Best practices are specific, discrete ministry activities that measurably increase program scale, effectiveness, and/or efficiency, and can be replicated by other National Ministries. Best practices should be supported by evidence (data).
Developing a strategic plan is a time-intensive process that demands deep engagement but results in a clear direction for your organization.
Strategy is about choices – you choose a vision, a mission, you choose how to engage in the world to accomplish your mission, you choose what activities to pursue and which to pass up, you choose how to raise and allocate funding, you choose how to deliver your services…and so much more. Conducting the research and holding the discussions that lead to strategy decisions sharpen your organizational focus and develop an intentionality for your ministry.
Your strategic plan then becomes the lens through which your organization makes decisions; if an activity does not align with the mission and vision, then it is not pursued.
A strategic plan also helps you:
A strategic plan normally has a lifespan of three-five years.
The first step is determining who will be involved in developing a strategic plan. The board of the organization will drive the process but invite other stakeholders to speak into it – employees, beneficiaries, partners, donors, consultants, etc.
There are five stages in strategic planning: analysis of the current state, defining the future state, determining goals and objectives, implementation and evaluation.
The process and outputs should be documented, below is an example of sections to include in your strategic plan.
It is important that the strategic plan be a living document that is regularly reviewed. The strategic plan should be used as your guide for annual planning.
1. Human Resources
This issue of Touchstone, highlighting the Best Practice of Strategic Planning, comes to you during our Holy Week. With shouts of Hosanna still ringing in our ears, we read well-worn Scriptures to remember Jesus – the Living Word – as He shares his last meal with His disciples; is betrayed, arrested, unjustly help captive, beaten and sentenced to death; as He is crucified for our sake; and yes, as He rises.
This Easter finds us in the middle of a world torn apart by conflict. The war in Ukraine is top of mind, given that one side is a nuclear power. But conflict is spread across the world. The Global Conflict Tracker of the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations lists war in Afghanistan, the North Korea crisis, U.S.-Iran confrontation, tensions in the East China Sea and territorial disputes in the South China Sea as critical. The civil wars in Syria, Sudan and Libya; instability in Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt, Venezuela; Boko Haram in Nigeria; the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; the Rohingya Crisis in Myanmar; destabilization of Mali; violence in the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo; and the conflicts in Ethiopia and Nagorno-Karabakh are also monitored by the council.
Our fellowship spans the globe. No continent on which we operate is free of violence, conflict or the threat of conflict. Our work to share the Good News of the Prince of Peace to prisoners, their families and victims has both temporal and eternal repercussions. We know that our battle is not with flesh and blood. Our war is against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms, as the Apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians 6.
In medias res, Latin for ‘in the midst of things,’ is the practice of beginning a tale, epic or other narrative with a critical character or situation already in the heart of the action. The opening is an extension of previous events and will be developed in the telling of the tale. We certainly are in the midst of things this Easter. But our true war is not of this realm.
‘In the beginning,’ the first words of Genesis (Bereshit is the approximation of the Hebrew), may be one of the most recognized phrases in the history of mankind. But, this ‘beginning’ also opens in medias res. The creation of this realm in which our Heavenly Father places Adam and Eve is in a sense the second act of a great unfolding story, or the second book of a trilogy.
Before He created earth, we know a great battle had already taken place involving the rebellious heavenly beings, led by Lucifer. Like Adam and Eve before us, we are caught in this battle of the ages. We already know that the Alpha and Omega – our Creator – is, has and always will be One God, our Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible. We also know that Jesus has triumphed over death and offers us new life in Him – our Risen Lord. We know His victory marks the beginning of the end of this second book of the Trilogy. But we are still in the midst of things. And on our watch, we must be armed with spiritual armor so that we do not become prisoners of war and instead valiantly fight the Enemy with biblical rules of engagement.
As you develop (or refine) your strategic plan to effectively accomplish your mission, you will make many critical choices and set priorities. Your mission, vision and values will be unique to your ministry. Yet one thing is the same across our entire fellowship. While we are autonomous and multi-confessional, we are united in Jesus. In relationship. This is our hope and our strength.
The owner of the oldest Christian bookstore in the Middle East – a Jordanian who is descended from a Christian Bedouin tribe in the foothills east of the Jordan that have been the backdrop of battles for millennia – once said this:
When it spread to Rome, Christianity became an institution.
When it spread throughout Europe, it became a culture.
When it spread to America, it became a business.
But here, in the lands of the Bible, it is still about relationship.
Institutions, culture and business can be good and necessary things. Certainly helpful in accomplishing missions. But relationship trumps them all. We serve a God who is Relationship – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. As you develop your strategic plans, may they be rooted in Relationship. To God. To your staff. To your volunteers. To our fellowship. To the very prisoners, families of prisoners and victims you seek to serve.
Surely your plans established in relationship will not fail.
Early Easter blessings,
‘Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.’ – Proverbs 16:3
‘Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.’ — Philippians 2:6-11 (ESV)
‘For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.’ – Ephesians 6:12