by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 9/17/15.
A former student told how a congregant abused the power of “vision” to push through an idea that was not in the best interest of the church. The student wished there could be a way to prevent persuasive forecasters from selling the church on ideas, that though they may look good in a vision, in reality are not good for the church.
Here is his observation with some comments on how to evaluate such persuasive vision-casters:
Dear Dr. Whitesel, For years ____church name___ has debated two issues. Do we build an elevator or remodel the kitchen? The elevator ended up being built. I remember how it all went down. A board member gave a vision statement of why we needed an elevator and painted a picture of the future of our church and how an elevator would benefit us. The board unanimously voted in favor and the elevator was built.” Sincerely, ___Name of Student___
I reminded the student about how we learned about a “Quantitative Strategic Planning Matrix” (QSPM). Basically this is an exercise (via a grid) through which we can measure numerically which of several tactics (e.g. an elevator for a church, a kitchen remodel or teaching English as a second language) will best help a church attain a vision that is based upon a SWOT.
Basically, with a vision statement and accompanying SWOT analysis, the student could then create a Quantitative Strategic Planning Matrix (QSPM) and numerically compared the two strategies (elevator or remodel a kitchen).
See Figure 5.8 (Smith, et. al. 2011, p. 100, click to enlarge) to see a QSPM for a church that was comparing its options of either relocating or starting a new service.
From this figure, I think you can see that in the ecclesial world we often lack knowledge about management tools, such as a QSPM, that would allow our leaders to make better choices regarding programming. Usually churches make decisions about programming based upon the four Ps: Proximity (a church nearby tried this program and it worked), Popularity (a new program is so popular that your church wants to try it), Propensity (a leader in the church has a propensity, or partiality for a program), or Persuasiveness (of the presenter – and what happened in this case).
All of these ways to choose a strategy would be criticized in the business world as nothing more than hunches. This is why many of our lay leaders, who are successful business people, are bothered by our cavalier attitude to tactic selection. If they’ve taken business courses in undergrad or graduate school, they are already familiar with a QSPM. And thus they often wonder how we can lead such an important organization as the church without an understanding a basic principles of planning such as a QSPM.
Sometimes students struggle with using a Quantitative Strategic Planning Matrix (QSPM) and think, “this looks too complicated, I don’t think I will use it.” But, it is a great exercise for a leadership retreat. A QSPM can give an actual rating (a number) whereby you can compare two worthy ideas and see which one better matches up with your vision.
Now, you don’t need to use a QSPM every time you have a new idea. But, when there two competing ideas (like in the story by the student above) then it is best to use a QSPM and get an actual numerical comparison. It can take the emotional vision-persuasion elements out of important decisions and make these decisions more balanced.