Background to planning for 2011-2012
It is now five years since we embarked on a year long re-envisioning process to establish fresh vision and direction for our future. The whole church community participated in this process which resulted in our vision to follow Jesus and be a community of hope and transformation. Four years ago we celebrated this vision, committed ourselves to it and asked God for the power to live a life of which we knew we were not capable ourselves. Since that time our vision has been central to all our corporate decision making and has guided our personal discipleship. We have a long way to go, but looking back we can celebrate incredible progress. On a personal level our lives are being healed and empowered. We’ve established small disciple-making communities all over our area. On a corporate level, our vision has led us to farm our land and give the harvest to the poor. We have developed a unique partnership with a local Guatemalan population and their home town of Ipala. Through our vision we have been challenged to break down the dividing walls of age, gender, ethnicity and prejudice and are becoming an integrated community, an expression of the kingdom of God. During this time we have been amazed at what God has done and yet we have also come to realize that our vision challenges us to be transformed more profoundly than we ever imagined.
These past four years have not been without their problems and struggles. We have felt the painful loss of people who have left our community because they could not find strong enough affinity with or inspiration from our vision; people who are now following Jesus in other contexts, but whom we love and miss nonetheless. We have had to work very hard, made huge sacrifices of time and energy and worked through all kinds of conflicts of opinion to establish important strategic foci such as discipleship groups, children and youth, the community farm and Guatemala. Leaders have worked incredibly hard and have often been spread thinly across multiple areas. We have also had to struggle through one of the worst economic downturns in recent history at a time when not only have our numbers been down but we’ve also had the untypical challenge of maintaining a very large property.
But God is with us and we have persevered, such that, as we approach the annual planning process again, we can give God thanks and celebrate the fact that we have strong, growing ministry areas; we have scores of people actively engaged in discipleship-making communities; we have established a small farm; we are actively and consistently involved in Guatemala; we are serving our local community; we have money in the bank and we have a wonderful 63 acre property of exceptional beauty that hosts more life than we could possibly imagine. We have so much to be grateful for and we can look forward with great hope
During the prayer and discussion of our leadership planning process for the year ahead three significant themes emerged:
- We need to keep on keeping on: In other words we are not looking for a new thing; we are not looking for novelty as our inspiration. We need to continue to pursue our vision (which we passionately believe God gave us) and faithfully give ourselves to what God has already led us into.
- We need to renew our passion for the vision to follow Jesus: This means calling ourselves to deeper commitment, to more widely invite and empower everyone into life in the Kingdom of God. It means falling ever deeper into this new life, wrestling with what that means and experiencing it in our everyday being.
- We need to think long term: We have always said our vision requires a lifetime and even seen that the journey itself is the destination, but we sense especially that the current opportunities and challenges we face will require responses that last longer than a one year strategic plan. In that sense our planning process ought really to be viewed in terms of 2 or 3 years. It’s hard to plan legitimately beyond such a window and we might only set specific plans in place for one year but we will not fall to the pressure to cram all our needs into that one year. We must take a patient sustainable approach.
Deeper and Wider
With this in mind, the main overarching focus for the year ahead (and indeed the next few years) seemed best captured by the term “Deeper and Wider”. In other words we need to re-invigorate our passion and pursuit of our vision to follow Jesus; we want to call one another to deeper commitment to and experience of the Kingdom of God in our lives. We want to deepen our resolve and strengthen the new areas into which our vision has led us. At the same time we want to widen our embrace, to invite more people (both in our community and outside it currently) to join us on this journey and we want to give careful attention to the areas that we still need to realign with our vision.
Flowing out of this desire to go deeper and wider, 5 areas of strategic focus evolved (in no particular order):
- Nurture visionary leadership
- Align Sunday services with our vision
- Find the people who want to find us
- Establish a strong, healthy financial framework for our community
- Develop “growth and healing”
We will establish teams of leaders to address each of these foci, determine what we need to do and develop a plan to move forward. Some of these plans will be come into play very quickly in the coming year while others will be staggered as we take a patient, carefully paced approach.
1. Nurture visionary leadership
Our leaders in all areas of our church have served so sacrificially and faithfully to lead us to where we are now. We need to continue to care for and support our leaders and increase our investment in this area. We need to nurture new leadership and invite everyone into relational discipleship. This latter point is very important. We will make our vision a reality by faithfully carrying out our mission which is to “be and make disciples”. Discipleship is the means and the end. Therefore the process of visionary leadership (i.e. leadership that moves us toward our vision) is the process of reproducing disciples of Jesus. This means taking up the challenge of following Jesus ourselves and helping others do the same. Since discipleship inherently means helping others follow Jesus, we are all called to this leadership in some way and so our approach to leadership development will be discipleship oriented, relational and inclusive.
2. Align Sunday services with our vision
We love coming together as a community on Sundays and we are grateful for all that God does in those times. We are also aware that our model for Sundays has not changed a great deal since we’ve had fresh vision and we want to explore whether it needs to. We hunger for an even deeper presence and experience of God in these times, evoking an even more passionate response to God. We want our gathering to truly reflect what God is doing in our whole community, embracing all kinds of giftedness and beauty both in what we plan to do and how we participate.
3. Find the people who want to find us
We are conscious that we have a wonderful vision of hope that would resonate with many people from all walks of life but many probably do not know how to find us. Healthy communities naturally grow (both in depth and also numerically). We are not interested in compromising our vision or making numerical growth our goal or setting in place church growth strategies to compete with other local churches. But we do believe that an important part of pursuing our vision of hope and transformation is freely inviting everyone to participate and join us. We do not want to market ourselves but rather offer hope, make ourselves more accessible and find the people who want to find us.
4. Establish a strong, healthy financial framework for our community
Like any community we have financial needs and responsibilities. This is particularly challenging for us corporately in that we have a large property and facilities that require considerable financial maintenance. We also have a vision to serve others and contribute to making the world a better place and ministries like our community farm and Guatemala all require financial sacrifice. We recognize the need for good, responsible fiscal planning for all the potential of our vision. We also see the intimate connection between this administrative task and personal discipleship. As we pursue our vision, as we follow Jesus, what does healthy personal financial practice look like? How can this challenging area of all of our lives come under the leadership of Jesus especially in this time if great economic struggle?
5. Develop “growth and healing”
We want to be “a place of hope where we can find help and healing and the power to change, no matter how desperate our situation”. We have made huge progress in helping folk engage in the process of following Jesus (discipleship) and we are also aware of the need to help folk with some very specific and deep needs. When we first established our vision we stated that “we want to develop a ministry area specifically focused on helping people with emotional, psychological and developmental struggles. We want be a place of healing and recovery where we can offer rest, support and hope to even the most despairing.” Much has been accomplished already but we want to develop in this area more comprehensively, offering practical help to individuals and providing support for group leaders and carers.
These teams will be led by non-staff leaders (with the exception of the “Sunday Services” team) and their role will be to create the team, develop a timeline and work a process that results in a plan of action which will then be submitted to pastoral staff. Each team leader will be assigned one member of pastoral staff as a supporter and guide through the process.
Team / Team Leader / Pastoral Support
- Leadership / Vike Thurston / Matthew Dyer
- Sundays / Bryan Peterson / Matthew Dyer
- Finding people / Jennifer Hoffman / Bryan Peterson
- Finance / Todd Beckett / Matthew Dyer
- Growth and Healing / Rephael Houston / Matthew Dyer
The “Sundays” initiative is one that affects so many areas of our church community, so deeply that, for the sake of integration and cohesion, all pastoral staff members will be on the team (this is the only team that will have pastoral staff actually on the team). Bryan Peterson will lead the process and recruit other non-staff folk to join the team as well.
In addition to the above initiatives we want o continue to make progress in the areas we have already established, namely
- Discipleship groups
- Community Farm
- Youth and Children
These are areas where we have already worked a visionary process and clarified plans, so we will keep moving forward. This only emphasizes our need for carefully paced planning in everything we do so that the new plans (above) do not overwhelm what we already know we are called to.
This latter point is vital for us. Keeping a balanced approach as we move forward will be challenging but an inherent part of our vision.
We need to keep a balance between fervor and rest. Our vision calls us to great sacrifice and commitment but we also don’t want to take ourselves too seriously, recognizing our limitations and need for rest and renewal.
We need to keep a balance between growth, community and servanthood. We see these three as inseparable, vital elements of discipleship. We must work on our inward journey of transformation but recognize that there is no end to the need for inner change and balance this with the outward journey that leads us to serve others, in whom we encounter and draw close to Christ, the transforming presence himself. At the same time there is no end to the need we will see in the world, much of which we must acknowledge as beyond our control, and we must give ourselves to inward transformation as we seek to “be the change we want to see in the world”.
We need to keep a balance between numerical growth and personal growth. A healthy community will grow and our vision calls us to offer hope to everyone. But that hope is manifest in the personal transformation in each of us and is itself an invitation into personal transformation.
We need to keep a balance between optimism and realism. We must not deny our brokenness and need for change; we must not escape from the needs of the world. But at the same time we must keep before us our vision of hope, the Good News of the kingdom. We are not finished products yet but there is great beauty in us and we live in a beautiful world. Our vision is partnership with Jesus as he redeems all things back to God.
We need to keep a balanced pace and be comfortable with an ebb and flow to ministry. We need to maintain momentum but always in a sustainable way which will inevitably mean periods of rest, quietness and even apparent inactivity. Our vision is a lifetime.
We need to keep open to the Holy Spirit. In all our planning we want to remain flexible and open. Plans should not be impositions of restriction on creativity. At the same time we take our vision seriously and want to be mindful and prepared for the future. We recognize that the Holy Spirit leads us not only in the day to day and minute to minute but in our times of future thinking and planning as well and we will not stray from the established paths into which we believe God has led us without serious prayer, thinking and discussion.
The attached documents are mid-year updates for each area of focus.