Providence Will . . .

The deacons’ Providence 2025 Strategic Plan: Providence Will is now available electronically on our church website (www.providencebc.org/about-us) and, in paper form, in the Rotunda.  Adopted unanimously by the deacons at their March meeting, this strategic plan is the product of a year’s worth of praying, listening, talking, reading, writing, and revising that began with an invitation last August to Dream BIG.

And that’s exactly what we did.

Many, if not most, of you let your voices be heard as a part of this lengthy process, whether through church-wide forums, committee meetings, or conversations with the individual deacons who’ve served in the strategic planning ministry group.  Because we are Baptists and trust that the Holy Spirit speaks through every believer, this deacon ministry group made it a priority to invite all members of the Providence church family to share ideas about where God may be leading us as a congregation and what we need to do over the next eight years in order to be obedient to God’s leadership.  As an ex officio member of this deacon group, I am impressed with the sheer volume of response we’ve received.  Providence people have an abundance of opinions—and, happily, are willing to share them.  What we heard on multiple occasions, over a period of twelve months, from church members, committees, deacons, staff members, and others in leadership positions laid the foundation for this strategic plan.  In fact, every recommendation in this plan can be traced back to one of our congregational listening events.  Therein lies its strength.

Articulating a strategic plan is an arduous process, but I’m very glad that Providence makes this exercise a priority.  Moreover, our by-laws require our deacons, as servant leaders of the church, to produce such a plan at least once every eight years.  Not every church has a built-in mechanism for being intentional about discerning where and how the Holy Spirit is at work.  That’s a shame, because without these periods of deliberate praying and listening and clarifying, it is awfully hard to maintain a sense of holy, inspired direction—and, without such direction, most churches will neither live up to their God-given potential, nor make best use of their God-given resources.  The old chestnut holds true: If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.  I’m grateful for the wisdom of Providence leaders in years gone by who understood the necessity of being mindful, on a regular basis, of asking these essential questions: Where is God leading us?  And how might we get there?

That said, it’s important for us to understand what this particular strategic plan is intended to do: Clarify our priorities as a church for the next eight years and suggest practical steps we can take to align our missions and ministries with these priorities.  At one of the early meetings of the strategic planning group, Bob Gaskin hearkened back to his days in the Army to explain the difference between strategy and tactics.  “If the overall mission is to win the battle,” said Bob, “then part of the strategy might be to take this one, specific hill.  How the hill gets taken, though—do we attack from the right? from the left? with infantry? with cavalry?—is a matter of tactics for the commanders in the field to decide.”

I found Bob’s explanation to be enormously helpful.  As its name implies, this strategic plan is about strategy—that is, naming the specific “hills” we intend to focus our time and energy and resources upon over the next eight years.  The tactics we’ll use to take these strategic hills, however, will largely be determined by the various bodies of the church—committees, staff, deacons, coordinating council, and so forth—who’ve been given both the responsibility and the authority to make those decisions.  This flexible structure is by design.  Eight years is a long time in the life of a church.  A rigid, detail-heavy plan that dictates tactics could easily end up being obsolete well before the plan’s expiration date.  Good strategy provides clear objectives and leaves ample freedom for tactical creativity.  This plan, I believe, does that.

So, what’s next?  On Sunday, May 20, our deacons will formally introduce this strategic plan and ask for the congregation’s blessing upon it and commitment to it.  This particular Sunday is also Anniversary Sunday at Providence and our first combined worship service of the summer. It is also Pentecost, when we remember how God poured out the Holy Spirit on the early church and empowered them to continue the ministry of Jesus.  All in all, it promises to be a great day for celebrating the past, present, and future of God’s goodness to us.

Between now and May 20, then, I hope you’ll take the time to read the strategic plan.  When you do, you’ll see that there are immediate steps that need to be taken in order to put this strategic plan into action—and these steps require funding that is not provided in the church’s 2018 financial plan.  Will you help get us started sooner rather than later by making a contribution on May 20 to the Strategic Plan Implementation Fund?

Finally, you may have noticed that the title of this strategic plan is Providence Will, rather than Dream BIG.  Why the change?  Simply put, dreaming big together got us to this point.  Now, it’s time to do what God has led us to dream—and, with God’s help, Providence Will make disciples, engage Cotswold, bless Charlotte, send apostles, and cultivate generosity in Jesus’ name.

We’ve been given much.  Now, the Lord is calling us to do something with it.

May the peace of Christ be with you!