Mission planning and A Methodist Way of Life

The twelve practices of A Methodist Way of Life help us mature as disciples, welcome others into the church community, and be part of a missional church together. We can visualise them as a train network, with each practice represented by a station. As we travel as Methodists, we aim to visit every station on the map. In most churches, however, some stations will be more ‘developed’ than others. You might think of mission planning as creating a schedule of works: discerning which one or two stations you will develop over the next 12-18 months. As you consult your congregation/s and the wider community during your mission planning process, you will discern which one or maybe two stations need to be developed. 

Your mission plan could involve developing any of the 12 stations. Sharing faith and speaking of God’s love would be obvious stations to develop: perhaps signing up for the Everyone an Evangelist process, or scheduling an evangelistic event around Harvest or Christmas. Or you might decide to focus on living attractively: helping your members understand what it means for them to live out their Christian faith in their everyday lives.

Each station is an entry point into the life of faith. Attending a worship service or having an evangelistic conversation are not the only ways in which unaffiliated people start to follow Jesus. If your church has a passion for creation care or for challenging injustice, your mission plan could involve developing opportunities for unaffiliated people to join you in this work. Research has shown that people can start a journey of discipleship through doing good together with people of faith. Likewise, Christians are not the only people who enjoy helping others. Think about how you might involve unaffiliated people in your acts of service to others.

If you choose to focus on generosity and hospitality, you might think of some very specific and practical ways in which you might offer hospitality to people who are not currently part of your worshipping community. More radically, how might you accept hospitality from others? How might you release the generosity of unaffiliated people – who may be just as keen as you to use their money and time to do good.

Remember that a mission plan is outward-looking, focused on reaching your community with God’s love. If you discern that developing gathered worship or pastoral care should be your priority, think about how your worship and pastoral care better enable you to reach your community with God’s love. (A plan to develop a better ‘worship experience’ for insiders, or to ensure all members are visited regularly, is not a mission plan). You might focus on making your worship more visitor- and seeker-friendly, for example, or on developing a digital offering that is very accessible for unaffiliated people. You might consider what pastoral care to your wider community might look like. What might your building users say if you asked them how you could pray for them, for example? 

If you are passionate about prayer, consider how you might creatively pray for people to come to know Jesus and to experience God’s grace. If you sense a calling to deepen your knowledge of the faith, consider how you might learn from and alongside unaffiliated people. Could you invite people exploring faith to learn alongside you and enrich each other?