“You don’t have to climb a mountain to get a vision…”
We discern God’s call through clear, focused priorities for ministry grounded in biblical reflection and an understanding of the context.
I will pour out my spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old shall dream dreams,
and your young shall see visions….
In those days, I will pour out my spirit.” (Joel 3.1-2)
Visioning is a process of discerning where God is calling us to go in the foreseeable future. It’s both a challenging and a liberating exercise. When a congregation or any part of the church undertakes a visioning exercise, it’s attempting to turn its dreams into a vision. The vision will lead to a specific plan, the implementation of which will enable the congregation to move closer to its vision and to the realization of its dreams.
- The community’s inner aspirations projected outward.
- There are no limits.
- Limited to what is possible or probable.
- Generally defined boundaries.
- Clearly defined boundaries.
- Specific goals, timelines and steps to take.
- Action toward fulfilling the vision and realizing the dream.
Resources: Visioning for new ministry
Mission-Shaped Church (Church House Publishing, 2004)
An overview of recent developments in church planting, this detailed, practical and well-researched book describes the varied and exciting “fresh expressions” of church being created. It includes questions and challenges to help local churches engage with the issues, and a foreword by Archbishop Rowan Williams.
Moving On in Mission-Shaped Church (Church House Publishing, 2005)
A 16-page booklet that will help you to apply the concepts of the Church of England’s mission-shaped church in your local context. Ideal for house groups and deaneries contemplating church-plants. It outlines how you can creatively respond to challenges and suggests ways of moving forward in fresh directions.
Bob Hopkins and Richard White, Enabling Church Planting (Church Pastoral Aid Society, 1995)
A training and resource book to help those considering or embarking upon a new church plant. The workbook can be photocopied for use with your team and includes many exercises. Each of the five sections is split up and includes some of the following elements: an introduction page, a briefing paper, a discussion paper, a collection of ideas and illustrations. This book is not a source of ready-made answers; instead it offers practical, experience-based guidance for the whole of the church-planting process.
George Carey and others (Bob Hopkins, ed.), Planting New Churches (Eagle, 1991)
Though a bit dated, this book contains many examples of different church plants, reflecting the rich kaleidoscopic diversity of Anglican experience in the U.K. It also offers discussion of important church-planting principles.
Manuel Ortiz, One New People: Models for Developing a Multiethnic Church (InterVarsity Press, 1996)
Manuel Ortiz persuades us of the benefits in fellowship and outreach that we can experience in church planting across racial, ethnic and cultural lines. To that end, he offers a wide variety of models for creating and sustaining a multi-ethnic church. Church planters will appreciate his effort to help planters find the best model for their situation. Ortiz includes questions for thought and discussion points throughout the book. Finally, you’ll find ideas and principles here to guide you through the process of change and growth — improving communication, managing conflict, encouraging and training new leaders, and much more.
David Hesselgrave, Planting Church Cross-Culturally (Baker Book House, 2nd ed., 2000)
Hesselgrave thoughtfully applies cross-cultural theory, church-planting strategy and biblical authority in this study for church planters. Using the New Testament record, he has developed a pattern for church planting based on the “Pauline Cycle.” Without discounting the prerogatives of the Holy Spirit, he argues that successful church growth requires careful planning and structure. He documents each segment of the Pauline Cycle with scriptures, appropriate theory, research and examples. Numerous charts and graphs provide visual reinforcement.
Resources: Visioning for expansion
Strategic Visioning Process, National Endowment for the Arts
An article that explains how to use an organization’s past and present to name future options and possibilities. It emphasizes building the vision around an accurate understanding of the organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. It also outlines a seven-step visioning exercise.
Anna Haines, Using Visioning in a Comprehensive Planning Process
An article on how to build consensus in a community about its future through visioning. It discusses how visioning involves members of the community in identifying their core values and determining their future. It also identifies key steps in visioning and planning processes.
Arlin Rothauge, All Doors Open: Congregational Strategies for Comprehensive Evangelism and Outreach (New York: Episcopal Parish Services, c.1994)
The fifth in a series of pamphlets on congregational development by Mr. Rothauge. He offers some practical tips on growing a congregation by reaching out to new members.
Roy M. Oswald and Robert F. Friedrich, Jr., Discerning Your Congregation’s Future: A Strategic and Spiritual Approach (New York: Alban Institute, 1996)
This book combines practical tools for parish planning with equally practical help for the spiritual dimension of what parishes are about. It can be a revolutionary approach for congregational leaders who are serious about becoming an effective religious force in the future of their communities.
Christopher White, Seismic Shifts: Leading in Times of Change (Toronto: United Church Publishing House, 2006)
This book explores the challenges of congregational expansion in our rapidly changing contemporary society. It includes a DVD for congregational workshops.
Resources: Visioning for reconfiguration
Janet Marshall, “Amalgamation and Mergers: Last Gasp or New Ministry” (Potentials in Print, 2001 newsletter)
A well-written and accessible presentation on amalgamations. The author analyzes the formal and informal dynamics that come into play in the process of amalgamation and provides useful tips on how to navigate the process successfully from beginning to end.
Beth Ann Gaede (ed.), Ending with Hope: A Resource for Closing Congregations (Alban Institute Publication, 2002)
This book contains articles by people who have had first-hand experience in ending congregational ministry and taken the time to reflect on their experience and articulate its lessons.
Michael K. Jones, Empty Houses: A Pastoral Approach to Congregational Closures (BookSurge, 2004)
An account of the author’s experience in bringing the ministry of a congregation to an end. It contains lessons he learned in that process and tips on avoiding serious mistakes.