The effective church or Christian ministry will focus on three time horizons simultaneously:
- Taking care of current responsibilities, extending and defending the core existing ministries.
For example, a local church will have existing ministries relating to pastoral care, children, Sunday morning meetings, etc.
- Building emerging ideas, strategies and processes. These are budding ministries that are not yet running at full speed. These initiatives need attention to build them up to be effective and fruitful. Some of these will become core processes in the future – especially when some of the old core ministries are fulfilled or lose their focus.
For example, a local church may have begun a new small group strategy that is just starting to become effective.
- Planting seeds for tomorrow. Healthy organizations encourage creativity and innovation for the long term. Not all of these seeds will bring forth an abundant harvest so a variety of initiatives need to be carried forward together. We must listen to the Holy Spirit – He knows everything about the future!
For example, a local church may be praying and learning about how to send out missionaries in the future.
This pattern encompasses the mature, emergent and embryonic phases of an organization’s life cycle.
The top leader must ensure that the right people focus on the right horizons. The gifts and callings required to manage current responsibilities, to develop new strategies and to search out viable future directions are widely different from one another:
- Taking care of present responsibilities (the first horizon) requires effective managers.
- Developing emerging strategies (the second horizon) require builders – the typical “entrepreneurs” or leader-managers who can realistically connect long-range vision with the necessary daily realities of the organization.
- The identification and creation of viable future opportunities (the third horizon) requires lateral thinkers and visionaries.
How to Improve
The following are some practical ways that you can improve in this area of leadership:
- Make a list of every task you are responsible for. About each one, ask yourself, “Why am I doing it this way? Why am I doing this at all? Can this task be done better? Does it need to be done at all? Should someone else be doing it?”
- Regularly ask your leaders, “What specific action did you take last week to improve your effectiveness this week?” When you ask, be ready to give your own answer to this same question. Do this several weeks in a row so they know you are serious about it.
- When you have leadership meetings, devote significant time (at least 25%) to improving processes and developing new ideas. In addition, spend significant time waiting on God for Him to reveal His vision (Acts 13:2).
- Ask your people what really annoys them about the organization. Change the most frequently mentioned items that hinder effectiveness. Be sure to fix any processes that are identified as broken. Also, stop doing anything that is identified as being unnecessary.
- Cultivate a positive attitude toward your people. Intentionally look for the good things in them, the potentials.
- Look for ideas. Visit churches or ministries that are effective in the specific areas you are weak in.
- Try something new. Do it on a small scale first, learn from it, then try again.
- Reward those who take risks. Affirm them publicly. Give them the opportunity to talk about their experiences and share what they have learned.
- Read biographies about God’s “revolutionaries” – those who challenged the status quo and birthed great new things. Learn from them.
- Review your own vision. Identify “three horizons” in your own ministry. Please be specific.
The leader is responsible to see that all three horizons are addressed effectively. If any one of them is ignored there will be problems. If the current, core responsibilities are neglected then there will be no tomorrow. But if the future horizons are neglected, sooner or later the organization will become irrelevant.