I have probably written as many strategies as anyone in the Mission. That is not meant to be my badge of honor, but rather a confession of misdirected intentions and actions.
An innate element of my missiological thinking insists strategies are essential to good missionary work. I believe it, have practiced it, and to some degree, probably try to impose it on others. Needless to say, this has led to some real frustrations, disappointments, and at times, disillusionment.
It was in 2008, in France, I had an epiphany related to strategy development and implementation. We had an excellent team. They were young, enthusiastic, and looking for some direction from us older missionaries (meaning me and Lynette who were a mere 58 at that time).
With good intentions, we went about developing a long and extremely detailed strategy to minister to North African immigrants coming into southern France. During this process I came to realize they wanted a strategy, but were not getting into this long, long, long document.
It became painfully evident to me that most of the long (see very long) strategies I helped develop throughout my years of service, were not worth the paper they were written on. Missionaries affected by the strategies did not have a buy in. The strategies were perceived as too cumbersome, complex, and simply unappealing. A recipe for rejection in most situations!
This pushed us forward in a whole new direction. An expression we used in Africa fits snuggly here. We often said, “Don’t make complicated that which is not complicated.”
We set about developing a simplified strategy. One we could easily understand, agree on, and pursue with passion.
We believed God had a plan for our team and we desired to discover it, embrace it, and execute it.
Jeremiah 29:11—For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (ESV)