• Our hope-filled future is bound up in sharing the story of Jesus, in discipling others, in bringing those disciples together into communities of believers, and in developing and releasing those believers to create other communities... till Jesus the King comes again!

Side Roads

Taking the ‘autoroute’ (interstate motorways in France) is quite an expensive proposition given the tolls.  So when we take a trip, we will often take non toll roads to get to our destination.  This is always a fun way to explore the countryside.  However, sometimes despite the best efforts of our trusty map or even a GPS, we find ourselves on a road that doesn’t appear anywhere on the map, or at least the road as it is marked.  Eventually, we find ourselves back on the ‘right road’.  The ‘side road’ or detour doesn’t frustrate us because we know the ultimate destination.  The ‘side road’ can actually lead us to something we might otherwise not have seen.

Fluid planning works in a similar way.  Plans are ‘maps’ showing us where we want to go.  They are not concrete structures incapable of being changed.  The Spirit may lead us to take a ‘side road’ and we need to have the wisdom and discernment to see what He might be showing us as we search to find our way back to the main road.  Perhaps it is a new ministry opportunity we need to consider.  Perhaps it is a divine appointment to bring the message of Christ to someone we might not have met otherwise.  Perhaps it is a way of reconfirming our current focus and priority.

Knowing where we are going serves as ‘rails’ for our life and ministry, but that does not keep us from exploring ‘side roads’ by the Spirit’s direction.  As my friend Chris put it: “A plan is a map for a journey into the future.  It’s essential that I begin that journey knowing how to tell that I have arrived at the future I want.  Sometimes I will arrive early, sometimes late.  But, I can’t know if I’m there yet if I don’t know what “there” looks like.”

This is why the community is important as our brothers and sisters journey with us, and can help us as we together discern how God wants us to serve Him on the road that we are on.


8 Responses

  1. I like that idea, fluid planning. It sounds a little like the U. S. Marine Corps (there are lots of them around here where we live next to Camp Pendleton) — they say no battle plan survives the first shot fired. But, of course, they always start with a plan.

    • Thanks for reminding us of an ageless truth: we need to move forward, but our plans will probably change and shift once we do start moving forward.

  2. The approach to planning in “Side Roads” is great! It is just the approach needed both individually and corporately.

    The Plan (the map) only has two fixed points 1) the destination, our God given purpose, vision and –our ends, and 2) our starting point, where we are now. The way we get from starting point to destination is very fluid limited only our God given values so long as we always keep the destination in view.

    Corporately following this approach in planning we oscillate between strategic thinking and strategic action while being on the way. This approach to strategic planning is now more important than ever in view of our rapidly changing world. This “Side Roads” approach allows real-time strategic planning in a rapid-response world.

    Think about the significance and advantages of this fluid approach to planning our means of achieving our ends within the boundaries of our values while on the move as applied to our multiple spheres of operation.

    • Thanks Ed. Would you be willing to expand more on your last paragraph? The one where you wrote: “Think about the significance and advantages of this fluid approach to planning our means of achieving our ends within the boundaries of our values while on the move as applied to our multiple spheres of operation.” I think the point was excellent and would like to hear more of what you are thinking in this regard.

  3. Thanks for sharing this – it speaks EXACTLY to where I am right now, as I look forward to “what’s next.”

  4. Great analogy. Especially for someone like me whose first step into cross-cultural work was working as a Chinese food delivery boy.

    “The best way to understand your structure is to follow an idea. It need not be a great idea, or even a good idea. The point is that you want to learn where new ideas go to be recognized, vetted, developed, and sometimes die. How do you get your idea into the structure?” This is an excerpt from a recent book by David Neff and Randal Moss: The Future of Nonprofits: Innovate and Thrive in the Digital Age.

    They talk about the importance of “internal entrepreneurs” for non-profits moving forward.

    An abstract: “The Future of Nonprofits helps organizations capitalize on internal innovation. Innovative nonprofits are able to better predict future trends to remake and reshape their culture, structure, and staff to be a more nimble and lean. By applying the strategies laid out in this book, nonprofit professionals of all levels can prepare their organizations to take advantage of future trends and develop innovative “internal entrepreneurs” that will grow revenue and drive their mission.” I thought the book was right on as I skimmed through.

    You can buy a copy here (e-books are cheaper, but there are helpful FREE PDF excerpt downloads from the publisher, too): http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-0470913355.html.

    Just for starters, they outline 4 key elements of a structure ready to innovate (take side roads when opportunity knocks).
    1. Experimentation: Organizations must be open to experimentation and have well-defined channels for new ideas to enter an evaluation process.
    2. Encouragement: Organizations must encourage and support their staff in investigating new uses of technology, as this is what a lot of innovations tame the form of.
    3. Evaluation: Organizations have to have a consistent and systematic way of evaluating the potential value of an idea they collect.
    4. Reward: Organizations need to reward initiative and creative thinking.

    • I’ll have to skim the book you recommended. His points seem to follow what I have learned elsewhere: experimentation, encouragement, evaluation and reward. I would add that all of those are enhanced by the community factor. Our weakest element would probably be the experimentation and evaluation elements.

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