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.
The Mission Planning Workbook takes your church or circuit through the mission planning process step by step and includes lots of space for you to capture information, ideas and plans. You may want to print 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 workbook, and also available as a separate download, is a blank mission plan form that you can complete with your church or circuit.
The workbook includes 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, a Church Property Plan should be completed—you can find out about this via the property projects web page. This document has been developed by the Property Team to help trustees conduct a thorough evaluation of the potential uses for the property within Methodist ownership.
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.
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.
Help with your church review
Designed specifically for use by Methodists, Our Church's Future Story is particularly helpful for conducting a church or circuit review and for encouraging church members to dream together. It comes in the form of a set of cards for use by a facilitator – perhaps a presbyter, local leader or outside mentor. Hard copies of Our Church’s Future Story are available for free from Methodist Publishing.
Appreciative Inquiry is a positive and affirming approach to a church or circuit review. The focus is on what has been good in a church’s history, what is good and precious now, and what good things God might have for the future. It encourages a church or circuit to look for its assets rather than focusing on its perceived deficits. This Appreciative Inquiry resource and accompanying handouts have been adapted from material produced by the Wey Valley Circuit in the South East Methodist District and the Yorkshire Plus region of the Learning Network.
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.
Both Our Church's Future Story and the Appreciative Inquiry resource above include 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. Consider the four areas of Our Calling—worship, learning and caring, service and evangelism. One priority for each area is fine—and you may choose to focus on just one or two areas this year and to look at the others next year.
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.
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. These Mission Plan Review Questions will help you reflect when the time comes.