The Basic Essentials of Christian Leadership
Module 4 : Strategy, Planning and Communication
Getting Started          

Prince Frederick, Duke of York, was a Commander-in-Chief of the British Army.
His one command was the Flanders Campaign of 1793–4, which resulted in the heavy defeat of his army at the Battle of Tourcoing (1794). 
The following rhyme has been written about him

Oh, The grand old Duke of York,
He had ten thousand men;
He marched them up to the top of the hill,
And he marched them down again.

And when they were up, they were up,
And when they were down, they were down,
And when they were only half-way up,
They were neither up nor down.

The Duke has been given a mission - to defeat the French.
But he had no clear strategy or action plan. 
The result was confusion and a failed mission.



Today children laugh at the story of the Grand Old Duke of York.
But sadly many organizations/churches have no clear strategy or action plans. 
If they do, often the people within the church/ organization do not know what they are!

A strategy involves setting achievable goals to bring into reality the vision God has given you.
Your Action Plan is how you intend achieve these goals.  
If vision is about divine inspiration, strategy and planning are about human perspiration!

Vision rarely changes and this is also true of strategy. 
To change these in mid flow causes confusion and a sense of lack of direction  
Action plans may change from time to time to adapt to changing circumstances as you seek to accomplish the vision God has given you

Accomplishing vision always requires innovation and change.  

Strategy is about setting specific goals (targets/objectives)
  Why Goals are Essential 4.3    
     toomanypriorities 1) They move you on... from just discussing.

‘Three monkeys are sitting on the branch of a tree - 2 are discussing jumping off - how many are left on tree?'

Many people answer 'one monkey'.
But the other two are only discussing jumping off – they have not jumped off. 
Having a vision on its own achieves nothing.
It needs to be implemented.

2) They make the seemingly impossible... become possible.

'How do you eat an elephant?'  

This seems impossible.  But the answer is:  'piece by piece'

How does a lion catch an antelope? The lion does not chase all the antelopes in the herd,  but focuses on one antelope. 

By agreeing and setting goals, accomplishing the vision is broken down into realistic-sized chunks. 

  • Only try to achieve one or at most 2 goals at a time.
  • Once a goal is achieved, then replace it with a new goal towards implementing your vision.

If everything has been made a priority, little is achieved. 





Implementing a vision is like going on a journey.  You are starting in one place hoping to get to a new place.

Goals are like bus stops on the way.

If you are setting out on a journey, it is always good to know where you are starting from! And that is important when setting goals.  One way to help you identify the starting place of your church/organization before you go on your journey is to ask these two questions:


  • What strengths does your organization/church have?
  • What weaknesses does your organization/church have?


Many churches grind to a halt at this point because they realize that they have few resources such a lack of money, only old people in their congregation etc.  
This is where leadership is required. 


Theodore Roosevelt who was president of the USA in the early 20th century once wrote:

       ‘Do what you can, with what you have, where you are’. 

That is what God is calling us to do.          



It is always good to make good progress at the start of any journey and this is also true of implementing vision.
So when setting your first goals, choose goals that will encourage your people.

  • Select goal(s) that will bring the most immediate impact and have the greatest obvious benefit
  • Select goal(s) that people have a passion for and you feel you can realistically be achieved without opposition        


Your goals may relate to change in one or more of the following depending on the vision God has given you:

  • Worship
    (including new style of worship at church services/times of services/greater priority given to prayer meetings/ how gifts of the spirit are exercised within church services etc)
  • Discipleship
    (including new discipleship courses, different approaches to preaching etc)
  • Evangelism
    (including new initiatives, new target groups to evangelise, social action projects in community etc)
  • Fellowship
    (identifying and meeting fellowship needs in church – small groups, men and women groups, sharing resources, caring for the sick etc etc)
  • Building projects to cope with church growth
    (including church plants etc)
  • Values in church
    (including our attitude to each other (‘the one another’s’ discussed in module 3) and the empowering of church members (delegation etc)
  • Training for ministry
  • Increase of finances

  Core Features of an Effective Goal             4.7    

Leaders are human and most fear failure.
Therefore, the temptation is to make goals vague and have no time limit. 
Then, if anything goes wrong, leaders can wriggle out of these goals and replace them with different goals.

But effective leaders who are called to introduce change need courage and their goals have the following features:

  • Specific
    Goals must be specific. Nehemiah’s goal was to rebuild the walls (Nehemiah 2:7)
  • Measurable
    You should be able to measure progress towards your goal just as you can measure progress on a journey. Nehemiah could measure progress on this project (Nehemiah 4:6)
  • Attainable
    The task may not be easy but with God it is attainable.  Nehemiah checked out what was involved before telling the people about the project (Nehemiah 2:11-15)
  • Relevant
    The goal must be a stepping stone to achieving the vision which   was to restore the honour of God’s name (Nehemiah 1:9)
  • Time bound
    You must have a target date to achieve the goal. When writing this on line training course, I gave myself a target date by which to complete it.

I suspect that Nehemiah beat his target time as he completed the task in just 52 days. (That is quick for any building project!)

The easy way
       to remember this
              is by realising
                     that a goal's core features should be  




       "We hope that our church will grow in the future "

Why is this not a SMART goal? 
Think of a least 3 reasons.



You need to plan to reach each goal.  Planning is about the specific activities required to achieve a desired goal. It normally involves writing things down and ticking them off as each aspect of the plan is completed.



Nehemiah must have been planning as otherwise he would not have known what to ask the King in Nehemiah 2:7-8.  See 2 Chronicles chapters 2 to 4 for detailed planning

Planning is the stage you move from talking about doing something and actually doing it.   Plans should be SMART in same ways that gaols are SMART (see above).   As part of planning process, ask others who have had similar plans where they struggled and what worked.  As they say ‘there is no point in reinventing the wheel’    



Why some leaders do not Plan  


'Plans take too much time to prepare'

'If I make a plan - there is no turning back'

'If I make a plan - people can measure how I am progressing against the plan and therefore how I am doing'




What might be some of the reasons for leaders using the above excuses for not planning? 



The advantages of Planning 

  • You do not miss anything that needs to be in plan
  • You feel in control and can monitor progress
  • It is encouraging as you start to tick off things done
  • Reduces stress as everyone knows what is going on and why
  • Helps manage money



Things rarely go exactly to plan. 
The path may be straight but paths can have potholes!  
                                                          [Proverbs 3:5-6]
Plans may need adapting as you progress towards a goal.


But remember that things are rarely as good or as bad as they seem.

         "Is the glass half empty.... or half full?"


  A Key to Overcoming Opposition      

Opposition to change

Vision and goal setting involves change.   And in any group, some people, embrace change while others either play the ‘wait and see’ game or simply oppose change


    You may know churches that fall into one of the 4 categories below:      
    Frustrated church
Congregation wants change
Pastor does not want change
Dynamic church
Congregation wants change
Pastor wants change 
    Static church
Congregation does not 
want change
Pastor does not want change
Unsettled church
Both pastor and congregation wants change... but different type of change! 


People oppose change for a number of reasons including:

  • Bad experience of previous changes
  • Fear of unknown
  • Fear of failure
  • Concern about loss of something that is valued (old traditions etc)
  • Complacency (why change  - everything is OK)
  • Lack respect of judgment of leader


When people oppose change, they will say things like:

  • "It is not the right time"
  • "We tried it before"
  • "We do not have the time"
  • "We need more information"
  • "Let’s set up a committee"


Nehemiah faced opposition:

  • Apathy   [Neh:3:5]
  • Anger   [Neh 4:1a]
  • Ridicule   [Neh 4:1b
  • Criticism   [Neh 4:2-3]
  • Fight   [Neh 4:8]


Good communication facilitates change


Poor communication leads to confusion and gossip. Good communication helps people embrace change.  Here are some helpful hints on good communication:



1. Be patient

Do not communicate anything until you are sure that the vision is from God and you have an outline strategy on how to reach the vision.
See Nehemiah Chapters 1 and 2

Give people time to reflect on the changes before implementing change

2. Prepare your communication carefully
    Follow the ‘C’’s of good communication

  • Be clear about what you are sharing
  • Be concise. 
    This will help you to be clear
  • Explain causes for change in a coherent way
  • Be correct. 
    It is important that all you share is right and it does not need later clarification which  causes confusion
  • Be courteous in the way you communicate 


3. Communicate first to those who influence others

These people will often be in leadership positions within the church, so that is natural approach to take anyway. 

4. Recognise people are different

Some people embrace change quickly and are enthusiastic about it. Some people will always resist change. If you communicate well, the middle group of the ‘wait and see’ people will start embracing the vision

5. Be a person who genuinely listens

Listen to concerns and objections.  The vision given to you by God will not change but you may decide to adjust the strategy to achieve the vision after listening to people. 

Listening involves:

  • Letting other people talk without interruption
  • Focusing on people talking to you with your eyes, positive body language and no distractions
  • Keeping an open mind to what they are saying
  • Clarifying anything you do not understand by asking questions


6. Do not over promise
it is better to 'under-promise' and 'over-deliver'

The book of Jude speaks of leaders who are like wandering stars - like the bright shooting stars you see in the sky. They promise much but then disappear and are forgotten.  We have all seen leaders like this.  Do not over promise. Acknowledge that the way may not always be easy. Remember the quote of Winston Churchill at the end of Module 3.

7. Reinforce the vision
An ideal opportunity for this is when giving sermons and at meetings.

8. Remind people what the vision is
Tell stories about how you are moving towards fulfilling the vision.
[Joshua 24:1-13]

9. Walk the talk
People follow what they see much more than what they hear.  Make sure your behaviour is consistent with your vision.
[Nehemiah 4:23]




Poor communication is almost always identified as the number one problem in any organisation.  Using the checklist above, review your communication skills. Are there ways you can improve? 


Some Quotes      

'The journey of 1000 miles begins with just one step’ Chinese Proverb


‘It is not by strength than one prevails’  [1 Samuel 2:9]


‘By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail’ Benjamin Franklin (Founding Father of the USA)


‘Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed’ [Proverbs 15:22]


‘The plans of the diligent lead to reward as surely as haste leads to poverty’ [Proverbs 21:5] 


‘Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.’  Winston Churchill 


'Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground.'  Franklin D. Roosevelt (President of the USA 1933-1944)



Biblical Models and Questions                 

Read Nehemiah Chapters 1 to 6.

What does this passage have to say to you about


  • Vision
  • Strategy
  • Planning
  • Communication
  • Facing discouragement/opposition




You can now move onto Module 5:

                Team Building