I watched a little bit of the Cardinal broadcast this afternoon, and the announcers were talking about how the new clubhouse game in the Cardinal locker room is chess.  The World Chess Hall of Fame is located in St. Louis, the game is a favorite of Cardinal manager Mike Matheny, and apparently the team has gotten into it as well.  One of the announcers mentioned that there were at least three games going on earlier in the day.  I love this on so many levels.

Chess is a game of strategy.  Sure, you can get lucky and win every now and then, but to consistently be good at chess, you need to sharpen your ability to think strategically.  Baseball is the same way.  A manager in baseball needs to be able to think ahead through the different possibilities and potential outcomes of every decision.  After all, there’s only 25 players on the roster, typically 12 pitchers (5 of whom are starters) and 13 position players (8 of whom start the game in the field, leaving just 5 for the bench).

Strategic thinking is the ability/skill to look ahead and anticipate what moves are necessary to accomplish a particular goal.  I say ability/skill because I believe strategic think is one part intuition, and one part learned.  Now, I’m far from an expert on the topic, but that is certainly where I am after reflecting on it in my own life.

Now, why am I talking about strategic thinking?  I am becoming increasingly convinced that strategic thinking is something that pastors need to be able to develop in order to effectively lead a congregation, and it is a skill I am trying to develop in myself.  Recently, I purchased a series of books called The Strategy Six Pack from Amazon.  Each volume is a collection of books (six, if you couldn’t figure that out by the name) that in some way address strategy.  I’m still working my way through the first collection, but so far, I’ve read The Art of War (Sun Tzu), the Gallic Wars (Julius Caesar), Life of Charlemagne, and I’m currently in the middle of Machiavelli’s The Prince.

In large part, I’m reading these books because I believe that strategic thinking involves a particular mindset.  I’m not just reading books, I’m studying the mindset of those who were writing them.

In ministry, you have to be able to look ahead.  You have to think about what’s coming up.  You have to be able to plan for things – even make backup plans that you may never need.  This was a hard lesson for me to learn when I first got started, and it’s a skill that I am continuing to develop as I grow as a pastor.

So, how have you worked to develop strategic thinking in your personal and professional life?  What lessons have you learned along the way?