18 Aug Anticipate Your Sigmoid Curve
“Pivot” has become the new word for ministry strategy. You’ve done the hard work of strategic planning and are ready to implement this incredible new vision. Then… BAM… disaster strikes and completely rocks your world. How do you adjust to a changing environment fast enough to weather the storm?
In 1995, organizational management guru, Charles Handy theorized that organizations should start reinventing themselves before they reach their peak. Most organizations only think about trying something new when they’ve hit the bottom and run out of ideas. According to Handy, the best time to start something new is while you are still successful — when things are going well, you have the energy, resources, and creativity to come up with new ideas. Some ministries are nimble and can flex in response to change; others can’t or won’t adjust, and struggle to survive.
Handy’s Sigmoid Curve, or S-shaped curve shows that new initiatives have a first phase of experimentation and learning which is followed by a time of growth and development. Unfortunately, every new idea peaks, plateaus, and then curves downward. To keep on growing, the successful organization must keep developing new initiatives. The key is starting a new curve at Point A before you need to change. Most ministries do not change until Point B which is often too late. When your ministry is declining, it’s hard to think bold, new thoughts when your only focus is staying in business.
As Israel entered the Promised Land, the Lord instructed Joshua to follow, “because you have never been this way before” (Josh. 3:4). One of the most dangerous moments for an organization is when they begin to lean on their own understanding (Prov. 3:5). Successful strategic planning is less about what you and your board think you should do and more about listening for what God wants you to do. “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it’” (Isa. 30:21).
Is God calling your ministry to leave what you do well and try something new to respond to the needs of today’s generation? If so, start your strategic thinking now while things are going well. Don’t wait until your ministry starts to decline and forces you to make changes you may not want to make.
Stay ahead of the curve. If God is asking you to reinvent your ministry, he will give you the wisdom to navigate the change.
Handy, C. (1995). The Empty Raincoat: Making Sense of the Future. Australia: Random House.
Ron Haas has served the Lord as a pastor, the vice president of advancement of a Bible college, a Christian foundation director, a board member and a fundraising consultant. He’s authored two books: Ask for a Fish – Bold Faith-Based Fundraising and Simply Share – Bold, Grace-Based Giving. He regularly presents fundraising workshops at ministry conferences and has written fundraising articles for At the Center magazine and Christian Leadership Alliance’s Outcomes magazine.