Missional Church Visioning And Strategic Planning

“What is God’s calling for us in this next season of ministry and mission?”

This question is where traditional visioning and strategic planning processes focus. We want to identify our major initiatives to pursue over the next 2-4 years through answering this question. Some very useful outcomes can result from this beginning point, yet some obvious limitations are inherent as well.
Without great plowing of the spiritual and paradigmatic ground before hand, this question often leads to churches remaining within their current church model, with slight tune-ups in terms of quality and commitment. Attractional churches (most all are) find this approach very familiar and comfortable.

The missional church movement is pushing our perspectives away from ourselves toward God and this world. God’s desire, it appears from scripture, is to bring the kingdom to earth as it is in heaven (see Lord’s Prayer). It appears as if God actually intends to actualize the kingdom of God here, this side of heaven, before it’s all done. We are recognizing that God’s mission is larger and more expansive than our church. God’s focus is more on saving the entire world than saving any one particular local church. We will discover our “salvation” through shifting our focus from ourselves to God’s mission; reconciling, healing, transforming the world around us. That’s where the action is; the center of God’s activity in this world….”thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Asking us to pray this way was not busy-work to keep us occupied until Jesus’ return. No, inherent in this prayer is the call to action; joining God’s efforts to transform this world toward the kingdom.

So, let’s start there. Let’s begin our visioning with questions centered in God’s mission; God’s hopes and dreams for humankind and our planet rather than focusing on ourselves. Here are some starters:
• When God’s kingdom comes more fully in our community, what will be happening? How will we recognize it?
• What’s God’s vision for our community? Based on scripture, what might be God’s hopes and dreams for our community?
• How will our community be different three years from now, when God’s kingdom is more actualized here?
• If we could fast-forward into the future when God’s kingdom has come only 10% more than it is present now in our community, how would we know? What would we see?

After considering together what God’s kingdom may look like in one’s community, then a church is ready to grow more specific.
• What’s our role as we partner with God toward that vision of community transformation?
• How can we participate in God’s movement in our community?
• Around which parts of God’s kingdom movement in our community does our energy and competence collect?
• How are we already participating in God’s movement in our community? What does that tell us about our ongoing participation?

Lastly, churches turn inward to organize themselves for kingdom participation.
• How might we organize ourselves so that we can more readily join God’s activity in our community?
• What might we add, change, and discontinue in order to more fully join God’s movement?
• What problems or issues hold us back from more robustly engaging with God’s transformation efforts in our community?

The one area of church life which the missional church movement often ignores is disciple development. Though we can infer that any church who engages with God’s mission is also engaged in vigorous development of disciples within that church, we likely need to make this more explicit. Here are questions which can guide this aspect of our visioning.
• What are we doing which forms disciples in the Way of Jesus Christ?
• How might we include everyone in our church in a disciple developing small group?
• As a result of participation in this church, how are we each more positioned to join God’s movement in our community?
• How will we know we are formed more fully as disciples of Jesus at this time next year?

Recently I was with a church for another purpose (training) than visioning work. We were discussing the growing hope-filled shift in church life from attractional to missional church expressions. One disciple shared a recent experience. She was talking with the principal at the school very near their church campus. The principal made the statement that nearly all the Mentors at their school are members of this particular church. The person sharing this story asked if that is an expression of being missional.

We could walk this example through the questions above. God’s kingdom coming into this world involves children receiving what they need to make their way in this world. This church discerned that they collectively have a heart for children, investing themselves in mentoring at the nearby school. It appears as if their vision may be that every child in that school have a mentor who helps the child receive what he/she needs in order to learn effectively in the school setting. This is a church not just doing a missions project, but becoming missional…joining God’s mission in the world.

So, let’s lay aside strategic planning processes which result in eye rolling by the congregation when announced. Let’s move forward, following the energy of the Holy Spirit. Let’s engage in visioning which results in us participating more fully in God’s vision and movement. Morale, mood, and energy increase when we are in the flow of this Christian Movement. May God’s kingdom come, God’s will be done, more every day on earth as it is in heaven.

Mark Tidsworth
President, PLA