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If you’re like every leader I know, your day-to-day decisions are driven by either plans or opportunities. Consider the differences…

Plan-Driven Leaders…

  • Think long-term
  • Use past experience and research to make decisions for the future
  • Eliminate surprises to keep everyone focused
  • Value consistency and stability
  • Focus on the details
  • Often complain that, “This church can’t ever see anything through.”

Opportunity-Driven Leaders…

  • Think short-term
  • Use a vision for the future to make decisions for the future
  • Embrace surprises as a chance to be creative
  • Value innovation and new approaches
  • Focus on the big picture
  • Often complain that, “This church doesn’t leave any room for God to show up.”

The strongest ministry teams include people from each end of the spectrum. But when both approaches collide, conflict is sure to develop…and it quite often does. Great team leaders operate out of this collision of perspective. They know how to value and leverage both perspectives on their team.  So what does it look like to lead from the collision of plan and opportunity? These three steps can help you get started:

  1. Use established plans as the filter for new opportunities.

    It’s important to distinguish direction from distraction. When a new opportunity comes out of nowhere, evaluate it through the lense of where you’re planning to go. That’s hard to do if you’ve never developed a plan for your ministry. Make sure your team takes time to plan ahead strategically. Then filter in-the-moment opportunities by asking, “Does this get us further faster or take us somewhere we never intended to be?”

  2. Adjust existing plans. Don’t start from scratch.

    It’s easier to change a plan than to create a plan. One of the best ways you can be ready for any opportunity is to already have a plan in place. That plan can then be adjusted to take advantage of the unexpected. This helps everyone around you see that you are still leading in a consistent direction toward vision. Plan-oriented team members will appreciate this and get on board faster.

  3. Seize opportunities with the people and resources already aligned by your plans.

    Every opportunity requires some type of resource. Whether it is people, time, or money, it’s hard to take on something new without giving something up. Rather than burdening the organization with an additional project, find a way to utilize the resources already aligned by your existing plans. What budget line could be shifted to afford your new opportunity? What person or team already has the skills needed? Use the tools that existing plans provide to take advantage of the right opportunities.

On your own it is nearly impossible to lead from the collision of planning and opportunity. Every individual has a natural gifting in one of these areas. Most senior pastors lead from a focus on opportunity. That is their sweet spot and they don’t need to move. At the same time, I know many church leaders who are frustrated by new opportunities because their plans are disrupted. They have a perspective that is equally valuable. Embrace the collision of plans and opportunities and take advantage of the diversity that exists on your team.

Tony Morgan

Tony is the Founder and Lead Strategist of The Unstuck Group. Started in 2009, The Unstuck Group has served 500 churches throughout the United States and several countries around the world. Previously, Tony served on the senior leadership teams of three rapidly growing churches including NewSpring Church in South Carolina. He has five published books including, The Unstuck Church, and, with Amy Anderson, he hosts The Unstuck Church Podcast which has thousands of listeners each month.

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