June 22, 2015

Celebrate. Listen. BE INSPIRED. Plan.

When there is so much happening, or so much to do in the present, it’s sometimes difficult to imagine the future. Here’s a fun exercise to move people to envision how their church could make an exciting difference in the world.

Vision is inspiring because it describes impact. To help people understand this concept, start the exercise by asking the question: What are some ways our ministries currently impact the people of our congregation and our neighborhood or community? In other words, what are some results of our ministry in this place?

Record the answers of people on a flip chart. Encourage stories that describe impact. For instance, if someone says the impact is “beautiful worship,” explain that beautiful worship is what we do, but what is the impact of our beautiful worship? Ask the person if s/he can give an example of how her/his life, has been impacted by the worship at the church (which I hereby name St. Alban’s).

This is sometimes a bit of a stretch for people. Asking them to describe impact helps prevent simple listing of the features of the parish.

Next, divide the audience into small groups of 3 to 6 people, and give these instructions:

1. Each group should imagine itself ten years in the future – 2025.

2. Write the “headlines” or highlights of the church’s 2025 annual report. Try to include answers to all or some of the following questions:

  • What will be different in our community in ten years because St. Alban’s exists?
  • What role(s) will St. Alban’s play in making this difference?
  • Who will be St. Alban’s partners or collaborators? 
  • Describe how St. Alban’s is impacting the spiritual growth of its members and/or of people who are not members?
  • Who does the congregation serve? Anyone different than today? What has made that possible?
  • Where does the congregation serve? A different location? What made that possible?

3. Select a spokesperson for your group to read your 2025 annual report highlights to the larger group.

As each group reports its 2025 headlines, the facilitator should record each group’s major themes as well as themes/trends that emerge from multiple groups.

When “reporting out” has concluded, the facilitator then can ask the audience to help him/her articulate the top themes about desired future ministry impacts. Also record these on a flip chart page (try to keep it to no more than five themes).

At this point, a small group of volunteers can be recruited to LATER “word-smith” a vision statement based on the visionary themes. Whether or not this is done, keep the themes to begin to direct planning for the future.

If this exercise is conducted in a day long leadership retreat, move on to a facilitated brainstorming session to answer: What are some ideas for what we can do to insure that St. Alban’s can accomplish these desired impacts of our ministries by 2025? (If the initial 2025 headline exercise was conducted in a coffee hour or some other congregational meeting, schedule the brainstorming to occur at a later date).

This is just one way to engage people in the creation of a vision. How does your congregation go about setting direction for its future? 

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