Detour to mission: An unplanned ministry

A church's strategic planning process is a fragile creature. Like those Hebrews who were on a desert journey, we're not sure where we are going. We hope that we will end up not with some golden idol of a vision, but with God relentlessly guiding us along the way with a fiery pillar.

When the church I serve undertook a strategic planning process in 2005, there was more golden calf than fiery pillar. Like many such efforts, it produced an earnest, businesslike plan. We held conversations within our church community, gathered demographic data on ourselves and our neighborhood and reflected on all of this with a consultant. The vision statement that emerged included a list of 20 bullet points, objectives for the coming years, metrics for evaluation and job descriptions for the staff.

We declared, "As a congregation God is calling us to grow in diversity, foster, celebrate and accommodate growth in membership, support one another on our journeys of faith, enrich our community life, advance our work of social justice, all with the help of our finances, staff, facility and laity." Maybe the fact that the vision statement was a rambling sentence should have alerted us to trouble ahead.