Over the years, strategic planning has become a central element of congregational leadership. In some ways, this has been helpful – after all, it is difficult (perhaps impossible) to lead any organization without some sense of where you are going!
However, a church is not just any organization – it is the Body of Christ (or, at least, a small part of it). Churches have specific tasks that are made clear from the very earliest records of church life recorded in the earliest years of Christianity: tasks involving worship, discipleship, mutual transformation, service, and more. Times change, cultures change, and needs change – so, the goal is to understand how an individual church needs to live out its ministry in the local culture, at the present time.
Strategic planning can help us live that ministry out, but that is not the place to start. The first task is to seek discernment about how God needs a given church to be in ministry in its culture and community right now. The key difference here is this: our first task is not to decide, but to discern.
In our visioning work, we invite members of your church to enter into intentional prayer as part of the preparation for our workshops. The workshops themselves incorporate specific practices – based on spiritual practices described in the 16th century by St. Ignatius of Loyola – to create space for discerning God’s direction for the ministry of the church. We combine these Ignatian practices with the modern approach of Appreciative Inquiry, which seeks to discover the strengths of the church and focus on those.
The bottom line? The church does not actually decide the form of the ministry; instead, the church seeks to understand the ministry God has been leading them to do!