I Love It When a Plan Comes Together

The initial public draft of the OCA’s Strategic (or “Stragetic” if you prefer) Plan is now available.

I’ve not yet given it more than a cursory skim, but this looks like good stuff, if a bit too expansive for now. (Health screening programs? As a national initiative? Hmmm.) Individuals may disagree with the details of a particular plan, but actually having one is critical to the success of a project. Absent a plan, multiple visions compete for resources and attention, leading to division, disorganization, and stagnation.

Plans within institutional Church life, though, come together only slowly, and with great effort. A plan that originates with a single person (even if he’s the priest or a charismatic leader within the parish) is almost certainly doomed to failure, for it is in the collaboration, conversation, prayer, and effort of multiple people that a common vision emerges. This is a big distinction between Church planning and, for example, business planning. The latter is absolutely hierarchical (the boss with the bucks sets direction, for good or ill, based on what he chooses to fund and initiate), while the Church has to exist cooperatively. I’m not suggesting that the Church isn’t hierarchical, but the Church’s understanding of hierarchy is not identical with the world’s understanding of it. We know how well clerical directives given without lay support work out. This is not unexpected. Christ uses no compulsion or worldly might to draw men and women to himself, so we can’t expect his bride, the Church, to use those devices, either.

The distinction between a would-be visionary and the real thing is that the latter not only casts a vision, but also initiates the shared work of crafting a plan to bring it about by defining our human part of the cooperation between man and God. Plans crafted by individuals and then handed down as mandates are not visionary, but are, rather, coercive.

In the case of this particular draft, I’m greatly encouraged that a real SWOT analysis (Strengths/Weaknesses/Opportunities/Threats) was done, with the frank results appearing in this document. We always find it easy to hear our strengths and to talk about our opportunities, but speaking of weaknesses or real threats is a lot harder. An honest plan, though, must carefully weigh the downsides of (in)action and take them into consideration. Otherwise, it’s not an honest plan, but a “pie in the sky” plan.

I find it interesting that leadership development and a vision of theological education both found their way into this draft. I applaud the planning committee for focusing on ministerial priorities rather than organizational change, as noted explicitly in the cover letter.

I’ll have more to say about the plan after a more careful reading. All OL readers are encouraged to give it a look and add their comments below.