Missional Planning for Dioceses: An Introduction

by Ken Howard

This the 5th post in a multi-part series. Click here to read the previous post.

In our last several posts, we discussed the what it means to be missional and how to go about developing a missional plan for a congregation.

In this next series of posts, we move up a level in the ecclesiastical food chain for a discussion of how to go about developing a missional plan for a diocese, district, synod, or other adjudicatory.

It’s harder to develop a missional plan at the diocesan level than at the congregational level: not because of the process but because of the politics. The process is easier because there are fewer demographic “moving parts” to track. But the politics are harder because an honest diocesan mission plan cannot avoid venturing into the political minefield of resource prioritization and reallocation questions. Because nothing opens up fissures in the fabric of a diocese like talking about opening, redeveloping, and closing congregations, especially closing. Because every congregation that needs to be closed has a “great,” emotion-driven story about why they shouldn’t be, while diocesan leadership haven’t had ready access to the information necessary to create a convincing data-driven story about why they should. Which is why many dioceses avoid this kind of planning altogether or abandon the effort after running into political roadblocks.

One of our goals in creating Datastory for Faith Communities is to give diocesan leaders access to the data they need to drive these kinds of tough but necessary decisions.

Our goal over the next few posts is to walk you through the process of conducting a systemic, data-driven missional context analysis that identifies a diocese’s context, strengths and weakness, and opportunities and threats collectively, and developing a strategic missional plan that addresses all of those issues. So stay calm and trust the process. It’s not hard, once you commit to asking the tough questions.

What’s in a Strategic Diocesan Missional Plan?

At its most basic level, a diocesan missional plan must discern and communicate the answer to five questions:

  1. What is God calling us to be? (Vision).
  2. Who are our neighbors? (How our contexts are changing).
  3. What are our collective strengths and weakness? (Stewardship of current resources).
  4. What are our future opportunities and threats? (Investing in future resources).
  5. Where do we go from here? (Putting all the pieces together together).

Next week’s post will begin to walk you through these five steps. Stay tuned!