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July 9, 2016

Strengths + Opportunities = Strategies

By Shelley G. Trebesch

The book of Acts provides insight for us in strategy development. Certainly the fall of Jerusalem and destruction of the temple in AD 70 at the hands of Roman soldiers seemed a potential threat to Judaism and the fledgling Jesus movement. Yet, led by the Holy Spirit, Paul and his team connected their strengths to this opportunity and developed strategies that changed the world.

Devised in their first missionary journey and repeated by Paul and other team members later, Paul and Barnabas traveled to significant cities where the Jewish diaspora lived. Their strategic pattern in each city was the same: proclaim the good news first in the synagogue. If and when the opposition became too great, move to homes or marketplace gatherings to continue proclaiming. Once a faith community was established, they appointed elders to shepherd the new churches, and as directed by the Holy Spirit or when persecution intensified, moved on to other cities and continued the same strategy. See Acts 13:13-52 and Acts 14:1-25.

Strengths and Opportunities

Paul’s strengths, gifts and experiences included a bicultural, multilingual, cosmopolitan upbringing with a Pharisaical education perfectly intersected with the contexts of exiled Jews in Greek/Roman cities. Paul’s teammates were similar, but also contributed other gifts and experiences.[1]

In like manner, effective strategy development flows from the intersection of people’s strengths, assets, gifts and experiences with the opportunities (where we see the kingdom of God) of the context. In my last blog posting, (include link to previous blog post – “If your church accomplishes its vision”) I encouraged you to list the strengths of your church (team) next to opportunities / assets captured from your context.

Now, notice the connections. In what ways do these connections point toward strategies? Remember, strategies are the means we use to accomplish the vision. Once you’ve created strategies from these connections, you’re ready to consider programs, events, activities, etc. that flow from the strategies.

Here’s an example from an urban church.

Life Church [2] conducted a similar process to the one above. When connecting the list of church strengths with opportunities, they noticed one significant theme. A number of Life Church members were connected to and had experience in the school district (parents, teachers, and one principal) and the school district had an amazing openness to the community. For example, it had set up an adopt-a-school program where private citizens could donate school supplies and actively sought volunteers for various programs. Seeing this connection, Life Church developed strategies that engaged schools in their neighborhood. They adopted two elementary schools and donated school supplies. Their college students started an after-school tutoring program for elementary aged children. Several adults joined two teachers and developed a mentoring process to help vulnerable high school students finish school and get into college. Over time, these strategies engaged families who then became apart of Life Church. Connecting the church’s strengths with assets in the community enabled Life Church to authentically engage their context.


As you review your strengths and opportunities, notice themes and their possible connections. It’s likely the Holy Spirit is already at work through these connections. Trust that, and follow these leads to the strategies that flow from them. Then you can determine what activities, programs, events, and practices flow from the strategies. Finally, evaluate the strategies against the church’s God-given vision to ensure you all are still on track.

[1] See Shelley Trebesch, Made to Flourish: Beyond Quick Fixes to A Thriving Organization, Downers Grove, IL: 2015, p. 158 for further development of these ideas.

[2] A pseudonym.



Shelley G. Trebesch

Shelley G. Trebesch (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) has served as vice president for capacity development for Prison Fellowship International, as well as assistant professor of leadership and organization development at Fuller Theological Seminary and in Singapore as global director for Membership Development for OMF International. An active consultant, trainer and seminar leader, Trebesch has facilitated complex change processes and developed leadership curricula for churches and organizations around the world.


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