Retired Admiral Bruce Clingan is a highly decorated Navy admiral who joined the Youth for Christ USA team recently as the Senior Advisor. He will be leading Executive Leader Track discussions on the topic of strategic planning at five of our regional conferences.

Q.  Why is strategic planning important?

A.  Strategic planning enables you to move deliberately from where you are today to where you’d like to be in the future.  Typically a strategic plan covers the progress you’d like to make in the next 5 years toward a vision that might take you 20+ years to achieve.


Q. If we’re a small chapter, how should we think about strategic planning?

A. Strategic planning is important for every entity within our organization, regardless of size.  While the scope and complexity of a strategic plan may differ greatly between an Affiliate with one ministry site and a Chapter with 20, it is the eternal consequences of our mission that make developing and using a strategic plan an imperative for all of us. 

When you boil it down, our mission can be simply stated:

YFC reaches young people everywhere to raise up lifelong followers of Jesus Christ.

Reaching “all” young people “everywhere” can seem pretty daunting.  Strategic planning is a process that enables us to make deliberate progress in that direction, while appreciating that our mission is shared by the body of Christ - we do not have to do it entirely by ourselves, all at once.

Embracing this approach to our mission implies choices and gives rise to the first step in the planning process, which includes:  Map the human terrain of your mission field.  The human terrain is composed of the organizations and individuals that impact your ministry.  It includes local churches and other youth ministries working within your mission field to reach unsaved young people; civic and business leaders – both formal and informal – that are facilitators or impediments to your activities; and of course, the youth we aspire to evangelize and disciple.   Mapping the human terrain should account for every youth in your local mission field through their affiliations:  Schools, sports leagues, gangs, etc.  These affiliations are our access doors to unsaved youth – through these doors we can make them aware of YFC and can leverage the network within the affiliation to multiply involvement in our ministry models.

Taking the time to map the human terrain, and in particular to account for all the youth in your mission field, facilitates the work of the Holy Spirit.  Often I pray “Lord help me to discern your will, and if I am being insensitive, hit me with a 2x4 until I get it.”  Better to have all the groups on the table in advance of any decision about where to grow next, resulting in a single “choose this one” 2x4 episode, rather than needing an initial “put this group on the table” episode too!

Q: Ok so it sounds like Step 1 in the planning process is "Map the human terrain of your mission field." What comes next?

A. There’s a bit more to Step 1 in the strategic planning process.  It also includes examining the guiding principles and identifying the facts, assumptions, constraints (things we cannot do) and restraints (things we choose not to do) that should shape your plan. 

Step 2 involves rigorously determining what objectives you are called to achieve during the coming 5 years.  Again, we can facilitate the work of the Holy Spirit by developing a list of the factors that should be considered when choosing which group of unsaved youth to reach.  Some of these factors include:  Are those youth being reached by any other Christian entity; can the necessary volunteers be recruited; can those volunteers be equipped to effectively address the challenges distracting these young people from spiritual matters, within the context of our relational ministry; are there potential partners and donors; are there adversaries an

d impediments; etc.  Our prayers regarding which alternative to pursue can now be focused:  “Lord, have I identified all the factors that should be considered in making a decision among the alternatives?  Have I rigorously assessed each alternative across these factors and holistically differentiated the bad, good, better and best among them?  Where would you have us go, Lord...will you confirm the alternative our assessment indicates is best?”

Q. What would you say to a director who has created a strategic plan, but leaves it sitting on the shelf?

A.  A strategic plan also includes the critical tasks required to achieve the selected objectives, as well as who is responsible for accomplishing the tasks, the sequence of the tasks; and the resources required (man-hours, infrastructure, materiel, funds).  I commend all our Directors and the other leaders who have invested the time to develop a strategic plan, and would encourage them to garner the fruits of their labor by using it! 

The biblical inspiration to plan in Luke 14:28-30 (“...first sit down and count the cost...”) implies that we should be guided by that plan in order to avoid calamity.  More often than you might think, our leaders are experiencing ‘false starts’ on new initiatives because critical tasks in their plans have been overlooked; or are finding the ‘best’ objectives identified in their plan have been precluded by the diversion of scarce resources to emergent opportunities.  The intent is not to have a plan, it is to use a plan in order to help us accomplish our mission effectively and efficiently - to the glory of God!



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