Mission Planning Toolkit
In this toolkit, you will find a selection of resources you can use to help you with the eight-step mission planning process. These resources will help you consider your hopes and dreams as a church or circuit carefully and prayerfully together, and then commit your mission plan to paper.
Our Church’s Future Story is a pack of 36 cards that takes your church or circuit through the mission planning process step by step. The new edition replaces an earlier pack of 18 cards, having been greatly revised and expanded. Hard copies are available for free from Methodist Publishing, and a digital version can be downloaded here. Our Church's Future Story includes lots of suggested activities to help you pray, discern, plan and take action. You may want to order hard copies for your whole Circuit Leadership Team or Church Council, or even for every church member if you are a small church. Included in the cards is a blank mission plan form that you can complete with your church or circuit.
The cards include questions to help you think about the use of your building in the light of your dreams for the future. If you are not sure whether your building in its current form serves your mission plan, there is lots of advice on the property development pathways web pages. These pathways have been developed by the Property Team to help trustees conduct a thorough evaluation of the potential uses for properties within Methodist ownership, and to take them through a property development project from start to finish.
You will need to start by deciding on a process. How will you go about discerning and writing your mission plan? You will need a small group to lead the mission planning process, as well as plenty of consultation with the whole congregation and/or wider circuit representatives. You may also decide to meet with particular groups in the church or circuit, such as the young people who attend your youth club, your Messy Church families or the elderly people who attend your coffee morning. Whether or not they attend your worship services, they will have valuable insights and opinions to share. Some of your meetings could be set aside specifically for prayer, as you seek God’s will together. Alternatively, you may prefer to have a sustained time of prayer at the start of each meeting, before moving into discussion.
Here are some helpful tips from the Learning Network about facilitating great conversations. Our Church's Future Story includes lots of ideas for good questions and activities for getting people talking.
To write a great mission plan, you need to understand the local community to which God has called you. Consider the people who live near your church, or in your circuit—they are your principal mission field. You will need to figure out what Our Calling looks like for you with them in mind. Think about what is it like to live in your area for various different groups of people.
Help with your community audit
The Church of England has been promoting community audits as part of Mission Action Planning for some years now. This extract from Crossing the Threshold, written by the Diocese of Hereford, gives churches lots of helpful advice about how to consult with the local community and gather important information.
The Church Urban Fund's lookup tool generates very useful information on wealth, poverty and other population demographics in your area. Although the information is organized according to Anglican parishes, you can easily apply it to your circuit or to the area around your church.
This inspiring talk was given at the launch of the Methodist Church’s property strategy. Dr Richardson describes a brilliant community audit in which she was involved, which resulted in an exciting new missional venture.
Now that you have a good understanding of your community and its needs, it’s time to review your church/es. What do you do well and what are your people passionate about? What time, energy and money do you have to offer? This will help you discern the way forward. To paraphrase Frederick Buechner, God's vision for you is where your deep gladness and your community's deep hunger meet.
Our Church's Future Story contains lots of guidance to help you conduct a church or circuit review. You may wish to have some input from an outside facilitator. Sometimes an outsider can see things that you can't see, and say important things that are hard to hear.
When we dream about the future, we escape the limits of our present situation and conceive of an alternative reality. Writing a great mission plan needs to involve some dreaming and imagination - otherwise, you will not be able to do anything other than what you have always done. Our Church's Future Story includes suggestions and activities to help you imagine the future together.
Once you've spent some time dreaming together, you are likely to have lots of ideas and possibilities that will need sifting. What will your church or circuit focus on as priorities this year? There is no point choosing too many priorities as it will scatter your energies too much. If everything is a priority, nothing is a priority. One to three priorities is about right, depending on the size and capacity of your church/es. Better to do one thing well than three things badly.
Once you have decided on your priorities you need to decide what you will do to develop each one, who will do it and when. This helps you to keep each other accountable, makes it much more likely things will get done and ensures the work is shared out fairly.
You don’t need to do everything all at once. Some things can be actioned fairly quickly; others take lots of time to plan. You may decide to spread your activities over the next 18 months, for example. It doesn’t matter if your mission plan takes time to implement, as long as you are taking action.
As well as considering what you will do, you also need to think about what fruit you hope to see. This is likely to take more effort to figure out. We are used to thinking about what we will do as a church. We don't often think about the difference we want to make as a result of our actions.
If we do consider the fruit we hope to see—guided and empowered by the Holy Spirit—it will be much easier for us to review our activities in the future. We will be able to see what is working and what isn’t. We will be able to make strategic decisions about how to spend our limited energy, time and money. Our Church's Future Story includes guidance and examples to help you consider the fruit.
Now you have written your mission plan, there is one final stage—putting a date in the diary to come back to it. You may decide to wait a year, or possibly 18 months—that’s fine, as long as there is a date in the diary. Our Church's Future Story includes questions to help you review your mission plan when the time comes.