When beginning to plan there may be some key ‘in principle’ decisions to make, decisions that will be strategic, and will affect how a plan is implemented and what the final outcome will look like. What do I mean by ‘strategic’?
For me strategic decisions are those that have added value or affect the quality of the outcomes. For instance, when Nehemiah first heard of the news about the walls of Jerusalem being broken down his first action was not to contact an architect or to phone the suppliers of building materials. Rather, he saw that there was a fundamental problem that had brought about the situation – the rebellion of Israel (Neh 1:7). Until that was dealt with any plan he would be implementing would be on an insecure foundation. So his first strategic decision was to wait on God and repent for the sin of the nation.
Another strategic decision was taken by Jesus as he fed the 5000. He could have distributed the food on his own but saw that to do so through the disciples would increase their faith. Thus, by delegating this task, value was added to the activity.
When beginning to plan it is helpful to identify any such ‘added value’ issues that must be taken into account as planning proceeds. Planning is not just about organising some event or ministry efficiently. It is also about maximising the potential benefits of both the event and the process to achieve it.
The next key issue is about imparting vision. This may come at different stages in the overall planning process but must not be missed. Once again, let’s see what Nehemiah did.
After he had told King Artaxerxes about his plans and got the king’s blessing, support and considerable resources (Neh 2:7-8) Nehemiah went to Jerusalem and inspected the walls that were broken down. He had probably never been to Jerusalem before (he grew up in Suza in Persia, which was hundreds of miles from Jerusalem) so it was wise not to arrive in the city and announce his plans without first assessing the size of the task. However, once he had done so, and presumably felt the ‘green light’ from God, he gathered the leaders and shared his thoughts and plans. Then, in Neh 2:17 he said ‘Come, let us build the wall….’ It appears that he did not get a very warm response as he then went on in v18 to justify his exhortation by telling them of how the hand of God had been upon him for good. On the strength of that testimony they reversed the situation and started exhorting him to build! They said ‘Let us arise and build’.
Ownership is a vital part of any activity, particularly if others are to be involved either practically or financially. And this needs to happen at the start.
I have been involved in several building projects. In each one we have been careful to keep the people very fully informed so that they can pray and travel the journey with the leaders – often including great financial sacrifice, or rather, ‘storing up treasure in heaven’. To undervalue the importance of this step will inevitably lead to discouragement and disenchantment among the people.