During my nine years with InterVarsity, I have observed two distinct groups of staff when it comes to long-term planning. Some engage the subject with great vigor. Others are more ambivalent.
As I have searched the Scriptures and prayed, I have developed my own theology of planning. Positively, I see it as an opportunity to seek the Lord’s guidance and a process by which to better focus on that which is central to our mission.
But I also have concerns. When does planning tip to over-reliance upon our own insights? At what point does it reduce — rather than increase — our listening to the Lord?
The book of Proverbs has much to say on the subject. For example, “those who plan what is good find love and faithfulness” and “the plans of the diligent lead to profit.” But, we are also warned: “in their hearts human beings plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps” and,““many are the plans in a human heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.”
So, we plan, but we do so in humility and dependence. We use our minds, but only in conjunction with our hearts. We write out detailed aspirations, but only after we’ve listened. We debate content, but only in tandem with prayer and fasting.
Jesus’ greatest command is that we should love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. Just so, Godly planning should engage our passions, our spirits, our thinking and our fortitude.
As we wrap up the third year of our current five year Strategic Plan (2007-12), we have much to be thankful for. Our five strategic initiatives are:
- Chapter planting and building
- Leadership development
- Field staff funding
Over the past three years, 60 new chapters have been planted with up to 20 more being launched this fall. We have seen a response to the Gospel on campus unparalleled in our 70 year history. The size of our New Area Director cohorts has nearly doubled in size. Many more ethnic minority staff are moving into positions of leadership. And, even in a time of economic uncertainty, a significant number of field staff have moved closer to their target salaries. Thanks be to God!
Perhaps the greatest benefits have been less tangible. As trust has deepened, partnerships across regional and departmental lines have flourished. We have become a stronger national movement as we better focus upon the core of our ministry — students, faculty and campus. I am also thankful for the pervasive influence of Scripture, prayer and spiritual formation within the Fellowship.
And, I am grateful for our supporters. Current intent to the Vision Campaign is now just short of nine million dollars and intended planned gifts exceed fourteen million dollars. I am particularly thankful for the way our alumni have responded: over the past few years, their annual giving has increased by nearly seven million dollars.
Our next Strategic Plan will commence in a little more than two years (July, 2012). Though that seems like a long way off, it is important that we begin the conversation now. We want to hear many voices in the process. Thanks again to those of you who participated in the SWOT process — strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
In June, our Board of Trustees will set broad parameters for the new Plan. Then, in September, senior leaders will meet in Madison to lay a concrete foundation for the next Plan. Following that, the Plan will be developed in increasing detail with input from a wide variety of staff.
In the meanwhile, we are engaging in much prayer. It is vital that we hear from the Lord. Our National Prayer Co-Directors — Jay Sivits and Joe Moore — have developed a prayer plan (what else?!). Cabinet members and trustees have committed to praying weekly for the new Plan and the Cabinet will fast together during our annual retreat in August.
What can you do? Please add the new Strategic Plan to your prayer list. Choices made will impact the Fellowship over the next decade and beyond. May we obey, honor and glorify the Lord together.
Alec Hill is the president of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA.