Let me tell you a story about a B.H.A.G. What is a B.H.A.G. you may ask? Why it’s a Big, Hairy, Audacious, Goal. The term was originally coined by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras in their book Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, first published in 1994. Collins says, “The power of the BHAG is that it gets you out of thinking too small. A great BHAG changes the time frame and simultaneously creates a sense of urgency.” I came across this concept somewhere in my education and had never really utilized it until I arrived with my husband in 2010, to a small, dying church in a lower-income neighborhood in Spokane, Washington.
My husband was called as the (revitalization) pastor, so as the dutiful pastor’s wife myself and 2 young toddler sons packed up and arrive to “revitalize”. This church believed that a young pastor and family would attract more of the same, and I don’t think they were wrong. Little did I know I was about to start a small cascade, defined as “anything that resembles a waterfall, especially in seeming to flow or fall in abundance”.
“Every moment starts with a sense of grievance”. And this is where I pick up with my cascade movement. I lived in the parsonage on the church property (not my favorite memory) and I would watch all these neighborhood kids spend hours playing and running around our property, a large grassy field that was the only of its kind anywhere nearby. I heard in a board meeting the grievances stated on how our misbehaving neighborhood kids continue to stomp and destroy all the flowers planted. It was then, that the B.H.A.G. light bulb went off in my head. I asked anyone who loves to work with children to come to a B.H.A.G. meeting without discussing what this meant. I began this meeting by defining B.H.A.G. So, in essence if time, money and resources were not a hinderance, what would we like to do for our neighborhood children, most of whom did not attend our church. This was our “identifying a Keystone Change”. We had a targeted group who were already showing up to our property, what could we do for them? We set the ground rule as we went forward that any future vision casting would be with no agenda other than to serve. We discovered that we could really bring our church out of our building into the open. So, with amazing and miraculous networking we found we had a plethora of resources.
Now we “Made a Plan” We planned 2 large events in our field (the location of the grievance). One was a carnival with games and prizes and free food and 2nd we planned an outdoor obstacle course. These first event found most of the church volunteering and over 75 attendees from our neighborhood.
This led into a “network of small groups”. We now had a Children’s committee, who splintered off into sub-committees to begin planning future events. We soon found that many people discovered spiritual gifts and found places where they felt needed and offered value.
“Indoctrinate Genomes of Values”. We all had a deep desire as a church to want the final outcome to be that more people became part of our church. Holding on to the value of “no agenda” was difficult but was a necessary part of our original vision. We had to keep our events agenda free, it was about service and not what they could do for us.
“Create platforms for Participation, Mobilization, and connection” As we continued our cascade of events, the church started to grow. More families arrived each Sunday and slowly became part of our community, participating in small groups ( a first in a long time for this dying church ), and becoming part of our Children’s committee. More and more started to happen, which led to me being hired part-time as Family and youth pastor. We had a children’s Sunday school, and a youth group!! More and more opportunities to participate and create more vision, continue to dream our B.H.A.G. with new energy and levels of participation.
And finally, “Surviving the Victory”. This is where our story thrives and then dies. I will give a brief run-down of the cascade. Those 2 summer events turned into repeats each summer, Sunday School, Small Groups, and Youth Group. From there it grew into Vacation Bible School (led by a mom who attended one of our events and joined the church). We also added Movies on our lawn with a large inflatable screen and movie license, as well as hosting a trunk or treat in our parking lot and a (silly, slightly creepy) maze in our church basement. Perfect, huh. I am exceedingly proud of this cascade movement. It did exactly what we all secretly dreamed, it brought souls into our church, we baptized a number of people, however, everyone who came was new to church, so the concept of tithing was not catching up quickly enough to help our church stay open. We also, behind the scenes had to tolerate other grievances such as the older generation asking, “what about us old duffers?”. We also struggled with hospitality, it was one thing to ask the church to come outside and serve the neighborhood, but they were not ready for the outside to come in, new people change the dna of a church and there was a deep sense of wanting to hold on to what they always knew and thus began the end. Great movement, fantastic results, changed lifes I hope, but not sustainable. Big, Hairy, Audacious, Goals are life changing and a great way to begin a cascade!
I never heard a complaint about the flowers again, Victory?
 “Cascades,’ definition, dictionary.com, last modified 2011. http://www.dictionary.com/
 Satell, Greg. Cascades: How to Create a Movement That Drives Transformational Change, (New York, McGraw Hill Education, 2019),98.
 Greg Satell, Cascades: How to Create a Movement That Drives Transformational Change, 230.
 Satell, Greg. Cascades: How to Create a Movement That Drives Transformational Change, (New York, McGraw Hill Education, 2019), 232.
 Greg Satell, Cascades: How to Create a Movement That Drives Transformational Change, 232.
 Ibid., 235.r
10 responses to “B.H.A.G”
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You just inspired me! We have a youth leaders meeting coming up at our church to discuss restructures and new processes to better handle its growth, but we have also hit a wall. I may use this approach when I talk to them. Let’s brainstorm and BHAG this ministry!
Yay for inspiration! I hope it’s Big and Hairy and Audacious! I just love those words together…Audacious! Hope you have a great summer, hanging with your family! Praying for health for you all and I’ll see you in Oxford!
I love the idea of BHAG and have kind of forgotten to use it. I need to again start asking the question of myself and my team “if time, money and resources were not a hinderance, what would we like to do for…?” Thanks for the reminder. (And the GREAT story from your church ministry life days…what an inspiration).
Jana, I’ve been blessed and honored to be in the cohort and peer group with you. I’m really glad God set that up and know it will (and has) make me a better person. See you in Oxford!
Tim, I am thankful for you too! I feel seen and it’s been part of my healing of church. May you continue to heal physically and have a great summer! See you in Oxford!
Jana…a great example of seeing a need, taking a chance, getting swept up in a cascade and doing your best to organize it to sustain it….Victory! While we talk about cascades, I also think it’s important to remind ourselves that some ‘cascade movements’ (particularly when God is involved) are for a season or time…and we can be thankful for what happened and let them go. In fact, sometimes I wonder if other cascade moments cannot burst forth in churches because people have experienced a previous movement and can’t let go of how it was and keep something going longer than its shelf life. May we all have discernment to recognize those times when we should be ‘fanning the flames’ and other moments when it’s time to gratefully put something away for the new. I don’t think this is what your post was primarily about…but this is where my mind went after reading it! Have a great summer….
Oh! you got it! It did fizzle out, because the sustaining of it would require change. I think you found some really good points there! Maybe there are times we miss cascade movement opportunities because we are still riding the wave of the previous movement and think it can duplicate over and over. Thanks for taking that thought further.
Love the idea of a BHAG party!!! In our years of ministry, we have hosted big bridge events to make connections and serve our community, seeing fruit, but the event model wasn’t sustainable for several ministry contexts we were in. It has morphed into feeding our community weekly and hosting local community agencies to come and give out food to families. Our original B.H.A.G. had to be reevaluated to meet the needs of our community. When I refer to the community, I mean the greater Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti/Detroit area. Our large campus BBQs with inflatables, dunk tanks, etc. have turned into a weekly meal and food giveaway. A Fresh Expressions format of being the church. We host EL Classes and offer tutoring at the elementary school across the street from our campus. The needs have changed in our community and we needed/wanted to flex to meet their needs.
Don’t you just love a good BHAG! Cathy, thanks for all your support and I love hearing that story!
See you in Oxford!
COME ON, JANA!!! I loved what you and your hubby did. It seems creating a movement that drives transformational change is part of your DNA! Oh, I loved reading this post and the impact you made in your community! B.H.A.G. AMEN! Enjoy your summer young lady!
You too Todd. I just have to say there is no one I’ve ever met whose typed words sound exactly like who they are in the world! Thanks for your infectious joy and tenderness! See you soon and hope you have a great summer too!