Creative LeadershipStrategy & Marketing

Why Strategy Matters

There’s a number of people and companies that deal with “strategy” – “Strategic Planning, Strategy Consultants, and more. But what is it, and does it really matter?  The word came into the English language around 1810, and by contrast, “tactics” came into use 200 years earlier. People had discussed “tactics,” but it wasn’t until 1810 that Carl Von Clausewitz began using it in battle.  It began with 3 basic steps:

1)  Figure out where you are (Point A).

2) Decide where you want to be (Point B).

3) Create a plan to get from A to B.

Incredibly simple, but it’s surprising how few people – particularly in media actually take the time to consider those steps and come up with the best solution.  If you’re involved in communicating a message, then you need to understand how it works.

Here’s why it matters:  Having a plan to reach your audience with the right message is critical.  Whatever the challenge is that you’re facing – the strategy (or lack of it) that got you in this sorry situation, won’t be the same strategy that gets you out.   I’ve used the quote before on this blog:  “When you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is to stop digging.”

But I’m shocked at the number of people that just keep doing the same thing year after year as if the direction of the ministry, audience numbers, response, income – whatever, will magically change.   But getting from point A to point B doesn’t happen by accident.  It happens through a well thought out plan.

And by the way – when it comes to churches – changing graphics, cool music, lighting effects, or dumping the choir robes isn’t a strategy.  That’s just re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic.   You need a fundamental re-think of what story your church or ministry is trying to tell, what that means to your audience, how to connect with that audience, and why it’s absolutely urgent they respond right now.

Figure it out, because your future may be hanging on it.

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  1. Make no mistake about it, abandoning our need to control is one of the hardest things any adult Christian must do.

    If we care about people, we get really upset when we see them willfully seeking pain, anger and conflict when they could have joy.  I sympathize with church leaders who attempt to be controlling.  Most do it for the best of reasons.

    Admitting to ourselves that attempts to control others stem from egotism is hard.  Quitting is pretty hard too. 

  2. As martial artists, we tend to think of strategy as a the path to the goal.  Tactics are the steps.  Different systems tend to employ different strategies to the same goals.  More experienced martial artists have a larger repertoire of strategies and the capacity to abruptly change strategies at the split instant it becomes apparent another strategy would be more effective.

    Much of training consists of rehearsing tactics over and over again, until the tactics become as natural as using silver ware to consume a meal.  Strategy is a more complex mixture of reasoning skills and education. The tendency to select appropriate goals is a product of character development.

    Most ministries are organizations.  The leader must select the goal and articulate the strategy.  S/he may develop the goal and strategy through a group dynamic, but the leader bears responsibility for choosing the goal and explaining the strategy to the team.  The team must understand the goal and the strategy, so each member of the team can use tactics that are consistent with the goal and strategy. 

    It is reasonable for a leader who has failed to explain the goal and tactics to the team to live in terror that the team will foul up.  This fear lends itself to a myriad of dysfunctional group dynamics.  Many leaders could break free of these problems if the realized why they were afraid.  A simple team meeting would free the leader from fear and release the team from their angry frustration.  The team could focus on deploying appropriate tactics, and the leader could focus on monitoring the efficacy of the current strategy. 

    If an abrupt strategy change would be advisable, the leader would be both confident and vigilant, in the perfect state of mind to redirect the team's activities.


  3. PS:

    von Clausewitz




    Sun Tzu


    Miyamoto Musashi


    Two things:

     When I reached thirty I looked back on my past. The previous victories were not due to my having mastered strategy. Perhaps it was natural ability, or the order of heaven, or that other schools' strategy was inferior. After that I studied morning and evening searching for the principle, and came to realize the Way of strategy when I was fifty.

    Since then I have lived without following any particular Way. Thus with the virtue of strategy I practice many arts and abilities –

                                                                                        Miyamoto Musashi


    These books are about strategy.  The Bible is about character.  Study the Bible in order to understand how to select appropriate goals.  


  4. Amen, Phil. 

    My head hurts from banging it against a wall regarding this issue.

    Your world is outreach.  Mine is raising support for that outreach.  You reach for the unsaved.  I need to appeal to "the choir".

    A ministry that is going to be successful in building a media outreach needs a strategy that does both –if it is to pay for itself.   Not easy.  Not done without a very careful strategy in both message and channel.

    Change for the sake of change is not the answer.  It all comes down to testing, measuring, and caring what the viewer/donors are saying to you.  They vote with their dollars.  In church, they vote with their feet.  On TV, they vote with the remote.

    They want to be heard, for someone to care what their needs and desires are.  If your strategy does not embrace that, it will not work.

  5. The bible contains and dicusses strategies/systems/tactics as well as human and spiritual character. Book of Joshua (conquering Jericho, defeating Ai etc.), Judges (especially Gideon) David’s wars both before and after he became king of Israel, food provision of Joseph in Egypt before famine breakout was very strategic, Ephesians 6 and 2 Corinthians talk about the strategies/devices of the devil and his kingdom. Just a few points I believe portray strategy/ies in the bible – and yes, one can get other books for strategy or other purposes in line with what needs to be achieved – however the bible is great foundational source …

  6. Use of the Bible as the preeminent source cannot be emphasized enough. 

    There is little more disturbing than recognizing the strategies of Sun Tsu or Machiavelli untempered by Christian ethics.  It's creepy to observe, particularly in a supposedly "Christian" leader. 

    C.S. Lewis wrote that he found it profoundly unpleasant to design the character Screwtape and write from the demon's perspective.  Parts of these treatises on war remind me of this.

    Sun Tsu said "all war is based on deception."  Machiavelli stated "A wise ruler ought never to keep faith when by doing so it would be against his interests."  The Bible warns us  of satan "…He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.”  

    Some people won't study these works because they're afraid of the bad things in them.  Others place too much value on the advice these classics offer.  Both groups are equally guilty of failing to trust God.   If they placed God's Word and these works in their proper perspective, all would be well. 

  7. Phil and Elizabeth, great posts!

    We are all familiar with the five-fold callings, but man of war is also a calling of God.  It is just another part of his nature, as Exodus 15:3 says twice.  The warrior calling in Christianity is sort of veiled.

    Interestingly, the martial arts of Abraham, Samson and David may have survived in something called Russian Martial Arts (or Systema,) a practice preserved from at least the Tenth Century by Christian Russian Orthodoxy. 

    See: (for video clips from Toronto) (from Moscow-based Mikhail Ryabko) (James Williams of Encinitas, California)

    If you search YouTube for “Systema” you will perhaps see why it might have been possible for David to slay a hundred Philistines and Samson a thousand.  No technique is used twice in a row.  Everything is fluid.  The reliance is on the Holy Spirit to help movement be faster than one’s own thought processes, and even more importantly – faster than the opponents’ thought processes.

    Finally, one of the main goals in Systema is permanent damage to the ego.  The art teaches that to be egotistical in any fashion is to be blind and quite vulnerable to attack. 

    If a kind Systema teacher, and most of them I’ve met actually seem to be extraordinarily kind, sees pride in a student he will physically show that student the error of his or her way.  Sort of like the same way Jesus let Peter have it.  The same dynamic was in operation, the defeat of pride.

    Once pride is beat down, spiritual eyes and ears open and better options become available.

  8. Thank you very much for your intriguing post.  I know next to nothing about Russian martial arts – just the typical dojo hearsay.  You've given me something to study and reflect on, so I'm grateful.

  9. Personality driven church leaderships unconscious need for control always seems to override what is the right and quite possibly the most effective choice. They will say they want growth, yet in reality they just want to be the boss. More often than not these authoritarian style leaders hinder their own church growth.

    It is not uncommon for the pastor’s wife to gather together a team of people who have no real experience in fundraising to sit around for an hour or more to “guess” out a strategy.  No data is gathered and there is no research – just verbal guessing as to what may be effective.  Everyone gets pumped up because they now feel important and heck, this stuff must work since they saw it used on TBN.  The only real requirement to be included in the team is that the person will NOT be completely honest since the last thing leadership wants is the real truth. Even the selection of the team is a guessing game so several of the people chosen have no business being in a strategy meeting.  A time and productivity waster all around!

    Although a plan is made it really just sends the organization into busy mode wasting resources and time. If success happens it only is a result of the law of averages and luck.  A proper strategy crafted by professionals would not only save time and money it would achieve the desired results quicker.  Unless the desired result is to feed control issues than the ego would be bruised if a professional is consulted and Lord knows the King can’t have that.

    It always amuses me that church leadership will contract an accounting firm because they see the worth in hiring a professional for those tasks, yet when it comes to marketing most believe they are “gifted” so they chose to shoot themselves in the foot.  One pastor I know contracted a web designer and just told him to make the site. The designer lives in another state and has never been to this church. He is given no information at all yet instructed to make a “cutting edge” website. When I brought this up over dinner conversation the pastor said he didn’t have time and it was the web guy’s job anyway. I tried to explain the importance of a web presence and the ignorance in not giving the designer any direction or data, yet it fell on deaf ears. Another ministry I know sends out direct mail each month for two separate campaigns yet gives no information to the writer. The writer just guesses on content twice a month. Yup, true story. There is no strategy, no measuring effectiveness, and they continue to send out two mailings each month simply because “that is what ministries do”.  Even though the ineffectiveness and the amount of money wasted has been brought up in the past they continue on as is. Same with TV, thousands of dollars spent each week for a show that has no direction. It is just there and the correct decision is either to put resources into the show or get off the air. Of course, the occasional ego boost the pastor receives in public keeps the show on the air. The sad part is this is not just one ministry but many.

    Pride and ignorance don’t see themselves in the mirror. For the most part these are good men and women who are just blind. Can you just imagine how effective we could be if we had the courage to be completely honest with ourselves and became self-aware?

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