have all been important pieces of change. First, let’s look at Scripture and its encouragement to planning as a wise endeavor if we seek to keep God first.
- “Grant thee according to thine own heart, and fulfill all thy counsel.” (Psalm 20:4)
- “Good understanding giveth favor: but the way of transgressors is hard.” (Proverbs 13:15)
- “The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way: but the folly of fools is deceit.” (Proverbs 14:8)
- “The simple believeth every word: but the prudent man looketh well to his going.” (Proverbs 14:15)
- “Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established.” (Proverbs 16:3)
- “The thoughts of the diligent tend only to plenteousness, but of every one that is hasty only to want.” (Proverbs 21:5)
- “For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?” (Luke 14:28)
- “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:15-18)
- “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.” (James 4:14-15)
So, what is a strategic plan? Basically, it is a tool for keeping an organization focused on whatever is considers to be its vision and mission. For churches, this is making disciples. Helping individuals and families follow Jesus is our great commission. It is easy to become distracted, and the main thing is no longer the main thing. It helps a group become aligned in their particular gift sets, personalities, and the resources accessible to them. It is the road map between the present reality of the organization to the preferred future.
Developing a Strategy
What does the strategic plan include? Well, that will be different depending on the congregation. It’s not that the goals are different (each church should be trying to fulfill the great commission) and it is certainly not that God is different anywhere else. He is always the same. What is different is the people, who have each been created with their own gifting. The resources available to that group is also different. However, each congregation has equal access to the Holy Spirit, and none should be paralyzed by the thought of the impossible.
The strategy begins with an understanding of where the organization is currently. SWOT is a useful tool to analyze with, and surveys can help leaders gauge where the organization stands. Some of my personal favorite surveys have focused on church health. Church health surveys, in my opinion, are more geared toward the dynamics of ministry rather than church growth perspectives. The ABC’s of church growth (Attendance, buildings, and cash flow) have their place in helping a church understand what it available to it but can mislead leaders and volunteers to lose their way. A church health focus helps a church stay centered on impacting lives for eternity.
From this point, leaders can then create the actions steps as they feel the Spirit leading. With the end in mind, the leaders will typically plan for where they envision and desire for the organization to be in ten years. At this point, return to thinking about one year out. What action steps will you need to be taking in one year to aim towards the ten-year goal? You can either go year by year or even look at every couple of months. However, I will look at just another year for example. You can put new goals for that year, but there is another perspective that needs to thought of in each subsequent year. That is the progression of the previous year’s actions. If your organization keeps practicing the previous benchmarks behaviors, what will be the results? It is important to keep evaluating and realigning along the way. We will see this in the next chapter of Nehemiah.