This is the first of several posts that comprise Part 2 of the multi-part series “Developing a Missional Plan.” Click here to read Part 1.
Now that we’ve clarified what “being missional” means in theory, we can move on to what it means to be missional in practice: specifically, how to develop a missional plan. We will walk through the process of developing a congregational missional plan.
When a congregation develops a missional plan, what it is really doing is discerning and then putting in writing how they as a faith community will fulfill Jesus’ command “Love your neighbor” in the larger community in which God has planted them. We can’t do this unless we can answer the question, “Who is my neighbor?” And we cannot do either unless we first get to know our neighbor.
Ultimately, a congregational mission plan is only as sound as the congregation’s knowledge of its neighbors…and its neighborhoods. Which is why half of the steps in developing a congregational mission plan involve conducting a thorough analysis of the congregations missional context. Missional Context analysis is about discerning the qualities, needs, strengths, and aspirations of the communities we are called by God to engage. We use the term “communities” rather than “congregations” as a reminder that faith communities are not just called to serve the people who show up for worship (the community inside the building), but also to serve the neighborhoods around them, and perhaps even the world as a whole (the community outside the building). We use the term “missional” as a reminder that God is already at work in that community, and that a large part of our discernment is about learning the mission that God may already have in store for us with respect to our neighborhoods. We simply cannot stay inside our worship centers and offices, creating programs we believe our communities want and need, without ever going out and asking.