Our draft strategy for the next five years is now agreed by Trustees and has gone out to Regions, via Regional Directors, and to IHQ teams. Some dislike the word strategy, feeling it just sounds a bit too “corporate” for a Christian mission. Perhaps we ought to use a new word! In reality, however, it is just a sensible basis for guiding us through the next five years and giving us a sense of shared direction.
Throughout its long and distinguished history, the Mission has had to be faithful to its core purposes and values while adjusting its work to keep it fresh and relevant in the changing maritime environment. One chaplain has commented to me that the strategy, with its central themes of Programme, Provision, Partnership and Possibility, is “more of a flavour than a recipe”. I think this is a good way of putting it.
Our Regions, and our front line ministries, while they have much in common, are diverse. In putting the strategy into action, we need tailored “recipes” in response. There is rarely a one-fix solution. All recipes need details – ingredients, amounts, timings, oven temperatures. Similarly, we are now looking for detailed, timed and measurable responses to the strategy from Regions and IHQ teams.
The Regional Directors will be consulting with their teams and, in discussion with IHQ and the relevant Trustee committee will co-coordinate regional response. Similarly, IHQ teams are looking at their own priorities – and, importantly, once a regional response is agreed, will be planning for the effective support of those objectives. This should be an exciting opportunity to look at all our work in the light of changing circumstances and to plan creatively for the future.
What do seafarers and their families need from us? How can we best support them? What models of ministry are appropriate for today (and tomorrow) and how can we ensure that these are dynamic and sustainable into the future? Do we need to adjust our local cultures? Do we need to explore different approaches, learning from our history but not being stuck in it? We hope that the first part of this work can be done by May – and we plan to launch the strategy with some fanfare at the World Conference in October.
I have likened all this before to a rock and a river. We are absolutely focused on our core Christian purpose, on our charitable aims and the values we have held for so long. This is the rock on which all our planning must be built. However, the world moves on, the maritime industry moves on. Yes, some challenges remain as they have been but others have changed. The river moves on, and so must we. If you have not heard from your Regional Directors on this matter, they will be happy to share the draft with you, and I know, will be happy to hear views and ideas. The fourth strand of our strategy is “Possibility”. This encourages new ideas, fresh thinking and an entrepreneurial approach. Please do think laterally – and we all look forward to hearing your responses.
“O God, we thank you for your blessing on The Mission to Seafarers over so many years. We thank you for all who inspired our work and continued it. We thank you that through our diverse ministries across the world you have brought blessing to seafarers and their families. Keep us faithful in our purposes but open to your guiding Spirit. Be with us in our planning and deliberation. May we continue to share your love with seafarers and so build your kingdom, looking to the roots that have sustained us but ready to take wing into the ever-changing world in which You call us to serve. Amen”