Parishes and churches that make a commitment to planning find it integral to their way of life and not an optional extra. In short, planning harnesses aspiration and inspiration. It ensures that vision, discernment and the realising of potential are consistently renewed as a church moves forward together.
Stewardship of Life
The God of life has entrusted life to us. We have been gifted with talents that we are called on to use so that life will flourish in our church communities. Planning is part of our responsible living out of this stewardship of life. Planning in a church community:
- takes a pro-active stance towards the future, rather than letting ourselves be shaped passively by external forces
- draws individual wisdom and imagination into a communal vision which all can own
- builds community motivation for action because the vision is shared
- focuses resources on the highest priorities.
Our gifts bring responsibility; they contain a clear call for us to do more than just muddle along in the present. As the saying goes, "If you don't know where you're going, you'll end up somewhere else". A planning process helps us to set directions which make the most of the gifts God has entrusted to us. In other words, we are likely to be more effective in the way we go about mission and ministry if we engage in planning. When destinations and directions are clear, we can focus our gifts, energy and material resources on them.
An Appropriate Response to Change
One of the hallmarks of our age is that it is a time of rapid change. We have all experienced the impacts of technological change, changes to the workplace, the family, social values and the place of the local community in our lives. These many changes have not left the church untouched; many churches find themselves on the margins, looking for new ways to reconnect with the wider community.
Planning is an appropriate response to such change. It encourages us to take stock, to seek to understand the community that we wish to serve and to work out new ways to reconnect. It helps us to establish new directions and to be engaged in an ongoing process of reflection about them.
A Life-giving Process
The planning process itself can be life-giving. Most congregations and parishes find that when they begin a time of planning, new energy is released as people begin to step back from day-to-day activities, take an overall look at church life and begin dreaming of the future. Bringing people together in consultations and gathering large groups for visioning can be stimulating experiences which draw people into a unique communal space.
Many dioceses, synods and regions offer planning resources to their parishes and churches, including processes, consultants and facilitators — in these cases much of the groundwork is already in place and local churches can readily tap into it.
Usually the planning process is something that people get into easily and find that it quickly absorbs their interest and imagination. When people know that the planning is for the sake of the kingdom of God and will foster life in their local church community, they also find that a deeper part of themselves is engaged.