Holy Conversations: Strategic Planning as a Spiritual Practice for Congregations

December 8, 2014

Holy Conversations: Strategic Planning as a Spiritual Practice for Congregations 
by Gil Rendle and Alice Mann, The Alban Institute, 2003


Denham Grierson argues that every congregation is, to some degree, like all others, like some others, and like no others. In other words, congregations are like fingerprints. There is a great deal of similarity among all congregations, but there is also a uniqueness about each congregation that makes it particular and like no other.

Throughout the history of the Church, the gospel message has been expressed in communities in many different cultures in particular and concrete ways. The apostle Paul tailored his approach to ministry for each of the congregations he helped to start. Paul interpreted the universal claims of the gospel within specific contexts. This fact is revealed in the epistles that he wrote to those first Christian communities.  Leander Keck explains that Paul’s epistles were occasional. His letters were occasioned by particular circumstances for particular congregations who had particular problems.

Apparently, Gil Rendle and Alice Mann recognize that every congregation is like a fingerprint and is occasioned by particular circumstances and problems. They recognize this fact because they have written a wonderful handbook for congregational strategic planning that is occasional. Instead of offering a one-size-fits-all guide to strategic planning, they have provided a resource that can be used to have a conversation about taking the next appropriate step in the life and mission of a congregation. Rendle and Mann argue that strategic planning is a “holy conversation” about what a group of people believe God is calling them to be and do. They describe this holy conversation as a discernment process that centers on three critical questions:  Who are we? What has God called us to be or do? and Who is our neighbor?  This handbook provides a number of ideas, processes, and tools for addressing the three critical questions that are key to helping a congregation have a holy conversation about its future.

[Review by Rev. David Greene, First UMC, Newton]
Leadership Development