Leadership Lessons from a Pandemic: The Responsive Approach to Strategy

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The final part in a series on wisdom gleaned from COVID-19.

We all know the saying, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Effective pastors and leaders not only preach and teach the Bible well and shepherd those under their care; they also lead strategically. Strategic planning has become a significant part of church leadership, which is a good thing.

But events like a global pandemic have the tendency to upset the apple cart of our strategy. What do we do? Do we throw our hands up in despair, hold on as best we can till this is over, and then reinstitute our plans? I don’t think so. What God is doing matters more than our plans.

The Question to Ask

The wrong question is to ask how to save our plan or keep our strategy intact. The better question is how should we respond in a way that keeps us moving forward on mission? How can we walk with God through the events of our time?

Here’s what many were doing before the pandemic: We would develop a strategy and work feverishly to implement it. It’s not unlike developing a business model or plan and implementing it. This approach became an important part of church life as part of what I call the “rise of the evangelical entrepreneur,” utilizing sound principles from outside the church to help the church fulfill her mission. People like Peter Drucker and others helped church leaders learn how to be effective in areas like strategy.

That’s not a bad way of doing things in a normal context where life is somewhat predictable and we can plan confidently regarding the near future. We are not in that space right now. The pandemic has broken out with a ferocity that is causing massive suffering.

As much as we would like to imagine life without COVID-19 and a return to life just as it was before March 2020, that’s …

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