Missional Planning for Dioceses: Where Do We Go from Here?

by Ken Howard

This the 7th and last post in a multi-part series. Click here to read the previous post.

Step 4 – Where Are Our Future Opportunities and Threats? (Investing in The New). Think of this in term of ice hockey legend Wayne Gretzky’s immortal wisdom: “I don’t skate to where the puck is, I skate to where the puck is going.” In other words, it is insufficient to just know where there are people in need of ministry, to whom your churches could uniquely minister. You must also understand where you have no presence, and what you would have to do to be present there.

To do this, you would want to start by identifying all areas of your diocese which are not within 15 minutes of another congregation of your denominatiuon. These are areas where your diocese does not have a functional presence (since 70% of people will not drive more than 15 minutes to attend a congregation) and which merit more research as possible sites for new congregations, using the same three community population trends identified above to refine your search:

  • Population Growth. Growing or shrinking? (Growing is better)
  • Diversity. Increasing or decreasing? (Increasing is better)
  • Generational Balance. More balanced or less balanced? (More is better)

Example – Assessing Sites for New Church Starts Based on External Sustainability:



Step 5 – Where Do We Go from Here? (Putting It All Together in a Plan). Again, this step could be a book unto itself, but suffice it to say that if you include the following information, you are on the right track:

  1. Diocesan Vision. Summarize what you have discerned that God is calling the diocese to be and to do in one or two clear and concise sentences.
  2. Context. Summarize patterns and themes in what you have learned about the ways the congregational contexts in your diocese are operating are changing, noting trends and theme in Population growth, Diversity, Generational Predominance, and other relevant characteristics.
  3. Collective Strengths and Weaknesses (and Strategies). Summarize patterns and themes in what you have learned in Triaging your current congregations: which are likely to stay strong, which plateaued or struggling congregations could be redeveloped with appropriate interventions, which cannot and must be pastorally closed, and what it will cost to deal with all three.
  4. Future Opportunities and Threats (and Strategies). In what areas do you need to have a presence but don’t, and what it will cost (in time, talent, and treasure) to create new congregations or ministries there.
  5. Milestones, Responsibilities, and Dates: Set forth what needs to happen, who will do it, and by when.