It All Depends on the Liver

“For the king of Babylon stands at the parting of the road, at the fork of the two roads, to use divination: he shakes the arrows, he consults the images, he looks at the liver.” (Ezekiel 21:21)

19th century philosopher William James penned this witty word play, “Is life worth living? It all depends on the liver.” A healthy liver is key to living a healthy life. Your liver performs approximately 500 functions including synthesizing amino acids and cholesterol; metabolizing carbohydrates, proteins, and fats; and producing bile which assists digestion in the small intestine. The Babylonians believed they could read a liver like a compass. Should they turn right or left?

What guides your ministry direction? How do you decide what programs to pursue or eliminate? What factors do you examine to determine if you need new facilities to accomplish your mission? Your non-profit is too sophisticated to look at a liver—instead, you’ve developed a strategic plan! Consider these four perspectives.

Top Down
Autocratic leaders desire to control every aspect of their organization, especially direction. This type of leader makes all the decisions with little to no input from followers. Many non-profits started from the vision of one individual who saw a need, took the risk to create a solution, and it worked. Top-down decisions are made quickly, but they can also demoralize followers who don’t feel their voice is heard.  

Bottom Up
This approach to strategic planning believes the best innovative ideas come from the frontline staff who serve every day. Bottom-up planning is more democratic and can lead to small, incremental changes. While it is imperative to achieve buy-in from key staff, a bottom-up approach sometimes lacks support from leadership or trustees.

Inside Out
An inside-out strategic plan suggests everyone in the organization knows more about how to help than everyone outside the organization. One challenge with this perspective is organizations can become insulated and focus more on internal issues. Always remember Peter Drucker’s wise admonition, “Organizations exist to serve people outside the organization.”

Outside In
It’s healthy to make decisions with information from your community and constituency. What do your customers want and expect from your organization? Carefully listening those you serve helps you respond more effectively to their needs. However, if you chase the demands of people who don’t align with your mission you could possibly drift off course.

Ahead Behind
Effective strategic planning employs elements from all four approaches, but the best ministry blueprint seeks God’s direction and doesn’t rely on mere human understanding. Moses experienced a wonderful promise, “See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared” Exodus 23:20. God has a perfect future for your ministry and will guide you along the right path, if you ask.

Think About This: Make Isaiah 30:21 a key strategy when mapping your direction. “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.’”

Response: Father, please forgive us for leaning on our own understanding when developing our strategic plans.

Have a Spirit-led Fundraising Week!

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 three books: Ask for a Fish – Bold Faith-Based Fundraising, Simply Share – Bold, Grace-Based Giving, and Keep on Asking – Bold, Spirit-Led Fundraising. He regularly presents fundraising workshops at ministry conferences and has written fundraising articles for  Christian Leadership Alliance’s Outcomes magazine.

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