Monday, April 24, 2006

Big Hairy Audacious Goals

A consultant, who visited our church whilst I was on sabbatical leave, made the suggestion that we ought to have some goals so big, so audacious, (so hairy?) that the achievement of them could only be put down to the activity of God.

Some examples of BHAGS were given, such as the goal of Henry Ford, to make a motor car available to every man in the United States at a price he could afford on his pay packet, to make the horse redundant from the carriageway and provide thousands of jobs for ordinary Americans. I think Ford achieved this goal although it helped wreck the planet in the process.

The goal of Sony was to change the way people thought of Japanese goods. Once upon a time 'made in Japan' meant 'shoddy.' I don't recall that, but people only slightly older than me do. They achieved their goal. The goal of Sony was to make 'made in Japan' a symbol of quality and Sony a world-recognised brand. Achieved.

This latter goal was slightly better in terms of altruism. It had the interests of the whole of Japan at heart rather than one company but today it has contributed to the death of manufacturing in this country - on the Now Show on Friday Midge Benn referred to us again as 'Service Centre Britain.'

It is so difficult to pitch a manufacturing goal that will not, albeit accidentally, cause one set of people to suffer whilst another gains.

Today on Radio 4 the motoring correspondent of the Today Programme, Quentin Quinn suggested that it was madness to assume that anyone would buy a green car unless they were given an incentive.

Recently this blog has seen some traffic about whether people are fundamentally bad or good. I wonder what conclusions we should draw from the above? I would like to suggest that although we might say we mean well, are not selfish and do look out for the needs of others, when it comes to the big picture - making sacrifices for the needs of more global neighbours, we are nowhere.

Back to the BHAGS. If any attempt at setting a goal will fall short of something that is of genuine good to the whole community (global and local) however well-intentioned it is then why not let the God we believe in set the goal. 'Hey Lord', we shout. 'Your call'.

We say that we want things, or want to imagine things, that couldn't happen without the intervention of God. The thing is we then try to make these things happen so that there is no difference between the way a church implements its vision and Sony, or Ford.

An example of something that might happen that couldn't have happened without God would be a growth in numbers of 100 a week without any change to our activity. If we want something to happen that we didn't make happen we shouldn't make it a target.

How about if we try to keep the church more secret apart from those who want to come? Take down the signs. Stop leafleting the neighbourhood. Don't invite people to anything unless they ask. If in these circumstances we grew, it couldn't have been down to us. Could it?


Jonathan Potts said...

I wonder what Frued would have said about the phrase "big hairy audacious gonads" - sorry, "goals"?

Is a vision meant to be a statement of where a church intends to move towards or a prophecy about what God is going to do in the Church?

If this distinction isn't cleared up, the whole process, as you've pointed out, can seem rather paradoxical.

Mark Berry said...

One of my favourite prayers, written by Sir Francis Drake includes the lines...

Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Jonathan Potts said...

btw - sorry, I meant Freud, not Frued. Damn my inability to spell!

Martin said...

Interesting last paragraph. If we did take down the signs and stop leafletting that doesn't mean we are nothing to do with what happens. If we live our lives God's way then we're still doing something, or maybe more importantly, letting God do something. When we live our own way, we stop God working through us, and growth stalls. The question is, how does this change our BHAGs?

Simon said...

I would be very grateful if you did.

I wonder why this god bloke created us. For his general amusement, I suppose.

Thanks for the party, God, it been real fun. Shame about the plague, though.

Col. said...

This is interesting stuff. Normal goal setting suggests you draw your target then aim to hit it - sometimes you will, sometimes you won't.

Of course lots of churches shoot first, look to see where the arrow landed and then draw their target round it. 100% hit rate everytime.

St, you seem to suggest that we should not bother with a target at all so that we can't claim any success of our own but put any acheivements down to God. Interesting idea but I think some churches had already adopted this attitude before they closed their doors for good. Not sure it will work.

On the subject of BHAGS, do we really need to set ourselves any greater vision than that already set by Jesus: Go into all the world and make disciples. I will be moving soon to a village with population 4000 of which maybe 150 - 200 will attend a church service each week. That gives plenty of scope for a BHAG.

stocky said...

going down le street?
can you score a big hairy audacious goal?
what are the baggies' bhags?

St said...

Col, I'm not suggesting we follow the line my questioning implies. I'm merely suggesting that if we don't we can never say 'This happened through God alone.'

Mind you, lots of those churches which closed were terrible and needed to shut.


Identify yourself. Baggies, we doomed. (Now that would be an act of God, if we stayed up.)


tomdg said...

Col - I think you're being hard on the "traditional" church model. I always thought they drew the line around where they were first, then did everything they could to ensure that they were in exactly the same place in ten years' time ;)

On the point about BHAGS: I think we need more of them: our vision is too small and therefore dishonours God. If we look like Sony or Ford, doesn't that just mean that we didn't aim high enough?

Personally I like the example of David (facing Goliath). You walk straight into a situation which you know is humanly impossible, because you know it's what God wants. You then do everything you humanly can to achieve your goal ... and God does the rest. David understood that, that's why he picked up five stones.

All that said, it's certainly easier and less time-consuming if we leave it all to God ;)

stocky said...

Sorry - it's Stocky the etiquette breacher.
Not really got the hang of this. Beg your pardon. And hello.

Your last paragraph made me think of your (1992?) teaser marketing campaign, and also that maybe that's what it is like where churches are illegal, consultant-free (i've got nothing against them) and growing.

Jo Barfoot said...

Having been one of the people pushing for vision and strategy at St Paul's, I have been thinking about this quite a lot.

On the whole, I like the David and Goliath analogy. If God had really wanted to show his power, he could have send SClub7 out to meet Goliath. Instead, he choose someone strong, good-looking and, crucially, pretty good at slinging stones.

For some reason, God uses us and our talents to build his kingdom (not sure why; I can't help thinking he'd make a better job of it by himself). Why is it a surprise that companies are built in a similar way? We're all God's image, whether in church or business. The difference here is that we're not doing things that only we can do. But neither are we doing things that only God can do. Surely we are doing things that can only be done together.

This, in my mind, should be the essence of any church strategy; to be the unique church that God wants us to be. Discerning this is not a one-person job and will require hard work and hard prayer together. We also need to be able to spot what God is doing and go with it - which may mean chucking all the carefully-prepared paperwork out of the window - fantastic if that happens.

Another church may have decided to do no publicity and have been successful, but it doesn't follow that that's what we're called to. Culture plays a huge role in what is and isn't right for a particular church. In Brazil, all teenagers go round wearing t-shirts with smiley faces and 'I Love Jesus'. Now, that would be an interesting church-growth experiment . . .