True planning is vital to the Church and brings many benefits.
Resources to Assist Planning
Courtesy of the Diocese of Nottingham...
What does the word planning conjure up for you? Faceless bureaucrats in back-room meetings? Theory removed from practical realities? Probably it’s the last thing you associate with the Church. Remember the jokes about Jesus telling his disciples to go out into the whole world and set up committees…?
Yet true planning is vital to the Church and brings many benefits. Properly understood, it does not contradict the power of the Holy Spirit but makes room for it. God himself made plans for the Creation of the world and for redeeming it. And we need plans in many areas of our lives: paying off the mortgage, moving house, getting fit: none of these “just happen” without a plan.
While evangelisation can at times be spontaneous, it needs thinking through with a proper action plan if it is to be sustained. The poor, the sick, the troubled, those seeking the sacraments – these will always be knocking on our doors. But the unevangelised, who perhaps do not even know their need of the Gospel, and where to find the answers to life’s mysteries, will not. So unless we plan to go out and meet them, evangelisation simply won’t happen.
A good way to begin a planning process is to pray to the Holy Spirit and put down on paper where we hope to be in five years time: we could be talking about our parish, our group, a particular project or my own life. A simple word for this is “Vision”, and as Scripture tells us, where there is no vision the people perish. The vision should already take into account the help that only God can give, so should stretch us without being absolutely impossible. Jesus was continually training his disciples in this kind of vision: he saw the crowds and said to the disciples, “You give them something to eat.” (Mt. 14:16)
But as vision needs to be turned into a strategy: how do we plan, with God’s help, to turn this vision into reality? And a strategy, in turn, needs breaking down into specific goals which will make it happen. There are recognised ways of writing and measuring these goals so that we feel empowered to carry them out, encouraged when we succeed, and know what to do when we fail.
In fact, if we engaged in planning, many (not all!) of the problems we encounter in our work for God would disappear, since they come from a lack of clarity about priorities and what we are meant to be doing in the first place. Having a vision and turning it into a plan is hard work at first, but soon reduces stress and the feeling of being overburdened by huge and ill-defined demands, feelings which bedevil many involved in ministry.
Someone has said that we have to prepare the fire in one place, even if the Holy Spirit decides to descend somewhere else. By planning we show ourselves, other people and God that we are serious about what we are doing. But we keep that flexibility to adapt our plans as the grace of God manifests itself in unexpected ways: the “God of Surprises.”
Two of the most important factors in making planning a success are training and accompaniment. Training for planning in a church context is available, and once a planning process has begun, having a skilled “accompanier” from outside our organisation, even from another Christian church, can also be a great help.
If you would like to learn more about planning in relation to evangelisation, why not contact us at:
CASE, 114 West Heath Road, London, NW3 7TX
Tel: 0208 458 3316
Fax: 0208 905 5780
Email: [email protected]