Let me just admit it right upfront. I’m a bit geeky when it comes to strategic planning. Yes, I love the process. But even more so, I love the outcome when churches work through the strategic planning process and hold themselves accountable to reaching the goals through the objectives. It doesn’t have to be a complicated process, but it takes intentionality. It provides clarity, focus, and direction for churches and their leaders. Being strategic for churches means keeping the mission of making disciples at the center of ALL the decisions.
There is not one congregation or one church leader that I’ve worked with that hasn’t wanted to help people grow deeper in their faith and reach new people. However,there are many congregations and leaders who I have worked with that had no intentionality in doing so. They hoped to reach new people, but there were no intentional steps being taken to make this a reality. Curt Kampmeier reminds us, “If you are going to grow, you have to be intentional.” I think this pertains to individuals as well as organizations.
Besides being intentional, we must also be strategic. Michael Porter tells us, “The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.” Often, the church needs to shed some ineffective practices, methods, and ministries in order to be more intentional and strategic.
And Paul reminds us about being diligent about how we use our time and focus.
Use your heads as you live and work among outsiders. Don’t miss a trick. Make the most of every opportunity. Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out. Colossians 4:5-6 (MSG)
When it comes to launching new cooperative parishes, being strategic and intentional are key to moving forward towards a healthy and fruitful future together. Too often churches move into a cooperative parish model without any strategy. They have hope. They hope that by these congregations coming together, they will “save” one another from further decline. Without an intentionality towards a new future, God’s preferred future, there will most likely be no change of trajectory.
When a person takes a big vacation, most often there are months of planning that occur prior to the trip. Research is done on the location, transportation options, sleeping accommodations, attractions to visit, and special restaurants to enjoy. Next comes the purchasing of any required tickets and the making of reservations. Perhaps even applying for a passport is required. The days leading up to the trip require packing all the necessities, making sure someone looks after the home, plants, and pets in your absence, and stopping the mail and newspaper while you are away.
There are very few people that would just wake up one morning and take off on a big trip without all of these intentional and strategic steps becoming completed first. However, too often churches or even judicatory leaders make big decisions about bringing churches together as cooperative parishes without any intentional or strategic steps or planning. For example, have even these first few intentional and strategic steps been taken?
- Have the churches prayed and discerned together? What is God’s preferred future for these churches?
- What’s the “why?” Why do these churches believe they are being called to cooperate in ministry in this season? How will participation in a cooperative parish make them more effective in reaching new people?
- What are the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of each church individually and the potential cooperative parish?
There is much potential for enormous kingdom impact through cooperative ministry. But, we must approach the possibility with great intentionality and strategy if the cooperative parish is to be healthy and vital. If your church is discerning a potential cooperative ministry, consider a congregational guide to help your leaders walk through the discernment process with intentionality. You will find this step-by-step congregational guide in our book, An Effective Approach to Cooperative Parishes.