In conversations with pastors and congregational leaders recently, I notice different issues that are leading to similar questions. Congregations are entering into their program year after a couple of years affected by the pandemic. For some there is a sense of returning to what was. For others this is an opportunity to do new things. And for others it seems to be a mixed bag. Some folks have not returned, a few congregations are still mandating masks, and there are some former active volunteers who are not re-engaging with the ministries they once were key leaders of.
The questions revolve around a need for doing visioning work, re-assessing the ministry programs of the congregation, and spending intentional time discerning just where God is leading the congregation now and into the immediate future. As we move from Covid being a pandemic to now being endemic in our world, we find ourselves with these questions.
Visioning, or what also may be described as Long-Range Planning, is a 3 step process:
- Conduct an honest assessment of where the ministries have been in the recent past. Have they met the goals and needs of the people involved and or served? Have they met the intent or purpose of the church? Is the need for this activity still present? What if it comes to an end, will the goal be served in some other way?
- Ascertain the current needs of the church and the community that it serves. Important goals of visioning are to assess the current needs of the congregation, identify the perceived needs of the surrounding community, and taking an honest inventory of the skills and gifts of the congregation.
- Determine where there are matches between the community’s needs and the congregation’s gifts (while also asking if there are other organizations in the community to partner with in these efforts.)
The key to visioning is understanding that it is focused on discernment – asking the question “Where is God leading us?” The answers to that question requires that everyone is invited to participate. It calls for open conversation and engagement in what the possibilities for the future might be. These conversations are supported by prayerful reflection, the study of relevant scripture and open hearts listening for the guidance of God’s Spirit.
Seeking a consensus, the congregation can begin to plan for the near and distant future.
- There may be ongoing programs that are reaffirmed and may be revitalized with new leadership and new energy.
- Some ministry activities may come to an end, or maybe paused for now.
- There may be a celebration of thanksgiving for what was, and an intentional acknowledgement that those activities have fulfilled their purpose.
- There may be totally new ministry programs that will require new leadership and energies. These must be given space to try new things, the creativity to experiment, the grace to make mistakes, learn new ways of doing ministry, and the celebration of new opportunities.
What is exciting about visioning is that it is filled with potential. We will likely learn new things about ourselves, grow in our faith together, and discern the presence of God as we engage in learning where God is leading us.
Blessings on your Visioning and discernment!
If you need assistance, The James Company has the tools to lead and manage the visioning process. Let me know if we can help!
Scott Jacob, Sr. Program Director
The James Company