Developing a strategy for mission together
Developing a strategy sounds very mechanical - it can even sound manipulative.
I like the analogy of making a nice meal. You have an idea, perhaps even a picture of what the end result might be, and you plan backwards to make it happen. You get ideas from a recipe someone else has tried and perfected, and even though you know yours will nothing like the one in the picture you have an aim, your organise your ingredients, you plan your time, and you get things prepared - and all before you cook!
So what are you going to cook up in 2012 mission together?
As in cooking the first thing to do is think. As Christians we have the benefit of prayer. The next thing is to get some idea of what is possible in the time you have available. Begin to share ideas and see what all the different churches, networks, and individuals can bring to the table. Of course this analogy is directly relevant if you are planning a street party or Big Lunch on June 3rd for the Queen's Jubilee!
Let me suggest that, after prayer and sharing, you start to look at some websites. Get the big picture. Look at the main sites for the Queen's Jubilee, and pages like The Big Lunch and Jubilee Beacons as these will probably provide most opportunity for churches to work together in serving their local community around the June Bank holiday weekend. Intense media interest has already been generated by the 2012 Games but have you had a look at the official Olympic website?
Having got some idea of what the size of these national events are, begin to research what is already being publicised in your area. You may have seen adverts on buses or in papers, you might check your local BBC radio webpage, you could even phone up your Town Hall and ask for information. Every Local Authority has been asked to appoint a '2012 Officer', so you may ask to have their details. Most LA's have the officer but no budget, so any approach from churches who have buildings, people, resources, networks, and general support to offer may be very welcome.
If you have not started to discuss this in your church or Churches Together group, now is the time. If a meeting is not planned, offer to host one. If ten people offer to start the ball rolling, it is much easier for others to join in. Even starting the conversation by email and asking church leaders what is already thought and planned will help build the network as you pray and begin to think how you can help each other.
By now it is quite possible that Churches Together groups and churches together networks (note use of both CT for formally established groups and 'ct' for informal ones) have already got a vision. It may be to host or partner with another community group for a Jubilee Big Lunch, and to coordinate a hundred volunteers to help the Salvation Army with their mobile catering facility, as well as host a photographic exhibition about 'Light' in the Library. The possibilities are endless, and like choosing the right meal to cook, research is rewarded.
Someone may have already been appointed to head up the churches 2012 Mission Together projects planned in your local community. Great if they have - they will need all the help you can give! As you pray you might offer your own skills, networks and ideas. Leadership can often mean one person - but it also requires a team, and the bigger the vision the larger the team that will be required. Think of every aspect as another team bringing their gift to the table. If it is a music group they will have their leader to coordinate their contribution, others may well have to be appointed. With churches working together it is really very helpful - and a sign of the kingdom I would suggest - if as many traditions as possible are represented in the overall leadership team. It is easier to involve like minded friends, but it is quite special to make new ones.
Now comes the assembling of ingredients and putting them in order. What fits where, when, and how is as important for mission as it is for a meal. Two key acronyms that are well known and helpful in developing a strategy are SWOT and SMART:
Strengths - list all the positive strengths to the project
Weaknesses - then list all the negative weaknesses
Opportunity - be creative in seeing the opportunity
Threat - then list all the things that could be a threat to it happening.
This is often called a 'SWOT analysis', and has benefits whether just done by an individual with a piece of scrap paper, or by a group in an organised session with flipchart or PowerPoint resources. In the same way, the 'SMART check' is useful to see that the meal (to continue the analogy) arrives on the table ready to eat and without causing your guests any concern.
Specific - detail is important and becomes obvious when ignored
Measurable - always ask if you can measure progress
Achievable - not everything is
Realistic - so be realistic, even when praying with faith
Timed - to perfection!
Strategy for 2012 Mission Together
It goes without saying that the more churches that get involved in a mission project, the more complicated the project becomes. If this can be managed well, much more can be achieved. Break down the constituent parts and allocate leaders for specific roles. Build the project together and celebrate the various gifts you have to offer each other.
In organising mission together, it has often been found that one church, network, or individual takes a lead. This is natural, but it needs to be recognised and appreciated, with good communication between all churches, and an accountability one to another for the project agreed.
On the basic principles page I talk about the mission principle of 'mutual respect and interdependence' when churches plan mission together. In Churches Together we often talk of 'celebrating diversity' as we each recognise the part of the body of Christ we represent (read Romans 12: 4-13).
I wrote 'How to develop a mission strategy' for Grove books a few years ago and out of the experience of helping many churches, and groups of churches, in Cumbria.
Looking at the Past, the Present and the Future often worked better with a group of churches than just one, with lots of suggested exercises for a facilitator to lead in a time away. There is not time to organise a weekend away for a Churches Together group to plan their vision', leadership and strategy for the mission opportunities of June, July and August, 2012, but the principles, ideas and resources in the booklet are still relevant and available to buy as a download of 'How to develop a mission strategy' from the Grovebooks website.
So - where are you now?
As you form a vision, leadership, and strategy for churches working together in mission, take a few moments to ask some simple questions:
How do you define your 'local community'?
What are you already doing together, as churches and individuals, in the local community?
What major plans have you already got for the next year?
Are any other local churches engaged in the Jubilee and Games opportunities this year?
What is stopping you working together more than you do already?
Partnership - a long term aim?
'Partnership in the Gospel' is a key phrase in mission. The CTE 'Churches Group for Evangelisation' produced some papers about partnership, drawing on the experience of mission agencies and churches working together at home and overseas. Is 'partnership' something to aim at in your group of churches? Certainly if partnerships were in place, opportunities for mission are easier to take up. Some towns have a charity set up for the purpose, so they can run a homeless project, street pastors scheme, youth outreach bus, and festivals for mission - all supported and on behalf of the local churches.
To see the CGfE papers about partnership for mission, click here.