Bullets Before Cannonballs


The most helpful teaching metaphor I grabbed from Jim Collins’ newest book, Great by Choice, is the concept of “bullets before cannonballs.” Collins discovered that the most effective leaders and companies test new initiatives as “bullets” before over-investing, radically altering their strategy, or changing their offerings to customers.

According to Collins, effective leaders explore incrementally before implementing comprehensively. Applications to local church ministry are many. Examples would include…

• Before launching a separate not-for-profit to engage more people in missions, identify a few mission partners (or schools) in your community and serve them.

• Before launching another campus, experiment with a video venue on your current location.

• Before launching a new or unconventional service time, consider experimenting over the holidays.

• Before unrolling a new ministry strategy, pilot the thinking with one of your best small groups or Sunday School classes.

Utilizing “bullets before cannonballs” will help your organization or church maintain its consistent focus and bring success without over-diversifying or “scattering” its mission. With “bullets before cannonballs,” new initiatives have an opportunity to prove themselves and gain momentum.