Posts Tagged ‘revision’

Strategic-PlanningRevision is at once both the best of times and the worst of times.  If you are tasked with writing the strategic plan for your organization/ministry, then you will be dealing with all the challenges of writing a public document.  It may sound overly dramatic, but the quality of your work will finally be judged by your ability to revise!  So let me give you some tips that will ensure a more pleasurable experience as well as a premium product.

  • Accept the fact from the beginning that no word you write is holy, that everything may be discarded and/or replaced. Perhaps the most common mistake of inexperienced writers is to assume that their first efforts are their best.  Their virgin words feel more natural, more authentic, somehow more purely inspired.  The truth is that most first offerings should be trashed. An experienced writer knows this is true and assumes it will happen, whereas inexperienced writers are offended that their words were not taken seriously.  Please, get your head around the idea that much of what you write will be replaced with better writing—perhaps multiple times. 
  • Revision means “re-visioning” your writing.  You have to look at your writing again in order to do revisioning properly. That means reading your writing as if you had not written it, which is very difficult.  Often to gain this degree of objectivity, you have to let it sit for a day or two and then come back to it.  Having enough time to let writing sit often seems like a luxury, but you can help yourself if you will not procrastinate the writing/revisioning so that you do not increase the pressure on yourself. 
  • Let other people read it and ask them to mark any place they have to stop and re-read something.  You can use this tip as well when you are revising. Anytime you “stumble” in your reading or you have to go back and re-read a portion, mark that for certain revision.  If others will do this for you, it will also help with the needed objectivity.
  • Let others read your draft for content and clarity. Ask those people who are the best writers or best communicators AND those who are best informed in the content area about which you are writing.
  • Determine who will do the final proofreading.  If you are not a detail person, one well versed in grammar and punctuation, then you MUST find someone who is and have them make final corrections.  These are not likely the same people who read for content and clarity.
  • As the final author, you have the final say, BUT you are foolish if you don’t pay attention to every suggestion and every correction.  If you don’t have a marvelous reason for rejecting a suggestion, you should probably adapt it to your text.  The same is true for grammar and punctuation suggestions.
  • You are not really finished until . . . well, most experienced writers never quite know when they are finished. They just know when they need to stop. Of course, you are letting your leadership team and your board read as you write, so they will be coming with suggestions each time you let them read it.  When I feel like what is done should be done, then I tell my Readers that this is the final draft unless they find some glaring typo or major grammatical error. Such an ultimatum will usually stop those who continue wanting to add new objectives or new ideas to every draft they read.

If you follow these suggestions, your written products will not only be better, but your writing will improve.  The more you write, the better your writing becomes.  Experienced writers often incorporate some of these tips as they write, so they appear to write with much less time spent on revision.  I can assure you that earlier they have accumulated the same number of hours that you need. 

Learn to love revision, not dread it, and your writing will become prodigiously better!

Next:  Producing the final draft of the strategic plan

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In my series on Rethinking Mission Work , I tried to take a few steps back and ask, “Are we as a fellowship really doing missions the best we can?”.  Based purely on my personal experiences with many churches and on anecdotal evidences, what I see is

  • General dissatisfaction among congregations with their experiences in supporting foreign missions.
  • Broad dissatisfaction among American missionaries with their experiences with supporting churches.
  • Trend toward replacing evangelistic work with humanitarian aid as the definition of mission work.
  • Greater emphasis on local evangelism as opposed to foreign evangelism.

Thinking is hard enough, but re-thinking borders on the impossible.  I know this because I taught Freshman Composition at Oklahoma Christian for twenty-four years.  Once a student  forces himself to sit down, to gather some ideas from somewhere on some topic, to write at least five paragraphs that in his/her mind relate to  a single topic, and then to check it for spelling—once a student has done that much work, she is finished! That’s it! What more could be required??  That first draft is perfection!

Virtually all great writers know that the first draft is trash, maybe even the tenth! Envisioning is certainly the first step in the process, but re-visioning may be the most important!

William Faulkner said about revision, “In writing, you must kill all your darlings.”   To add to our difficulty in re-thinking is our tendency to make “our darlings” into “our doctrines”   We put the stamp of biblical perfection on our assignment and turn it in!!  And we expect to get excellent marks in recognition of work well done!

As I read and re-read some of your comments during the series, both on my blog site and on other sites where the series was re-posted in some form,  I was continually reminded of how difficult it is to re-vision, i.e., to re-see something so familiar to us.

Some commented that their experience at their congregation was just great and that their congregation was doing a wonderful job!

In reply, let me say that describing general conditions always leaves one open to refutation by the Exception! Of course there are congregations doing a great job and great mission committees who have schooled themselves and love their missionaries.

I will say, however, based on my classroom experience that the writer is not necessarily the best judge of whether the writing is good.  Heeding the proverb to “Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth; an outsider, and not your own lips,” (27:2), I would suggest a first step in rethinking is to have an outside evaluation—especially at those churches that have our best mission programs.

If I were coming to help your church look at its mission program, here are some of the questions I would want to ask:

  1. Why do you want to be involved at all in foreign missions?
  2. Where do foreign missions rank in your congregational priorities?
  3. Do you care more about whom you send or where you send them?
  4. What is “non-negotiable” or “untouchable” in your mission program?
  5. What is determining the full capacity of your mission efforts? Available workers? Available funds? Available time?
  6. Does your capacity match your goal?  And is there any room for God to expand any of your capacities?
  7. How do you determine if you are meeting your goals?
  8. How many people in the congregation are involved in the mission efforts in any way, including intentional prayer, private support, short-term missions to your mission sites? Are you happy with the percentage of involvement?
  9. How many are involved in missions outside of the congregation’s program? Are you happy/concerned about this? Is it a reflection on the church’s program in any way?
  10. Do you ask for honest feedback from those you send, and are you humble enough to receive fair criticism from them without it threatening their support?
  11. How long have your current mission strategies/policies been in place?  Do you have a planned periodical review of all policies?
  12. If you could wave a magic wand and change one piece of your mission program, what would you change? What keeps you from making this change without a magic wand?


Next, I’d like to look at how to start re-thinking at churches who already know they have some serious issues in their mission program. 

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