A Practical Guide to Congregational Planning: Thinking and Acting Strategically

A Practical Guide to Congregational Planning: Thinking and Acting Strategically

Center staffers Tim Shapiro and Nancy DeMott facilitated this workshop on congregational planning and thinking and acting strategically. Here are their top resource picks.

Team Building
Rendle, Gil.  Behavioral Covenants in Congregations:  A Handbook for Honoring Differences.  Herndon, VA:  The Alban Institute, 1999. Challenging congregations to practice behaviors that reflect their positive values, Rendle presents the behavioral covenant as a useful approach to answering a key question:  “How will we behave when we don’t understand each other and when we don’t agree?”  

TrustTalk. Plano, TX: Thin Book Press, 2006. TrustTalk is a boxed set of cards designed to be used to build healthy and trusting relationships among team members. Each card begins with a statement, such as “This team behaves as if we are all in this together.”  Then, the card follows with three questions that serve as discussion starters.

Communications
Bailey, Brian and Terry Storch.  The Blogging Church.  San Francisco, CA:  Jossey-Bass, 2007. The authors provide a very practical manual for using blogs as a communication strategy in congregations. They explain what a blog is and what benefits it offers. Readers will learn how blogs can be used to build connections among the congregation. Lots of examples from existing blogs are included.

Booher, Dianna.  The Voice of Authority:  10 Communication Strategies Every Leader Needs to Know.  New York, NY:  McGraw Hill, 2007. Communications expert Dianna Booher synthesizes effective communication into ten strategies.   These “rules” include be complete, be clear, be credible, and so forth.   Though written for business communications, the strategies are adaptable, as well as valuable, for congregations.

Spirituality
Brown, Patricia.  Paths to Prayer:  Finding Your Own Way to the Presence of God. San Francisco, CA:  Jossey-Bass, 2003. This book introduces over 40 traditional prayer practices from various strands of the Christian tradition.  Each of the prayer practices can be adapted by a facilitator, team leader, or worship leader to fit the particular congregational context and the congregation’s theological worldview.  

Lectio Divina
    http://www2.crcna.org/pages/crhm_lectio_divina.cfm
    From the Christian Reformed Church, this site explains clearly and simply the practice of Lectio Divina, an ancient form of reading Scripture for spiritual transformation. 

Recall the Past
For a list of denominational websites, got to Hartford Institute of Religion http://hirr.hartsem.edu/denom/homepages.html

Hammond, Sue Annis.  The Thin Book of Appreciative Inquiry.  2nd Edition.  Bend, OR:  Thin Book Publishing Co., 1996.  This book provides a great overview of appreciative inquiry with sample questions, resources, and sample uses.

Rendle, Gil and Alice Mann. Holy Conversations:  Strategic Planning as a Spiritual Practice for Congregations.   Herndon, VA:  The Alban Institute, 2003, pp 262-268. The appendices in this book offer useful tools for strategic planning, including recalling the past.   The book’s “Wall of Wonder” and the “History Grid” are useful tools.

Assess the Present
Callahan, Kennon L. Twelve Keys to an Effective Church: Strong, Healthy Congregations Living in the Grace of God. 2nd Edition.  San Francisco, CA:  Jossey-Bass, 2010.     This book encourages a planning team that is thinking strategically to consider twelve key elements of congregational life, and to identify which of these twelve keys already are strengths; and then to concentrate on building up those strengths.   

Woolever, Cynthia and Deborah Bruce.  A Field Guide to U.S. Congregations:  Who’s Going Where and Why.  2nd Edition.  Louisville, KY:  Westminster John Knox Press 2010. This survey, meant to be taken by congregational members, provides an assessment of how a particular congregation is fulfilling key functions in relationship to other congregations.  Additional information is at the website http://www.uscongregations.org/.

Discover the Vision
Palus, Charles J. and David M. Horth.   Visual Explorer:  Picturing Approaches to Complex Challenges. Greensboro, NC:  CCL Press, 2001. Visual Explorer facilitates dialogue. This resource includes 224 pictures that participants use to identify and share their perspectives related to the topic under consideration. It is a useful tool for articulating vision.

Kaner, Sam.  Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision-Making.  Second Edition.  San Francisco, CA:  Jossey Bass, 2007.  This revised and updated classic provides facilitators with a collection of tools, models and diagrams that enable organizations and teams to engage in constructive group decision-making.

Schwartz, Peter.  “Your Future in 5 Easy Steps:  Wired Guide to Personal Scenario Planning.”  Wired Magazine, 17.08 (2009).  http://archive.wired.com/special_multimedia/2009/ff_scenario_1708.
    Schwartz asserts that scenario planning is not prediction.  Rather, the goal is to envision possible futures, which will serve as guideposts to the path forward.   The result is a better view of future possibilities and how to get to those possibilities.

Create the Future  
Duffy, Mary Grace. Managing Projects:  Expert Solutions to Everyday Challenges.  Pocket Mentor Series.  Boston, MA:  Harvard Business School Publishing, 2006. This book offers valuable guidance for leaders whose role it is to implement a congregation’s vision. This brief guidebook offers a four phase project management process and includes multiple charts and examples of effective project management.   

Klein, Gary.  “Flexecution as a Paradigm for Replanning, Part 1.”  IEEE Intelligent Systems 22, no. 5 (September 2007): 79-83.

Klein, Gary.  “Flexecution, Part 2:  Understanding and Supporting Flexible Execution.”  IEEE Intelligent Systems 22, no. 6 (November/December 2007): 108 – 112. This two-part article addresses the concept of flexecution – flexible execution.  It goes beyond the need to adapting a plan as needed in order to reach our goals. Flexecution, Klein asserts, also entails changing the goals themselves based on discoveries made during execution.

Tenny-Brittian, Bill and Kris Tenny-Brittian. Church Talk: Four-Part Series on Moving from Vision to Implementation. Port Aransas, TX: 21st Century Strategies, 2011. Church-Talk is a weekly online LIVE video show with Drs. Bill and Kris Tenny-Brittian shown each Tuesday at 10:00 a.m. Central time.  Episodes are archived and accessible through the “On Demand Video” tab of the Church Talk website (http://churchtalk.tv ).  In addition to viewing the videos, users can also download copies of handouts that accompany them.  In the “On Demand Video” section is a four-part series that addresses moving from vision to implementation.

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