HOW TO PRODUCE A PARISH VISION
Your vision communicates the overall focus and aim of the church in the future and acts like a compass and a magnet - pointing the way ahead, and drawing people to work together. It should be descriptive, imaginative, and practical, and be acceptable to most within the church.
How to discern your Vision
What you need most to develop your vision is to allow God to inspire your imagination and to give you creativity. If you have done some work on a SWOT analysis or a “Healthy Churches” exercise, people will have gained a fuller picture of the work of the church, its strengths and hopes.
To get people thinking creatively, break into small groups and ask them to think of all the possibilities their church might want to do and to be in the coming five years. To get people chatting you could suggest aspects of the life of the church they might want to think about, such as:
- Children and youth
- Sunday and mid-week worship
- Study groups and fellowship meetings
- Evangelism courses and other ways of encouraging discipleship
- Your church buildings
- Contacts with the wider community
- Ecumenical relationships
- Encouraging everyone to participate in the mission and ministry of the church.
An important part of your vision will be not just activities but values as well. Jesus’ priorities were that we should ‘love the Lord our God with all our hearts …and our neighbour as ourselves’. Values such as these can be written into your five year vision; ‘our church is a place where all people are welcomed and valued.’ Some churches can be fairly dysfunctional communities and it may be that your priority will be to become a welcoming and forgiving community. Such priorities can be broken down into smaller steps and be given SMART objectives. And at the end of the year you can profitably ask yourselves if you have become a kinder and gentler community.
If people have been creative they will have produced lots of suggestions for the church to strive for in the next five years. There are several methods you can use to choose which aspects of your five year vision are to be given the highest priority:
Send people back into smaller groups to ask a question such as;
- of all of these ideas which one do you think God is calling us to do with highest priority?
- Which of all of these ideas will be most helpful for the outreach of our church to the local community?
- Which of all of these ideas may be most helpful for us in the longer term?
- Which, of all of these ideas, will be most helpful in building God’s Kingdom of justice and hope?
If you get people to vote on all the suggestions this will give you an idea of how important the majority feel about each idea. Voting can be fun but, especially at the end of a busy or complex meeting, it can sometimes produce results that the group may not have desired at a different time and given more time in prayerful study.
Remember, in the Anglican Church, it is the PCC who have been given responsibility to set the direction and tone of the church.
Not set in stone
Your vision sets out what your church will be like five years from now but your vision is not set in stone. You may find you have achieved your vision in only three years and need a new vision. You may find part of your statement no longer seems so important and needs to be given fresh thought and prayer. Do not be afraid to change and adapt your statement as time goes on.
Discerning your church vision is part of the GAP process. To see how your vision fits with GAP. Click here