NCLS Research

NCLS Planning Principles

NCLS Planning Principles webtext plain

There are many different principles that together make for good planning. Before you begin planning, we encourage you to consider some principles to work by. The planning processes offered by NCLS are shaped by Jesus’ promise of abundant life (John 10:10) and grounded in three principles which encourage local churches to look for and build on what gives life to their communities.


1. Build on strengths (The Positive Principle)

Some planning processes require churches to identify and list their strengths and weaknesses. For many churches this involves an inevitable focusing on what is negative about their life. In situations where church life is difficult, a focus on the negatives can lead to churches giving up on planning altogether and missing out on the signs of hope for a better future.

A key principle followed in our approach is to start with the positives. Asking positive questions creates a dynamic of hope. All churches have something about their past and present that they value. Looking for the positive signs of life and strength, leads to positive stories, images and energy; and thus positive change. When you think about your church, we encourage you to shape your questions in a positive way: What has God done in this church? What are the strengths of our church? What are we good at in ministry? These sorts of questions reveal the sources of life in your church and the foundations to build on for greater life in the future.

2. Start with something known (The Proximity Principle)

Planning is sometimes pictured as a leap into the unknown, with things that are known and familiar being quickly discarded in favour of something that has yet to be revealed. However, change in communities happens best when we build on what is known. People feel more comfortable and secure when they are moving forward with something that is familiar and are developing it in new ways.

The Proximity Principle encourages us to focus on the here and now and work with what is and what we are able to do something about. When it comes to bringing about change in your church, you are more likely to bring people on board by beginning with what people are experiencing in the day to day, and then developing the dreams and initiatives that will take the church in new directions.

3. Involve as many people as you can (The Partnership Principle)

The Apostle Paul observed that he and his colleague Apollos were fellow-workers with God in their ministry to the Corinthian church. Where Paul planted seed and Apollos watered it, it was God who caused the seed to grow in the church (1 Corinthians 3:5–9). Here a partnership principle is clearly outlined which also sets a pattern for life in the body of Christ.

In the same letter, Paul likened the church to a body of many parts, with each person having specific gifts. Each is to serve according to his or her ability (1 Corinthians 12:4–7). The planning process also needs to recognise that we are involved in the mutual upbuilding of the body of Christ. To do that best we need to be inclusive, drawing in as many people from our church community as possible, to hear their wisdom, the fruit of their faith, the perspective of their gifts and the creativity of their ideas.

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