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Strategic Mapping, Part II
By: Bill Easum

Strategic mapping is replacing strategic planning. What’s the difference?

Strategic planning is concrete and static. Once the plan is in effect, it is usually followed to the letter. Also, it is usually over a five-year period with an additional year added each year so that the plan remains five years into the future. Most strategic plans go on a shelf never to be seen again. 

Strategic mapping is fluid and open-ended. Think of it as a topographical map that explorers fill in as they traverse new terrain. They know where they started, where they are at the moment, and where they want to go.

Strategic mapping is not forecasting the future; rather, it is making certain today's decisions cause the future to happen the way you want it to. Also, keep in mind that topographical maps change as explorers develop more sophisticated equipment like the present Global Positioning System.  

Strategic mapping is like grabbing hold of an elephant. Where you grab hold is very important. All sorts of bad things can happen if you grab hold of an elephant in the wrong place or start strategic mapping without understanding the rules. Making this comparison results in the discovery of several rules used by successful strategic mappers.

Last month, I shared the first five rules…here are the remaining five.

Rule #6: Once on board, hold tightly to the elephant and do not attempt to discount while moving.
In the early years of my ministry, our research showed that the main need of our area was quality Christian child care, so we started a kindergarten class. Only four children enrolled the first two years. Some members wanted to end the ministry, but the leaders refused to blink. They knew the church had grabbed hold of the right part of the elephant, and they were insistent that everyone hold on one more year. The next year we replaced directors and 78 children enrolled. When I left the church 20+ years later, 700+ children were enrolled in our weekday child care.

Strategic mappers institute their plan on the basis of solid research rather than feelings or hunches.  Therefore, they don't give up or change direction at the first sign of trouble. Instead, they give their ideas a chance to develop. 
   
Has your strategic mapping team done its research? Does it know the needs of the community? Is it willing to see it through?

Rule #7: Only a few people can ride the elephant at the same time.
Seven people is the most productive strategic mapping team. The best combination of people is: two who have most recently joined the church, preferably for the first time in their life; two who are under 40; two who are over 50 and have been members of the church for some time; and the pastor. But, in all cases, they should exemplify solid character and wisdom.
      
How large is your strategic mapping team and what is the makeup of the members?

Rule #8: Do not ride the elephant too long.
The best strategic mapping today is done in much shorter intervals than a few years ago. Because of today's fast pace of change, three years into the future is considered long-term planning. Anything longer than that is often a waste of time. Of course, a vision of the future must be longer term. Even though your specific objectives are developed over a shorter time period, your overall vision goes well beyond a three year period.

Is your church able to begin working on its strategic map Monday morning?

Rule #9: Ignoring these simple rules can result in a camel ride.
"Camels are the work of a committee!" We’ve heard this joke so many times, it may not register anymore. But it’s still true. Churches that nominate and elect strategic mapping groups the same way they do other committees are usually disappointed with the lack of results. The best way to establish such a group is to select a leader and let that person put together a team of people who have the complementary visionary skills. Now you have the potential of having a team rather than a committee.

How strategic is your strategic map?

Rule #10: Regularly return to the elephant for another ride.
Regular evaluation is essential to successful strategic mapping. Detours are always experienced and new routes need to be discovered.  Neither does it matter how well something is working; it can always be improved so that it works better. The constant improvement of quality is essential in a fast-changing world. Without evaluation, things can quite working so fast that, by the time we realize it, they are out of control.

Does your planning team regularly evaluate the effectiveness of their work and are they willing to make the necessary changes even if the map is still working well?

Pastors interested in helping a stagnant church make radical change will find the book Teaching The Elephant To Dance by James A. Belasco helpful if they apply the principles to the church environment.

Bill Easum is president of 21st Century Strategies, Inc. a full-service church consulting group since 1987 whose mission is to equip Christian for global impact, www.churchconsultations.com.

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