The season between settled ministers does not have to be a time of standing still. (The church, after all, is the people, not the pastor.) Over the past several weeks I have introduced ways to take stock of the gifts of individuals in your church, the congregation as a whole, and your surrounding community. I have also offered means of celebrating those gifts and assessing how they are currently being used. After completing all of this faithful work, leaders have much of the information needed to plan for the immediate future. Below is an outline for initiative design that is rooted in Spirit-led discernment rather than human-led decision-making.
Create an atmosphere for discernment. Prepare the gathering space in a way that is conducive to worshipful work.
Set aside distractions. Ask, “What does each of us need to turn over to God before we can focus on the work at hand?”
Worship together. Invite everyone to name where they have seen God at work throughout the process.
Review and celebrate all that the leaders have learned from listening and information-gathering.
Pray as Jesus did: "Not my will but Thine be done.”
Discuss the question undergirding the planning process: “Given all the information and reflections we have gathered, what is God inviting us to consider for the immediate future?” Notice where there is excitement or energy as well as where there is a feeling of flatness.
Identify the realization that seems (realizations that seem) to be emerging. Get every concern on the table for the invitations around which there is excitement. Refine ideas that bubble up related to these invitations.
Work toward agreement. What further exploration is needed to confirm or flesh out our responses to God’s invitations? What will faithfulness look like in moving forward with what God is inviting us to consider?
Test the agreement. Let the resolution(s) rest. If your leadership isn’t able to sleep on it/them, take a meal break and then discuss how leaders are feeling in their heads, hearts, and guts about the proposed way forward.
Ask the “next step” questions. What leadership will be required for what God is inviting us to do What current programs do we need to scale back or celebrate and let go of in order to respond to God’s invitation? To whom do we need to reach out to start living into God’s invitation? Who will be the primary point person/group or liaison? When and how will we stop to evaluate our progress toward our vision of faithfulness? (Next week I will provide a ministry reflection form to aid in this assessment.)
Take action. Make detailed plans for action steps. Who will do what? How, and by when? What support and/or accountability is needed? The planning team takes these responses and begins putting detail to potential initiatives, handing them off to standing committees and/or leaders for approval and/or implementation as appropriate.
Offer gratitude to God and ask for God’s help in the coming months.
As the work draws to a close, be sure to celebrate! You have done faithful, hard work on behalf of your congregation. And this effort will not only help your search team better know what a great-fit pastor will look like, it will also make your church more enticing to most candidates.