Monday, March 26, 2007

A Long Range Hunch

Thanks for all the input on the Introvert's Coffee Hour Dilemma. Check out this blog for a sustained exploration of the topic of introverts in ministry.

I avoided the coffee hour yesterday because we had a Newcomer's Orientation right after worship. This is a new experiment: something between that first "thanks for visiting" letter and an invitation to attend new member classes. Just bagels and coffee and a chance to learn more about our congregation without being pressed to commit to anything. After members of the Evangelism Comm. gave brief presentaions, we asked if there were questions. One woman wanted to know if there was an evening Circle meeting. One guy wondered if we would repeat a particular adult ed class that he'd missed. Then one man said, "Yes, I'd be interested in seeing your long range plan. What kind of goals are you working toward? What's your strategy?"

See, I've always read those, "Come Up With The Whiz Bang Long Range Strategy that will Catapult Your Church into the Stratosphere of Wonderfulness" books with a mixture of awe and guilt. Awe because they are so energetic, logical, and confident. Guilt because I don't work that way. I usually have a general sense of the direction things ought to go. I'm good about facilitating conversations about what should be the next steps we take along that path. I do urge folks to make decisions and be clear what they are trying to accomplish. But I don't tend to spend much time developing The Big Plan. I'd have to say I work with Long Range Hunches rather than Strategic Goals and Benchmarks.

Do you suppose this has to do with an NF rather than an ST approach to ministry? Do we need a blog called The Intuitive Church?


Mark Smith said...

I'm also an NF (INFP), but when I was looking for a church I found those long term plans very illuminating. The strengths and admitted weaknesses of a congregation were all laid out neatly for me. Anything not talked about is either a weakness or source of controversy.

For churches where I couldn't find that document (I was generally looking on the church website) I got the same information by interviewing a member and a church leader (usually a pastor). It was just easier finding it in the document.

Besides, any NF should love the introspection required to produce the document - yes?

Preacher Mom said...

I'd love to plug into just such a blog. I identify with so much of what you are saying here. I definitely think that church leaders and members need to be the same page about a particular church's gifts and mission, but I personally tend to be much more fluid than most documents allow. I'm glad I'm not the only one out there like that!

Presbyterian Gal said...

My business experience has taught me that for a company to be wildly successful it needs a balance of two things: Wild, out of the box vision and Solid feet on the ground form and structure for that vision to be expressed. I believe the same applies for a church to function as an effective lens for God's light.

If you only have vision and instinct, you're a ship without a rudder and will find yourself either in dangerous (not in a good way) waters. If you're all structure and form without vision and instinct, you're stuck at a dead calm with no sails or mast - and unable to go where need and growth occur.

Quotidian Grace said...

My experience with church long range plans is that they take a lot of time to prepare and approve and then they are put in a drawer. Within a few months no one remembers them and nothing changes. So if you told me your church had one, my next question would be "how's it working for you?"

Preacher Mom said...

Amen, QG!

Bag Lady said...

Again, I am thankful I'm not called to ordained ministry.

But as a lay leader, I've been heavily involved in dealing with all three questions you noted.

Once I bought into the belief that long-range planning, goals and strategy were important, in the interest of hearing what "accomplished" people had to say. I've had some heavy lessons that changed my perspective.

Whatever happened to following Jesus? Ministry? People who have difficulty with these questions need to be pressed on what it is they believe a church is/should be. Chances are they either won't be able to tell you, or they'll frame it in terms of worldly concerns.

There is much wisdom from different disciplines that can inform the church, but avoidance tactics can also be masked in those disciplines.

I've had QC's experience -- several times over in the same parish. It's become very clear to me that parish leadership is the issue (and "leadership" doesn't always mean clergy -- laity can definitely do a deadly dance with and shoot down its chosen ordained ministers).

What I've learned isn't readily condensed, so I commend to you the writings of Edwin H. Friedman, a very wise rabbi and psychologist who died 11 years ago. His work is so very helpful in addressing exactly your concerns (and maybe even others you haven't enumerated yet).

ted said...

presbyterian_gal's advice rings true. In my current field (computers) my skills have advanced to the point where my hunches are often towards what end up being the "right" answers. Ministry (my next field) is quite a bit more complicated, though, and hunches are informed not only by formal knowledge, but also by one's personality, upbringing, and relationships.

Perhaps a good strategy is to write down (in the sketchiest, fastest, unstructured sort of way) your hunches about direction each week. Then once a month go back and review - any emerging themes are probably, at worst, good hunches, and at best, a way for God to speak into your ministry.