From Rev Andrew Smith
Presbytery Minister - Congregation Futures
Here is information about a couple of processes for mission planning that are underway with congregations in our Presbytery at the moment. The information may spark your interest in finding ways to help your congregation plan for mission.
One of the processes is based on Appreciative Inquiry (AI), and is being run with Wesley Forrest by Cameron Eccleston of the Mission Enablement Team of Uniting Mission and Education of our Synod. AI is a strength-based tool that seeks to understand the congregation’s DNA through rich conversations and the re-telling of significant stories before taking the time to think and pray about discerning the will God for the future. One of the questions that the congregation focuses on during the 3-4 hour workshop is: Tell me a story about a time you saw God clearly at work in your congregation? What happened? Who was involved? Why was it significant?
Last week the elders of Wesley Forrest were treated to a preview of the upcoming mission planning workshop for the whole congregation in May. There was a buzz in the room, and an overflow of energy, as the elders told each other about a time when they saw God clearly at work in Wesley Forrest.
The workshop is an important first step for mission planning. The stories that come from the half day with the whole congregation will show common themes about the life and hopes of the congregation that will form the basis for beginning to discern how God is at work in leading the congregation into the future. A part of the discerning will also involve taking into account trends in the wider society and important aspects of the life of the local community in which the congregation lives and ministers and is at mission.
It is wonderful to have the experience and support of Cameron in leading this mission planning process. In addition to expectancy about how this tool will be encouraging and helpful to Wesley Forrest, the plan is that some of the participants (including me) will be upskilled in this AI approach so that we can help facilitate it in other congregations in the Presbytery.
Another mission planning process currently underway in our Presbytery is being led by Rev Elizabeth Raine with the Gungahlin congregation. Some of our other congregations have previously benefited from this process that Elizabeth has developed from the work of Alice Mann. Those congregations include Canberra City, St Columba’s, Queanbeyan and Tuggeranong where Elizabeth is currently in placement.
As with the AI approach that Cameron facilitates, it is best not to give away too much about Elizabeth’s process so as not to ruin the surprise or effectiveness of the highly participatory activities. Suffice to say that as with the AI approach, you will find yourself easily slipping into rich and fun conversations about your congregation and how God is at work among you. The tool helps to draw out what the people of the congregation sense God is calling them to as a church arising out of their past and present. Everyone has an equal voice in the process. It ends up with teams of people putting their names besides projects that the whole congregation have identified as being priorities.
Engaging with this mission planning tool is also a chance for people (including me again) to gain skills in facilitating the process so that we can make it more widely available across our Presbytery to lead our congregations into a fuller participation in Christ’s mission in the world (see paragraph 15b of the UCA Basis of Union).
If these processes spark interest for you in planning for mission in your congregation, please make contact with me so that Presbytery can find ways to support you and your congregation.
Rev Andrew Smith
Presbytery Minister – Congregation Futures
Canberra Region Presbytery
Uniting Church in Australia
0437 011 338