“Either/Or” is a strategic decision

I’ve been talking a little recently about what you do when you have two things you need to do that have the same priority. We can very quickly get pushed into making an “Either/Or” decision when in fact, we need to and can do “both/and”.

Both/And does not mean that we never make choices and rule things out. Nor, does it mean that you try and do everything at the same time but it does mean that there is a clear intentionality and plan to do both things.

I suspect that one reason why people struggle with this is to do with strategy and vision. We make decisions at the wrong place. I’ve also alluded to this by talking about how we make choices between different inputs and processes when we need to be thinking about the overall challenge and desired outcomes.

So, it might be helpful to talk about where we want to make those “Either/Or” decisions. The answer is very simply that we make them at the strategic level. We choose a vision and a mission and that means we choose not to focus on other things.

Here are some examples for us.

  1. We have a geographically focused mission as a church. This means that our focus is primarily on Smethwick and our wider “Bearwood and Beyond” focus takes us into the Black Country and West Birmingham. We are not looking at how to reach people in Coventry or Erdington. It doesn’t mean that we exclude people on where they are from. It’s just that we are not putting our efforts into reaching people in those places because we are reaching people here
  2. ActBC has an urban focus. This means that we are not actively seeking to find rural church planters. We are happy that others are focusing on student ministry
  3. We chose to focus on multiplying congregations. This means that a major building project isn’t high on our priority list. It stops us from getting distracted by this as an option. Now, this isn’t to say that issues with our building are coming up more regularly and so we won’t say “never.” Indeed, we are thinking more about this issue now. However, we have to be clear that buildings won’t distract from the things that are our focus.

You should have your own examples. The point is that the strategic focus creates “either/or” choices. This helps you right from the start and should reduce the risk of Hobson’s choice dilemmas later on.

This means that when you get to the point where you have two priorities that are both essential to the vision you are able to work through some problem-solving questions including:

  1. Have we understood the actual need accurately and completely?
  2. Are there other ways of doing this that enable us to achieve both aims/needs? This is important because when we are focused on doing the exact options in the exact way we first conceived them the question “Can you do both” becomes a legalistic burden that it is not meant to be. As I’ve said before “Both/And” is not meant to be a legalistic burden. It’s meant to be a question to open up the problem and help you look at it from another perspective. [1]
  3. Are there other people out there who know and share the vision and so are likely to support us in this?
  4. Is doing one of the options actually likely to deliver the second option too?

[1] And so, if that question doesn’t work for you in that way please don’t feel under pressure to use it!